Will America Return To Welcoming Immigrants?
In 2018, audiences were treated to Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of the iconic Black Panther character on the big screen. There’s a myriad of timely quotes that add to the film’s gravitas as a cinematic triumph. But of all of the memorable lines from the film, perhaps none are so profound as T’Challa’s final delivery before the UN Assembly. The King of Wakanda has just been through a harrowing quest to restore peace and order to his people. The third act of the film culminates in the king’s decision to open up the African nation to rest of the world. It’s this new spirit of openness that leads T’Challa to address the world’s leaders with a message of unity rather than division.
Of course, as we look around at our nation today, the message of unity is all but disappeared. Instead, we seem to be diving headfirst into an abyss wreaking of hatred and fear. The tragic irony of the moment is that while Hollywood managed to depict such a lofty ideal through a fictitious African nation—the ideal of what the US could be is quickly fading. We are becoming increasingly closed off, both physically and ideologically, from the rest of the world. With the pandemic having levied so great a toll on the economy, can we really afford not to support ethnic immigrants and people of color?
"In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers."
There’s an inherent risk to emigrating to another country. This is perhaps why entrepreneurship among immigrants is so much higher than among natural born residents. And it makes sense that starting a business could be easier than finding a job. You may not speak the language or even know anyone in this new place, so you can fall back on a skillset like cooking or artistry or selling products that you can make from the comfort of your own home. In order to survive, you figure out ways to be resourceful with what you have. It’s often the same way with black people in America. In communities where jobs aren’t readily available, people come up with a variety of ways to make ends meet. Being resourceful is an essential quality of every entrepreneur, which is why it seems crazy not to cultivate greater startup opportunities across America’s urban and rural communities.
How do we go about doing this? It requires a great deal of collaboration and building strong relationships. But of course, racism and ethnocentrism aren’t predicated upon openness or diplomacy. In this way, spreading xenophobic rhetoric actively works against building up local economies. Thankfully, there are hundreds of organizations and individual across the country leading grassroots efforts to create welcoming spaces for both new and marginalized Americans.
During the third season of the GigRoots Podcast, we’ve partnered with Welcoming America to help share the stories of foreign-born peoples who have come to call America home. Welcoming America is leading a national movement of cultivating inclusive communities. They work with non-profits and local governments, providing tools and resources to help make cities places where everyone can belong. Through their network, we’ve spoken with local leaders and business owners actively contributing to strengthening their communities.
Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation on earth. Thanks to its rich vibranium deposits, skilled labor force, rich diversity and robust infrastructure, Wakanda has ample resources to help provide foreign aid to other countries. But the rest of the world has no idea of Wakanda’s potential. In the final scene of Black Panther, as T’Challa gives his inspiring address, one of the council members expresses some natural skepticism about Wakanda’s so-called resources. He asks, “What does a nation of farmers have to offer the rest of the world?” T’Challa flashes a coy smile as the audience has been let in on the secret: the world is about to get a taste of just how powerful this nation is. But there’s a smugness to the question, as it suggests that Wakandans—and by extension, many supposed underdeveloped nations—have very little to offer.
This plays upon the real-world parallel for the idea of American exceptionalism. It’s as if somehow America’s greatness stems from being a homogenous, single-minded monolith. In fact, it’s just the opposite. What makes America great has always been its diversity. The secret to America’s potential is recognizing that our differences need to be celebrated in order to make us stronger. If we choose this path, then perhaps we will demonstrate the kind of care that brings us together as one single tribe.