The perils of passivity

Opinion by Amanda Rizkalla
Jan. 30, 2017, 12:45 a.m.

This past Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States in hopes that it will prevent the passage of “foreign nationals who intend to commit terrorist attacks” into our country.

He writes, “In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.”

Take a look at that last part. Our president, who continues to classify Mexicans as rapists, criminals and drug dealers, who opposes marriage equality, who consistently berates women and presents them as disposable, sexual objects, wants to ensure that no one who enters our country would dare to “oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.” How considerate.

On Saturday, Mercury News broke a story of a Stanford graduate student, who was detained for five hours at the airport after traveling from Sudan despite having a green card and being a U.S. resident.

It’s starting. And it’s starting with one of our own.

For a lot of us, this executive order will warrant a sigh, a strong sense of disappointment at most. We still go about our days — still do our problem sets, write our essays, bike to class. After all, international students comprise only 10% of the undergraduate student population. And, sure, some of us have family in the countries affected by the ban. But it’s only for ninety days. We’ll survive.


Passivity is ignorance in active form. It’s a privileged response, it’s neglect, it’s the easy way out. Saying nothing, doing nothing, is resigning to the idea that “There isn’t much I can do anyway,” that it’s okay to turn your back to an issue if it doesn’t affect you directly.

Why does feeling safe in this country have to be a luxury?

In a statement following the election, Provost John Etchemendy said, “What happens to any one of you happens to all of us. We will protect you. Don’t be afraid. You have the University behind you.”

Stanford needs to follow through. It has to do more than just advise students not to travel outside of the country and more than just email the student body about the “deeply regrettable alarm and uncertainty” caused by the executive order. But more importantly, its students need to do the same. Don’t sit still — stand up for your views. Believe in people enough to have uncomfortable conversations, to strengthen and substantiate your convictions, to treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t mumble sympathetic nothings when the topic comes up; don’t say you feel bad for the affected people — engage. Do something about it.

Contact Amanda Rizkalla at amariz ‘at’

Amanda Rizkalla is a sophomore from East Los Angeles studying English and Chemistry. In addition to writing for the Daily, she is involved with the Stanford Medical Youth Science Program and is a Diversity Outreach Associate in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. She loves to cook, bake, read, write and bike around campus.

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