Diplo’s tweet, though probably intended as a “joke” not meant to be taken seriously, was met by a few people on social media who were decidedly unamused. “There are are refugees trying to flee war zones and you are worried about hot Persian girls,” one user pointed out. The music producer merely responded by deflecting, stating that Iran is not a war zone (even though that’s not what the user was implying).
Whether Diplo was just joking or not, the sentiment behind his original tweet is one that’s unfortunately all-too-common in the dialogue surrounding the Muslim ban, undocumented and documented immigrants, and refugees in America. Why does some appealing trait have to be tacked on to people in these groups to make them “worthy” of being welcome into the United States? And why do these traits usually have to do with how these groups can serve Americans?
Last year, as more Americans became aware of the Syrian refugee crisis, a popular story that made the rounds across social media was the fact that Apple’s Steve Jobs was the son of a Syrian refugee. (In actuality, Jobs’s father, Abdul Fattah Jandali, was a Syrian immigrant to America ― not a refugee). Though well-intentioned, memes reminding Americans that the iPhones and MacBooks they love so much wouldn’t have existed without a Syrian migrant imply that the only reason to open the doors to immigrants and refugees is because they might be useful to us.
The real question is: how can we be useful to them?
If the criteria for becoming a citizen of this country is being hot, or smart, or unrealistically “good,” then there is a wide swath of Americans who wouldn’t fit the bill. This isn’t about letting in the next Steve Jobs or the next Salma Hayek, this is about upholding the principles and ideals that this country purports to believe in.