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Perspectives

Curiosity May Have Killed the Cat, but It's the Lifeblood of Humanity

November 21, 2018

Upon entering the room my senses raced into pleasant overload. The sights and sounds and smells were so wonderful, so beautiful—and, so different from anything I’d ever before experienced. My boyfriend (at the time) and I looked at each other, smiled somewhat quizzically and slowly continued making our way through the reserved room.

 

While we were appropriately groomed and dressed for attending a classmate’s graduation party, our attire was muted by elaborately-patterned flowing fabric, extravagant henna tattoos and elegant jewelry that covered dark-skinned bodies of all shapes and sizes. And, although my tastes in music were quite eclectic and genre-spanning, the music that filled this room included instruments and sounds not heard in any of the music to which I listened. There was much laughter followed by soft conversations that I could not quite decipher. There were many pairs of eyes focused intently on us as we tentatively made our way to my friend, Nav.

 

Without question, two of these things were not like the others.

 

Nav and Sumit (her fiancé) greeted us warmly and thanked us for coming. They invited us to make a plate of food and have a seat as the “program” would soon begin. So, we smiled and walked towards the table of food and simultaneously said, “Program?” Oh no. Into what kind of situation have we gotten ourselves this time? I thought we were attending a party; I knew nothing of a “program.” Before we could even consider the string of plausible scenarios, we found ourselves staring at a plethora of unfamiliar, albeit deliciously smelling food. So, we did what we felt right. We dug right in and tried at least a little of damn near everything on that table (I am convinced this day is what initiated and solidified my insatiable appetite for Indian food.). And, then, without delay, the event began.

 

Nav’s dad, an esteemed professor at our university, walked to the front of the room… and he began to speak. And, we had absolutely no idea what he was saying. I don’t recall now if he was speaking Hindi or Telugu—although I suppose it really doesn’t matter because I was neither then nor now fluent in either language. However, I suspected, based on the way he looked at Nav and the way she looked a little embarrassed, that he began by sharing his pride in his daughter and her graduation. We surmised he had a good sense of humor because the people around us would laugh and nod… and occasionally, they would laugh and nod while looking at us. This pattern occurred about three or four times before Sumit jumped up and came to sit by us. From that moment on, very inconspicuously and with great ease, he provided a translated play-by-play account of what was being said so that we could enjoy the “program.” After all, we were all there for the same reason—to celebrate the accomplishments of someone for whom we respected and cared.

 

We truly are more “alike” than we believe; and, often times when “different” is introduced it improves the condition.

 

Undoubtedly, many of the attendees at this celebration were immigrants. However, while the U.S. may not have been their native land, gathering in celebration of academic achievement was not foreign to them. There are an estimated 44 million immigrants in the U.S.[1] and despite recent rhetoric from one high-ranking political figure about the danger they pose to our country, they actually are bringing with them higher education and skill levels than ever before witnessed. For example, in 2016, nearly 30 percent of immigrants in the U.S. (age 25 and older) held a bachelor’s degree (17.2%) or post-graduate degree (12.8%); in fact, immigrants in the U.S. are just as likely as individuals born in the U.S. to hold at least a bachelor’s degree (30%, 31.6%).[2]

 

Moreover, when examining the correlation between immigrants and crime, one study found that from 1980 to 2016, the combined documented and undocumented immigrant population in the U.S. increased by 118 percent; and, during the same period, the FBI reported violent crimes (e.g., assault, robbery, rape and homicide) dropped to approximately 386 incidents per 100,000 people—a decrease of 36 percent.[3]

 

Another examination of the relationship between immigrants and crime, specific to the state of Texas—the state with the second largest foreign-born population—found that native born individuals were more likely to commit and be convicted of crimes than either undocumented immigrants (50% lower conviction rate than natives) or documented immigrants, who had an 86 percent lower conviction rate than natives.[4]

 

Finally, another investigation cited in the same article found a negative correlation between states’ violent crime rate and illegal immigration from 1990 to 2014—that is, as the number of illegal immigrants within a community increased, the number of violent crimes decreased or as the number of illegal immigrants within a community decreased, the number of violent crimes increased.[5] In other words, evidence from multiple research investigations purport that increased immigration to the U.S. (authorized and unauthorized) is not associated with higher incidences of violent crime and actually may be linked to mitigating such crimes.

 

While these findings are contrary to the untrue statements being shared by the same high-ranking political figure mentioned above, these research studies have in fact provided objective evidence in support of all the positivity contained within my personal story that opened this blog. Knowledge, skills and traditions brought to the U.S. by people from different cultures and countries are not to be feared and vilified; instead, they should be appreciated and celebrated—for these characteristics are imperative elements in developing the richest and most multi-faceted communities. Sharing our unique backgrounds with others, who are seemingly different from us, allows us to understand the differences are really the pretty packages around the similarities contained within. But, we must embrace and practice curiosity to fully comprehend this reality.

 

Curiosity and kindness expand the heart and mind… and create a space where everyone belongs.

 

I encourage you to always be curious. When you hear divisive rhetoric, perform your due diligence and work to uncover evidence that either confirms or denies what is being presented. Do not blindly believe confidently spoken words to be truth. Assertively-delivered divisive statements and assertions are meant to instill fear of “otherness” and bolster the status quo. This approach is not only dangerous, but it is also incredibly ignorant. Information is available—uncover it and make your own informed decisions, formulate your own perspectives and share your own narrative.

 

Because of my own curiosity and the kindness of others so long ago, I discovered a beautiful and interesting culture, cultivated relationships with people with whom I share similar values and grew because I learned new and enriching things.

1, 2 - Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/14/education-levels-of-u-s-immigrants-are-on-the-rise/

3, 4, 5 - https://www.businessinsider.com/undocumented-aliens-violent-crime-murder-statistics-data-2018-8