Construction of the borderfence between the US and Mexico between Naco and Douglas, Arizona. April 2008.

Journey to the States

by Sam Woodruff

“… it had become impossible for me to see them as anything else but poor.  Their poverty was my single story of them.”

-Chimamanda Adichie

In this quote from Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” she talks about a boy who was her family’s live-in domestic help when she was young.  She talks about not seeing this boy for who he was, but simply as “poor.”  This story draws a parallel to that of many United States citizens’ opinion on illegal immigrants.  The “single story” of illegal immigrants seems to be a story that doesn’t get past the legislative problem of illegal immigration. The extent of the story is that these people have come here illegally and are using resources without having to pay for them.

The main basis of this piece is the story of a current BYU student who immigrated illegally to the United States with her family. Here are her words on the subject of being called an “illegal immigrant.”

Being called an “illegal immigrant”…makes me feel uneasy.  When people are objectified and stripped of their humanity is when we usually treat them the worst. When people call us illegal aliens, it makes it easier for them to deport the dad or mom and separate our families because we are so different to them that it is tough to relate to us. Also, when just the word illegal is used, I don’t like it because people associate it with negative things. I am a really good student, have a bright future, and have never stolen or done anything against the law. But when I am called illegal, people see me as a criminal.

Her statement flies in the face of the single story told of illegal immigrants. The goal of this game is not to make any judgments or advocate any particular policy, it is simply to tell a different story that helps people realize that many illegal immigrants are not criminals.  Even more than that, to realize they are responsible people with real and even pressing reasons for being here.

The game is a great platform for the person playing to not only sympathize with one who has crossed the border illegally, but to additionally validate the decision to do so by making the same decision themselves. This game speaks to the power of new media in bringing about new forms of storytelling, which ultimately effects how content is received. In this case the “listener” takes a more active role in how the story unfolds; thus “putting oneself in the shoes” of the person in the story becomes a much less abstract concept.

I believe that most Americans who play this game thoughtfully and honestly, will decide to come to the United States illegally as their game character. And even if they do not, I hope they will at least better understand the motivations that one has in doing so. This is important because our perceptions of others affect how we treat them politically speaking or otherwise.

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