Recently, Lisa B. of Lancaster, PA, posted a song called, “Who We Are”. Lisa is involved in refugee resettlement and has been a part of this year’s Lenten Compact Fast from Xenophobia. She was deeply moved by the lyrics of the song by Gungor and the images that were a part of the music video.
Lancaster, PA, (population 59,332) has been described as the America’s Refugee Capital–taking in 20 times more refugees per capita than any other city. Since 2013, 1,300 refugees have found a home in Lancaster, 407 of them in 2016. Lancaster is so welcoming because–according to its residents–it is their heritage. German immigrants started Lancaster County and it is still the epicenter of Pennsylvania Dutch culture.
But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, Germans wouldn’t have settled in Lancaster–or anywhere else in Pennsylvania. As a resident of Philadelphia in 1751, he voiced grave concerns about allowing German farmers into the state.
“Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our settlements and, by herding together, establish their language and manners to the exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvanians, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them? (Franklin’s quote referenced in “Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror” by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, 1997).
One can only imagine how Franklin would feel about Lancaster’s attitude toward welcoming refugees.
Questions for Reflection
Were you moved by the song, “Who We Are”? What (if anything) did you want to do after watching/listening to it?
Benjamin Franklin’s nativist sentiments are similar to what we hear today about immigrants and refugees. Do you think Franklin would express the same sentiment today? Why or why not?