Skittle or Brothers? The metaphors of Refugees

September 22, 2016 at 5:53 pm

skittlesThe Trump campaign and twitter have been interesting bedfellows this election cycle. Most recently, it was Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr. who has caused the uproar. In a tweet sent earlier in the week, Trump, Jr. posted an image through which an analogy was drawn between refugees and a bowl of skittles, asking if “I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?” Responses to the tweet came swiftly as thousands took to their phones in order to tweet pictures of refugees with the hash-tag #skittle. One of the most famous was the tweet posted by the Skittles corporation. 


The response from Skittles raised an important issue – metaphors matter. They matter because they shape us at a subconscious level. They work under the surface, offering guidance and informing an implicit narrative made explicit by images and words that complete a story that lacks all the details. Whether we verbalize them or not, metaphors play a vital role in our everyday lives. Which is why Obama’s move to employ his own metaphor was, perhaps, the best response he could level against Trump, Jr.’s tweet.    

During a United Nations summit meeting on the refugee crisis, Obama shared a moving letter he had received from a 6- year old boy named Alex. Making reference to the infamous picture of a wounded child refugee sitting in the back of an ambulance, the letter asked simply, if Obama could help the young boy receive the refugee as a bother. A video produced and released by the White House outlines the touching story. In the letter Alex wrote,

“Dear President Obama, remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to our home … we’ll be waiting for you guys with flags flowers and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother.”

Skittles or siblings? Junk-food or family? Poison or brother?

Metaphors matter.