EDITORIAL: Refugees are people before objects



Social media and politics—two things college students probably can’t go a day without. We’re constantly checking our feeds, and our feeds constantly reflect the political climate of our country. It’s almost inevitable, then, that most Villanovans saw Donald Trump’s tweet comparing skittles and refugees this past Tuesday. 

In case you missed it, two days ago Trump tweeted an image containing a bowl of multi-colored Skittles with text above it, provoking: “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?” Under this, he answers his own question by stating: “That’s our Syrian refugee problem.” 

Trump’s point is that we should not let potentially dangerous individuals into our country, even if not all of them are bad. Consequently, many are arguing against this saying refugees should be to let into America. Though many are responding to the tweet with their input on immigration laws, we feel the problem with it is more than that. To us, it is not a matter of political policy, but a matter of perception. 

Simply stated, comparing refugees to Skittles, as the saying goes, is like comparing apples to oranges. Skittles aren’t fleeing conflict. Skittles don’t have human rights. Skittles cannot feel fear. Skittles do not desire security. Minimizing the main characters of the refugee crisis paints an inaccurate image of what is happening in the world around us. 

As an Augustinian university, students should practice love and acceptance, and therefore should consider refugees as people like us before anything else. They have similar desires as we do—desires for belonging, for security, for a place to call home, for an education, and so on. They are brothers. They are sisters. They are sons. They are daughters. 

Trump’s tweet is problematic because it looks at refugees as a group instead of as individuals. But our perception should be more compassionate than that. It should value refugees as neighbors. For example, we may not know the life story of the people who live across the hall from us, but we still treat them with respect. 

Many people at the University are dedicating time to changing this false refugee narrative that Trump perpetuates. This past week, the Law School partnered with Catholic Relief Services to host an event in which refugees were brought in on a panel to share their stories. The night was eye-opening to many students because they saw so many similarities between themselves and those on the panel. 

We encourage all people to be involved in this movement as much as possible in order to live out Augustinian ideals and see refugees as more than objects and as people like ourselves.