What’s involved in undoing discriminatory ways of thinking? Sometimes it’s as simple as practicing a little empathy or exercising imagination.
It doesn’t happen much, but occasionally on Capitol Hill there’s an example of that kind of thinking.
A pretty discriminatory proposal was tucked into the Omnibus Appropriations Act. An amendment from Senator John Kyl, Republican of Arizona, would have prevented Palestinians from Gaza from seeking refuge in the United States like other refugees. When word got out, regular Americans flooded the Congress with their response to the idea — and just this week, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. John Kerry, and the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, both spoke out against it.
In a passionate speech on the floor of the Senate opposing S. AMNDT. 629, Senator Leahy said, "I have to think back — I read about my family 150 years or so [ago] when they came to Vermont, on my father’s side, the Irish. I’m sure if we had a law like this in place; it is questionable whether they could have come in. The Irish were fighting to keep their land. If they were fighting to keep their rights, fighting for the ability to vote, and they live[d] in what is now the republic of Ireland, they were considered terrorists."
S. AMNDT 629, the most egregious of Senator Kyl’s amendments, was withdrawn from consideration. Another amendment, which would have created further restrictions on the disbursement of reconstruction aid to Gaza failed by a vote of 39-56 with 4 not voting.
Activists are claiming a victory for action. I’d also like to claim one for, well, thinking.