My cousin, Nohemi González, was one of the victims killed during the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13. Nohemi was a bright shining light in our family, a proud, outspoken, and talented first-generation Mexican American and first-generation college student, studying abroad for a semester at a French school of design.
For my family and me and those who knew my cousin, this act of violence is heartbreaking. And as part of an attack on unarmed civilians to publicize a political objective, apparently by ISIS, it is not only a personal tragedy, but also a crime against humanity.
But it is shameful that the terrorism in Paris is being used by governments like the U.S. and France that dominate the world as an excuse to slam the doors on refugees who are desperately fleeing violence and repression in their own countries.
Nohemi herself was the child of immigrants. My aunt and uncle migrated from Mexico to give my cousins better opportunities to educate themselves and to give back to the community. In recent years many refugees have come to the U.S. from Mexico and all over Latin America to escape the violence of the drug wars or the consequences of economic policies imposed by the U.S. People leave their homelands to come to the U.S. in the hope of having a better future—sometimes in the hope of having any future at all.
It should be remembered that most of the victims of ISIS are themselves Muslims and Arabs, many of them independent young women like my cousin. Thousands of children are dying as the result of wars and terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world.
My cousin wanted a more just and more humane world—just as many others of my generation do. I believe, and the Freedom Socialist Party believes, that workers and oppressed people can’t let violence like the terrible assaults in Paris turn us against each other. We need to do everything we can to make sure the outcome isn’t more racism and bigotry and fear of one another.
We who are the world’s majority, the 99 percent, must work together to make the whole world safer and saner, because there is no place to hide. There have been many, many tragedies in these past few weeks in many places. It’s important not to rank oppressions or tragedies or to ignore one in favor of another. It doesn’t matter if you are in Beirut or Paris; the problems of one region are the problems of all of us.
We also must do everything we can to stop our governments from using terrorism and the fear of terrorism as an excuse for anti-Muslim and anti-Arab and anti-immigrant hysteria. U.S. wars and policy are directly responsible for much of the tragedy in the Middle East. And the U.S. government has immense resources. It should be taking in many more refugees from Syria and elsewhere, not fewer. Washington, the state I live in, has said it will not start rejecting Syrian or Muslim refugees, and should stick to this commitment.
The United States should open its borders, not close them. It should make real the sentiment on the Statue of Liberty, which was given to the U.S. by France: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
Nohemi and I grew up together, and she was like a sister to me. But we working and poor people all over the world are family too. It is up to us as workers, students, immigrants, and feminists—of every color, religion, and nationality—to come together and unite to end all the violence against us everywhere, by ending the wars and oppression and exploitation that are its root causes. This is the only response that will do anything real to stop terrorism.
Miriam Padilla, the mother of a young daughter, is a student at The Evergreen State College and coordinator of the Freedom for Nestora Salgado Committee there.