By: Julia Long
Those familiar with the popular blog “Humans of New York” know that it not only functions as an exposition of stories, but as a platform to address issues facing our nation and world. Brandon Stanton, the man behind the camera, has taken trips around the world to document stories for the United Nations and hosted a few IndieGoGo campaigns for charities and schools run by people he’s interviewed.
His most recent project on the blog is a trip to Turkey and Jordan to interview twelve families of Syrian refugees who have just been cleared for resettlement in the United States. The heart-wrenching stories of the difficulties of these families are diverse, but they all have common themes. The lives of the refugees before the war in Syria began for the most part were prosperous and happy, but as the destruction and fear of persecution or conscription became too much many fled to Turkey or Jordan. Things often repeated by in the interviews include frustration towards the fact that as refugees, they are prohibited from working. Many also mention that before the war, they were loved in their communities and not affiliated with any political factions, but now they feel isolated and distrusted.
The series has already garnered attention from charities, and the president himself. In a comment on a Facebook post of one of the portraits, of a scientist named Dr. Hamo worried about his career in the United States despite his deteriorating health, the president delivered an encouraging message.
“As a husband and a father, I cannot even begin to acknowledge the loss you’ve endured. You and your family are an inspiration. I know the great people of Michigan will embrace you with the compassion and support you deserve. Yes, you still can make a difference in the world, and we’re proud that you’ll pursue your dreams here. Welcome to your new home. You’re part of what makes America great.”
The President even welcomed Dr. Hamo at the State of the Union dinner last week. These remarks by the president starkly contrast those made by other public figures, including many governors and Donald Trump, who have made xenophobic and inflammatory comments in the past several weeks.
This exposition could not come at a more timely point. With governors and mayors declaring their respective states and towns as either welcoming or barring Syrian refugees and inflammatory statements flying, it’s important to step back and look at the lives of the people that this will actually affect. Reading the stories of refugees humanizes them in a way that is difficult to replicate, and it’s only by putting these issues into a human perspective that fears and prejudices can be ameliorated. The stories of the refugees before the conflict are not far off from contemporary American experiences, and by emphasizing the similarities rather than the differences, Humans of New York creates a platform for humanization and positive discussion of issues.
You can catch up and follow along with the series on the blog’s website, www.humansofnewyork.com. The blog also uploads posts on Facebook, and on Instagram @humansofny.