Last week on the Electric Didact YouTube channel, I posted the following video essay offering some context for and a close reading of Emma Lazarus’ famous poem, “The New Colossus.” The day of posting happened to coincide, fittingly, with #DayWithoutImmigrants, a nationwide strike and protest against the restrictive anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies and attitudes emanating from the new U.S. administration.
The poem had been shared with me by a friend several weeks back because he’d heard it recited on a TV show and had been moved by it. It struck me too, as not only a moving embrace of the immigrant, the displaced, the refugee, but also as a critique, a polemic against masculine and imperialist ways of making meaning and structuring power when it comes to the Other: The woman. The weak. The poor. The different.
Here’s the video, which reads the poem and offers an analysis of how the poem decenters the masculine and asserts a different relation to the Other. #DayWithoutImmigrants is over. But in light of recent mandates to round up and deport potentially millions of people, sundering families, livelihoods and lives, the need to remember the refugee, the immigrant, to put away destructive power and help one another is as vital as ever.