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“I think part of the reason the President has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” Spicer said.
Two students were charged with rape and sexual assault against a 14 year-old girl in a bathroom at Rockville High School in Maryland on March 16. The two alleged offenders were immigrants who illegally entered the US. While they were initially accused, no evidence was found for their actions and the charges were dropped. Spicer and the Trump administration spread the false idea that undocumented immigrants are dangerous criminals. But this it’s not true because resources had shown that immigrants, including the undocumented, are associated with lower levels of crime than native-born Americans.
In 1689 the English rulers were having a war with France in American colonies. This created immigration problem even in the past were thousands of refugees came in from Scotia into Massachusetts Bay Colony. This created culture shocks and a strain of Salem’s resources. This tension was exacerbated by fits of the reverend Parris’s daughter Elizabeth and nice Abigail. The local doctor blamed it on the devil in a way to find out the main cause they needed to blame someone. In this case it was Tituba, the Caribbean’s leave, Sarah Good, a homeless beggar, and Sarah Osborne, an elderly impoverished woman. They had no means to defend themselves and were accused without any ground of evidence. These women were an example of scapegoat- a person or animal which takes on the sins of others, or is just unfairly blamed for problems.
The main reason that led to witch hunts was migratory movements from other states into Massachusetts Colony. There was a culture of diversity and a lack of tolerance towards the immigrants so there was strain on Salem’s resources. Many of the people who lived in Salem did not understand the traditional cultures or languages of the immigrants, from other states leading to distrust and animosity. According to Kellina M. Craig, many people are typically targeted as victims of a hate crime or scapegoating based on their minority status, and the negative stereotypes that people have about them (Craig, 2008). In Massachusetts, there was poor intergroup relations between the locals versus the immigrants, and the rich versus the poor.
All this escalated when Reverend Parris, an elite and Salem’s first ordained minister’s daughter Elizabeth, and her niece Abigail Williams started to behave strangely and display symptoms relating to fits. Many people did not understand the cause of the illnesses, and had to find someone to scapegoat – who were the poor, uneducated women who could not defend themselves. This can be illustrated in Barbara Perry’s article called defenders of the faith, which discusses the issue about how white supremists maintain their status by vilifying the others.
This case is related to the report about the two boys who were wrongfully accused of raping a 14 year-old girl. They too were scapegoated because of their immigrant status. People needed to desperately understand who raped the girl, but at the same time affirm their own political and social beliefs about immigrants, which made them automatically point their fingers at the two young boys. In our society, starting from President Trump, we hold negative beliefs about immigrants, assuming that they all cause social issues of safety, refuse to understand their diverse cultures and tend to blame them for all our problems simply because they refuse to fight back.
From the case we can see the key features of moral panic. Volatility – Trump is a very powerful moral entrepreneur because he is the President of the United States, since he entered office one of his key objectives has been sending undocumented immigrants to their country and he wanted to do so by building a wall between Mexico and the United States. This has incited a lot of media coverage and dialogues. Hostility because the immigrants have different language, culture and habits that don’t allowed them to integrate with the local population they are seen as the outsiders and treated as the scapegoat. There is disproportionality because the conditions above are not proportionated to reality, the immigrants don’t cause much social issues, the majority came to the United States to find jobs and hope for a better standard of living.
For the witch-hunt the model of moral panic was based on the grass roots model and elite engineered model. The incident started with the elite church leaders, who aimed to radically find a cure for their children’s illnesses, but with its rampant spread, the community aimed to find scapegoats as well. They worked together, by watching their own neighbors or friend’s actions, and reported them to the authorities if they behaved in a unique manner. The general public also played a key role in the hanging and burning of the witches. This was actually marketed to be a public event, with people coming in to cheer the demise of another evil witch. In the scenario of immigration today, the model is based of the elite engineered model, where the main cause for action starts from the President and his office. While xenophobia toward immigrants always existed, it was fueled further by the President’s desires to curb it by building a wall around Mexico or reducing the number of refugees who could come in from Muslim countries.
While a lot of similarities have been mentioned, it is important to note that there hasn’t been any hanging or burning of any immigrants at the stake so far. However, they still have been victims of several hate crimes involving the vandalization of property or assault. If unchecked, this could lead to the next Salem witch trials, or even cases such as the Japanese interim concentration camps during the World War II, where all Japanese in the United States were forced into cramped camps. Ultimately, the only way the witch hunts stopped was when the wife of a very powerful elite in the village was charged, and all cases against witches were dropped. This goes to show that when we chose scapegoats, we do not chose them based on whether they were ultimately guilty, but rather because they were powerless, and outcasts from the rest of society.
Ultimately, scapegoating is done simply because it’s easy. As human beings, we always want to find a simple cure to all our problems, and a person to blame. Oftentimes, we typically don’t blame the person who actually causes harm, but rather the community of people we are already stereotyped against. In this case, it was the undocumented immigrants, but in the future it could be the African Americans, LGBTQ+ Community or even our own husbands, wives, or children.
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