intensely trivial

Loving the foreigner in my midst

Since I first checked my email at 6:05 this morning, I have been outraged. I had a forwarded email in my inbox that originated with a local mother of small children. She was at the park yesterday, and a foreign-looking couple talked to her children. Her son was apparently distressed that the man held his hand. The mom wrote an email to various local parents and told them to forward it to everyone they knew, along with her photos. By now, the (inflammatory) email is sitting in hundreds of inboxes, I’m sure. I am just sick about it. So I wrote a letter to the Mercury, and I intend to write to the Collegian, as well.
I would like to rage at all my readers and everyone else around me today and tell you how I really feel, but I’ll give you this calmly reasoned version of it:

To the Editor:

This morning, I received one of those wildfire-forwarded e-mails about stranger danger. I read it, because I am a parent of two young children, and I don’t want my kids harmed by strangers any more than any other parent does. It was about a young couple who were talking to kids in City Park yesterday. The mother who wrote the forwarded e-mail told about her son’s apparent distress that the man had held his hand. She immediately took her children home and returned to the park to take photos of these strangers, which she then gave to the RCPD as part of a suspicious-persons report. She also posted on her blog and e-mailed 20-30 people, who were supposed to e-mail everyone they knew, so that we can all keep our kids safe.

Here’s the thing: The people looked foreign. The mother was clearly concerned that their ethnicity was part of their innate dangerousness. She included her photos, so we could all keep a lookout for these people.

I’m frustrated that the people’s ethnicity seemed to fuel this mother’s intense fear, and the fear of those who responded to her initial e-mail. Of course internationals need to learn what is culturally appropriate here in Manhattan. Though physical affection toward (even unknown) children is very likely normal for them, it might worry American parents. However, most likely the foreign couple did not intend anything malicious. They probably had no idea how disturbing their behavior was to this mother.

Additionally, my guess is that committing a crime is the last thing this couple intended. (And, indeed, they did not commit a crime.) Their education at an American university will probably set the course of their entire career, and it is highly unlikely that they would knowingly jeopardize their stay here in the U.S.

Our family has relationships with many internationals; we’ve even had them living in our home! Our children’s lives (and ours) have been greatly enriched by knowing women and men from all over the world.

If we automatically assume malicious intent, instead of taking the time to learn about people, we only contribute to a culture of fear.

Rachel Andresen


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * clbeyer says:

    Oh, Rachel, that boils my blood, too! Thank you for submitting letters to the editors.

    Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  2. * carmen classen says:

    How frustrating! I’m glad you took the time to write out your thoughts in letters to the editors. I feel sad for that couple who now has their photos floating around the community.

    Posted 9 years, 3 months ago
  3. * Gail says:

    I wholeheartedly agree w/ your response–so sad for these people!

    Posted 9 years, 3 months ago

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