Watch for our enemies (We are they.)

Protest at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 4, in New York City, against Donald Trump’s executive order signed in January 2017 banning citizens of seven countries from traveling to the United States (the executive order is also known as “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States”). January 28, 2017. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. Author: Rhododendrites.

Note from Kathie: Wherever possible, we attempt on this blog to provide psychological perspectives on violence and nonviolence.  Today, we share this slightly condensed Open Letter from Canadian Psychologists regarding Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“We as Canadian professors of psychology and practitioners condemn the executive order signed on January 27, 2017, to ban people from specific countries from entering the U.S. We also condemn the right wing rhetoric, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic actions that are dominating political discourse in the U.S. and some European countries.

[We] believe that the following principles have been well-established:

1. When people feel secure and accepted in their society, they will tend to be open, tolerant and inclusive with respect to others. Conversely, when people are discriminated against, they are likely to respond with negative attitudes and hostility towards those who undermine their right. Rejection breeds rejection; acceptance breeds acceptance.

2.  When individuals of different cultural backgrounds have opportunities to interact with each other on a level playing field, such equal status contacts usually lead to greater mutual understanding and acceptance. Creating barriers between groups and individuals reinforces ignorance, and leads to mistrust and hostility.

3.  When individuals have opportunities to endorse many social identities, and to be accepted in many social groups, they usually have greater levels of personal and social wellbeing. Individuals who are denied acceptance within many social groups usually suffer poorer personal and collective well-being.

In addition to supporting these three principles, we note the following:

A. Global humanitarian crises do not happen overnight. Such chaos begins in small steps, which may appear benign, somewhat acceptable and even justifiable under given conditions. The world witnessed too many humanitarian crises during the last century.

Not speaking out against such events right at the outset contributed to the escalation of evil and its dire consequences. The current immigration ban applied to seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen) may not be felt by majority of Canadians. However, it can contribute to the escalation of the unfair treatment of a wide range of groups.

B. Studies show that blatant “us vs. them” categorizations contribute to prejudice, discrimination, group polarization and intergroup antipathy. We argue that it is in no one’s interest to narrow the membership of “us” (e.g., Canadian, American, or European) and to widen the membership of “them” (e.g., Muslim, Mexican, members of the LGBT, feminist, and refugee communities). Such polarization leads to fear, rejection, and discrimination, with the negative consequences noted in the three principles described above.”

Signed: John Berry, Ph.D., Queen’s University; Gira Bhatt, Ph.D., Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Yvonne Bohr, Ph.D., C.Psych. York University; Richard Bourhis, Ph.D. Université du Québec à Montréal; Keith S. Dobson, Ph.D., R. Psych., University of Calgary; Janel Gauthier, Ph.D., Université Laval; Jeanne M. LeBlanc, Ph.D., ABPP, R. Psych.; Kimberly Noels, PhD. University of Alberta; Saba Safdar, Ph.D., University of Guelph; Marta Young, Ph.D., University of Ottawa; Jeanne M. LeBlanc, Ph.D., ABPP, R. Psych.

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2 Responses to Watch for our enemies (We are they.)

  1. Barbara says:

    I think sometimes many people forget that bias against immigrants has a long history in this country—although clearly people of color have suffered the most. But just to give one personal example: My husband’s uneasy mixture of saving pennies and spending big bucks was rooted in his childhood experience as the only son of an Irish immigrant. The financial stability of his mature years was a far cry from the poverty of his youth. In addition, his Irish name was anchored firmly on the wrong side of the tracks, as was made abundantly clear by the mothers of girls he got crushes on. He couldn’t date them, couldn’t go to their homes, and certainly couldn’t go to dances at the Newton Center Women’s Club. Although many people have suffered much greater humiliations and deprivations, I believe he never fully recovered from those earlier rejections. He has passed away but I know he would be horrified by the anti-immigrant, anti-everyone-who-looks-different-from-me feelings being fueled in this country today.

  2. Gold Dust Twin says:

    I appreciate what those Canadian psychologists are saying, but I don’t think you have to be a psychologist to recognize that when people feel despised, hated, exploited, dehumanized, they are going to get frustrated and angry and likely to develop all kinds of psychological problems. But I also think that people who indulge in despising, hating, and exploiting others are also hurting themselves. Not the best way to live a life.

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