This is a guest post submitted by Lea Petrovic. Lea attended Boston University and now works at Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston.
I am an American. I am also an immigrant refugee. I came to the United States, to my beloved Boston, when I was seven years old. I went to high school in Back Bay, I interned in Roxbury, I went to college in Fenway, and I now work in Mission Hill. I was raised here, I met my best friends here, I met my first love here, I made my memories here, and I learned my values here. By definition, Boston is my home.
I say the following things in a plea to you. In the wake of the terror that hit Boston on Marathon Monday, a day of celebration for many of us, media speculation as well as public rumor hit hard. This dreadful act has brought out the best and the worst in social media. As touched and as proud as I was to read the many moving statements made on Facebook and Twitter, I have been equally as horrified at the ongoing racist, Islamophobic, and truly nasty things people have said. I urge you, friends, do not diminish what this country is made of. It has helped, no, saved so many immigrants and refugees who have come here to change their lives. Further, please do not diminish what those people have contributed to this country in return. I hope that Obama’s words, “We welcome people from all around the world — people of every faith, every ethnicity, from every corner of the globe. So as we continue to learn more about why and how this tragedy happened, let’s make sure that we sustain that spirit,” are those you choose to resonate with yourself.
I further plead that you separate the words “Islam”, “Russian”, “Kyrgyzstani”, “Chechen”, “immigrant”, “refugee”, and “terrorist”. Evil does not live in any one race, religion, or culture. It lives in some people, in a few ideas, and in horrible circumstances. Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Seung Hui Cho, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev . None of those people belong to one race, one religion, or one culture. We cannot blame any of those factors; we can only blame evil.
The effects of what the Tsarnaev brothers have done will ripple in the lives of many people for a very long time. Families have been hurt if not destroyed, runners and citizens have been traumatized, and corners of Boston will never be the same. I beg you, do not add to this tragedy by stigmatizing and assigning blame to those who, like me, have made Boston and this nation their home. Opponents of immigration reform have already, and will continue to use this act of terror as reason to make it difficult for people to come and stay in this country or to continue living the lives they started here. I hope that you, then, do not make it difficult for people of different faiths, with unusual last names, or with accents to live with us, side by side. This is after all, our home. Boston strong.