In a viral Facebook video, fourteen-year-old Syrian refugee was shown to be recently assaulted in a high school bathroom near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As she exited the bathroom stall, another student threatened, shoved, punched, and dragged her to the floor. The assault continued even as the refugee shouted “Leave me alone!” and fell to the ground. As a result, her injuries were severe enough to land her in the hospital. Although the video is only a minute long, it exemplifies America’s xenophobia and tendency to violence.
This is not the first incident of its kind, nor is it likely to be the last. American culture is marked by its fear of foreigners, with insults of “go back to your country” or “you don’t belong here” prevalent in the daily lives of immigrants. In the video, the assailant echoed this type of language, shouting, “You’re lucky you’re from another language because I will crush you.” The message is clear: you’re different. I don’t want you here. I’m going to hurt you.
Facebook user Alexis Work puts it perfectly, “This isn’t a fight. This is bullying.”
Refugees don’t come to the United States to fight; they come to escape violence and persecution in their home countries. Yet, the US is nowhere near the safe haven it is often viewed as, often subjecting continuous emotional and physical harm to refugees.
Safdar Khwaja, president of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Pittsburgh chapter, substantiated this idea: “They were fleeing anarchy, violence, and the complete breakdown of the social system – governing system – so they came to a civilized place and we all assured them this is the most civilized place in the world. To see this kind of violence take place, it’s very disappointing.”
American culture is clearly toxic when it comes to refugees. There is an abundance of hate and anger towards them, but it is almost entirely irrational. It stems from the fear of anything different, but how are immigrants “different” when they simply want to live normal lives? By denying them the right to live safely in America, society is denying their right to live at all.
We constantly see acts of violence committed against immigrants and refugees in the news, showing no sign of stopping. In time, these stories will fade to the background, replaced by even more violence and hatred. Unfortunately, this story is no different unless something changes.