The Urgency of Destigmatizing Immigrant Experiences

Immigrant Experiences BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of USC.

My earliest memories of the 5p news as a child in a Dominican household were of segments filled with images of violence in international waters. Graphic pictures of destruction or criminality in societies that may not benefit from a democratic or policed state.

It is difficult to admit to the ugly side of humanity, but for some reason, some can’t help but look at the tragic moments in people’s lives, especially when it comes to immigrant experiences.

Bumper to bumper traffic caused by rubbernecking, all coming from a tragic accident on the interstate. Drivers rolling down windows cruising slow enough to get a glimpse of the victim or trauma on the road. Why stop to see what has happened on-site? “It’s like watching a train wreck.” We want to turn away but live in a world where there is an obvious morbid fascination with trauma.

Trauma porn is an unfortunate truth of our society. The fascination with other people’s misfortune is the reason for the popularity of shows such as American Horror Story or A Handmaid’s Tale. Programming filled with violence against women or humanity seems to attract a large audience, but what happens when the appeal for misery becomes more significant than the human story? 

Immigrant experiences in the US have been under the microscope for years. The undocumented population experiences its share of mistreatment while the world watches helplessly, witnessing their trauma.

Pew Research reports that close to 50 million immigrants from diverse backgrounds live in the US. Countless of them face unlimited challenges on the journey to the states, but they continue to work for a piece of the American dream. Many of them arrive from places like India, China, the Philippines, and Mexico, only bringing their bare essentials and the vision of a better life. 

Although not all get their wish, as they struggle to push through the obstacle course placed in front of them, plenty of immigrants go on to enjoy great success. Despite the stories with a happy ending, the tales of hardship and immigrant experiences are the ones that audiences seem to focus on regularly.

Jorge Perez Immigrant Experiences BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Forbes.

We must change the narrative by writing and reporting the stories of immigrants who reflect success and gear us towards a positive movement. People like Jorge Perez, dubbed “condo king of South Florida.” He is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Related Group, arriving from Argentina to Miami and built an empire worth close to $2 billion. Maria Contreras-Sweet, a native of Guadalajara, Mexico, is the former administrator of the SBA and founder of ProAmérica Bank. Her name is best known for overseeing SBA under the President Obama administration, but she moved on to an incredibly lucrative career by launching a marketing and research firm, Contreras Sweet Enterprises. Clientele ranks as some of the most successful companies in America, including Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, and Pacific Gas and Electric. 

If that is not enough to convince you of her staying power, she co-founded Fortius Holdings, the venture-capital firm. In 2017, she joined Sempra Energy as a member of board directors after leaving SBA. 

Maria Contreras-Sweet Immigrant Experiences BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of Sempra.

The power of hard work and determination can be used as a locomotive to crash the universe and create all types of explosive moments. 

At the age of 24, Carlos Castro was in Salvador working in a factory. Once arriving in the US, he spent the first ten years working in restaurants. He cleaned bathrooms, washed dishes, and did all he could do to send dollars to his family until he was able to obtain a green card and send for them. 

Becoming an American Citizen in 1990 offered more opportunities to take full advantage. During the same year, he established the first Todos Supermarket. A grocery store in Woodbridge, car Virginia specializing in products that catered to the Latino community. 

Castro’s journey began 30 years ago; today, he continues to pay it forward. The millions in the bank do not deter him from doing the good work. He is also a community activist, known for his support to fellow Latinos across the communities he serves. 

Carlos Castro BeLatina Latinx
Photo courtesy of IQ Latino.

The news channels have a responsibility to report the news. It is essential to tell the stories that help build awareness among the different communities. We should hear about the injustices that are happening across the US concerning immigrants. 

The need to know about the terrible things that happen can encourage others to take action against wrongdoing. It is a necessary evil to tell about the traumatizing events taking place worldwide, not just across our states. However, using headlines to lure audiences and feed off fear or a morbid obsession into tragedy is not only unacceptable, it is inhumane.

The immigrant experiences we should share forward are the ones that promote a positive environment to inspire the current generation and those to come. Immigrants are human beings who deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. 

I am a true believer that sharing stories creates connections, heals, and helps us learn the lessons. We can appreciate and understand each other if we nurture empathy. Dishing out only experiences that demonstrate misfortune creates a world where trauma can take the spotlight, bringing down the people behind it.

Every one of us must take accountability for our part in the narrative shared in our communities. If we all make an effort to tell the good stuff too, it can help shed light on what is possible when we strive to be the best possible person. 

Immigrants are not exclusive to trauma; it happens everywhere without discrimination. Celebrate the wins to give others hope that they too can conquer their circumstances. For society to thrive, people need to know about the goodness that exists. Create a balance between awareness, staying informed, and promoting negative news. 

Don’t allow the impact of the misfortune you see happening lead you to believe that this is all that exists. Extraordinary people are everywhere, recognizing the value and difference between the many men and women out there fighting for an opportunity to shine.