Against the "Good Refugee" Narrative: How Defining Communities By Their Outstanding Accomplishments Can Do More Harm Than Good
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Politics and Activism

Against the "Good Refugee" Narrative: How Defining Communities By Their Outstanding Accomplishments Can Do More Harm Than Good

Defining marginalized communities, such as incoming refugees and immigrants, by their extraordinary merits can be a detriment to their perceived humanity.

Against the "Good Refugee" Narrative: How Defining Communities By Their Outstanding Accomplishments Can Do More Harm Than Good
Netavisen Sameksistens

If you’re connected to any left-leaning individuals on social media, it’s likely you’ve seen headlines shared by those people that read similar to the hypothetical headlines of “Former Refugee Engineers a Life-Saving Contraption” or “Impoverished Student Heads to Harvard.”

For instance, popular refugee achievement stories include those of athletes such as Yusra Mardini, who was featured in a recent Vogue article titled “From Syrian Refugee to Olympic Swimmer: Yusra Mardini Goes for the Gold,” and Thom Maker, who was deemed the “rookie to watch” last October by Jason Gay for The Wall Street Journal in an article titled “How Former Refugee Thon Maker Became a Top 10 NBA Draft Pick.” On June 20, an article about refugee scientist Eqbal Dauqan written for NPR filled social media feeds with the headline “She May Be the Most Unstoppable Scientist in the World.”

There’s also similar articles often written about individuals from immigrant families, such as those written about Malaysian-born student Cassandra Hsiao, who is described in a BBC headline as “The Girl with Eight Ivy League College Offers.”

Articles such as these are often used to justify arguments that the United States should be more accepting of those flocking to the country for safe haven or arguments that not all marginalized communities are prone to crime and delinquency.

The claim commonly used against those strongly hesitant to accept steady, significant streams of immigrants or refugees into the United States is that there are doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, and other successful individuals among the anticipated, incoming populations. A similar occurrence can be found in attempts to defend marginalized groups, in which members of marginalized communities are lauded for their great accomplishments.

While it’s important to recognize the accomplishments, advances, and contributions immigrants, refugees, and members of marginalized communities make to American society, it is equally as important that success be kept from becoming the prerequisite for the validation of existence. The primary argument should not be that marginalized communities should be allowed to establish and grow despite their possible flaws because of a select few achievements. This implies that people should be valued only for their successes and that human life is not inherently valuable.

All contributions to American society are contributions nonetheless, regardless of their magnitude, and those accomplishments need not and should not be the defining factors of people or communities. People should not need to be extraordinarily successful to be perceived as deserving of basic dignity and respect.

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