For another course this past week, I was assigned to both read and analyze Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus”. For those who aren’t are, this poem by Lazarus is embedded into a plaque in front of the Statue of Liberty in NY to emphasize on America’s presumed acceptance of all immigrants here in ‘the land of the free’.
The part of the poem that stuck with me the most was when Lazarus wrote: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (lines 10-14). Originally, these lines were interpreted to be accepting of immigrants from all specs of life – varying in cultures, ethnicities, race and socioeconomic levels. America was portrayed as a nation that indiscriminately welcomed every hard working being into this ‘glorious’ place. Lazarus symbolized the entrance into the U.S as a ‘golden door’, as if life in America for ALL is anywhere close to being heaven-like. Completely ignoring the fatal relationships between Europeans and ‘others’ in America. This sonnet depicting hope for all immigrants in America has caused controversy in today’s time, given the presidency of Donald Trump and his blatant disapproval and disregard of immigrants.
The contemporary recontextualization of this piece is that America is indeed not a place for ALL immigrants. Since the beginning of America as a nation, European colonists have exploited people with cultural and ethnic differences which were deemed inferior for they didn’t coincide with theirs. From the slaughtering of America natives to the enslavement of Africans off of Africa’s Western Coast, America has a history of abusing the people they’ve viewed as “different”. The realization that America is indeed not a place welcoming of immigrants as the Statue of Liberty represents can be seen in Donald Trump’s recent comments on immigrants, in addition to his congressional proposal to construct an $18 billion dollar border wall to keep all Mexicans from obtaining illegal entrance into the U.S.
I just found this poem to be intriguing given the recontextualization of it. Published in 1883, this piece still causes controversy today as people use this poem to reiterate the ideologies of America versus its actual reality. America presumes itself as a nation accepting of all, but it is evident that race is a major factor in one’s place here in America’s racial hierarchy.
Lazarus, Emma. “The New Colossus.” Historic American Documents. Lit2Go Edition. 1883. Web. <http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/133/historic-american-documents/4959/the-new-colossus/>. February 18, 2018.