On Dismissing Ignorance

As Saahil Desai reported in this week's issue of TSL, about a dozen members of The Remembrance Project, an anti-immigrant group with ties to the Republican Party, protested outside Scripps College's Garrison Theater during Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s afternoon talk on Feb. 18. The protestors’ main grievance was in regard to Pelosi’s support of "sanctuary cities," municipalities with policies that limit the extent to which local government agencies will go to assist the federal government on immigration matters. Carrying signs with the names of U.S. citizens who have been victimized by undocumented immigrants, the protestors argued that the lives of “thousands” of Americans could have been spared if only for “tougher” immigration policies.

Unsurprisingly, many students across the consortium disagreed with the protestors and their cherry-picked portrayals of undocumented immigrants. The right-wing group failed to mention, for example, that hundreds of thousands of small businesses are owned and operated by undocumented immigrants across the country, or that undocumented immigrants pour billions of dollars into Social Security and other government programs each year. Indeed, it doesn’t take too much effort to debunk many of the racist and xenophobic myths and half-truths perpetuated by The Remembrance Project and their ilk.

However, just because The Remembrance Project’s positions are intellectually faulty does not mean that we should dismiss them. The propaganda spread by these protesters and others like them negatively affect the lives of many members of our community. Unlike many of us, undocumented students cannot choose to dismiss calls for their deportation simply because those calls are based on false assumptions or flawed logic. Outside the Claremont bubble, views like those expressed by the Feb. 18 protesters do hold sway in our society, affecting the tone of political discourse and the attitudes of Americans. Despite what we might hope, these views exist. If we are hoping for change, we must be willing to engage with and confront ideas that we find inflammatory. Though we need not dwell on them, granting them counterproductive attention, we should not dismiss them as "stupid" because that, too, promotes ignorance.