Invisible Populations

What are they, and why do they go unseen?

By Elizabeth Mehler

The Invisible Curse

When a person thinks of the word "invisible," they might imagine someone with a remarkable superpower, who is able to sneak about without being seen and use it to their advantage. They imagine someone with a gift, someone who has been given a wonderful ability that other would envy. Of course, they also know that it is impossible for someone to be invisible, to vanish in thin air, or so they think. Invisibility is not fiction, nor is it a gift- it is a sad reality that is a real problem all over the world, even in the United States. Even the most compassionate and kind person has paid no attention to a poor beggar on the streets, or a disabled person passing by. It is those who are ignored that are truly invisible. There are many different types of invisible populations, including the disabled, the homeless, and illegal immigrants. They are ignored by the rest of society, and are treated like they don't exist. Those who are invisible need to be helped, even if they are just noticed. By ignoring these groups of people, nothing will be fixed to give them aid. That is why it is important to be able to see them.

The Homeless

Homelessness has an impact on millions of people all over the world. Some live on the streets while other live in places like hotels. Everyone has seen someone living on the streets in their lifetime, but most just walk by like those in need don't exist. It is impossible to help every poor person in the world, but even some simple recognition is a rare sight in the world of a homeless person. There is no better example of this than the video "Have the Homeless Become Invisible?" by New York Rescue Mission (embedded below) where people pretend to be homeless and have their family members walk down the street. Some include aunts, uncles, spouses, parents, cousins, and siblings of those walking down the street. None of them are recognized. Some spare a quick glance, but most just pass by, like those living on the street before them don't exist. (New York Rescue Have the Homeless become Invisible?) If the people pretending to be homeless aren't seen by their relatives, how could the actual homeless be seen by strangers? By just making sure the homeless know that they do exist, it will make a difference. Even though you cannot help every homeless person, giving money or even saying hello can impact their lives in a positive way.
Have the Homeless Become Invisible?

The Disabled

The disabled are often avoided not just because they have some sort of issue, either physical or mental, but because they are different from the rest of society. Some don't like to talk to the disabled as it is a touchy subject and they are afraid of offending or upsetting someone. Even in public, people tend to avoid a disabled person passing by as they would like to leave possibilities of getting involved with them entirely. in the book "Things Not Seen" by Andrew Clements, a blind girl named Alicia often experiences these things as she makes her way through the world in everlasting darkness. Even though this story is fiction, it does explore some very real topics, like Alicia's struggle to be seen by others. No parts of Alicia's story is unrealistic, and do happen in real life to people with disabilities. When she goes into an elevator with her friend Bobby, he notices that Alicia's cane she uses to scope out areas in front of her is like a "magic wand". Everyone else in the elevator crams together on one side to avoid getting near her in case they bump into her. They are silent and pretend that she isn't there. (Things pg. 82) This shows that the people don't want to get involved with her and think it is best to just pretend she isn't there. If she weren't blind, everyone else most likely wouldn't be avoiding her. Another example of her being treated like she is invisible is when she walks down the street with her friend Bobby. He again notices that "no one walks near her, no one even looks at her for more than a second." (Things pg. 84) People again don't want to get involved with her and just ignore and avoid her all together. It is like she is invisible, as no one acknowledges her in any way in public. There are many like Alicia in the world that are ignored because of their disabilities, and are a group of unseen people. If someone would look at them and smile, greet them, or at least not avoiding them as much as others do, it would make them feel like people do care.
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Illegal Immigrants

In the U.S., illegal immigrants have been coming from places like central and south America for many reasons. Some come for job opportunities, education, and citizenship for their children. However, coming to the U.S. illegally can be a very tough ordeal, especially for children who have no say on where they go and what happens to them. They are often invisible, and go through many struggles that are unseen to most. In the autobiographical short story "The Circuit," by Francisco Jimenez, an illegal immigrant boy works as a grape and berry picker to help his family make enough money to survive. Not only is he treated like he is invisible, but he is forced to act invisible by his family to avoid being caught by the authorities. Because he is not going to school, (during grape season, he does not have time to go to school and must assist in the harvest) his family could be reported to the police and they would be discovered as illegal immigrants. When the school bus comes, his father tells everyone to hide in the vineyards to avoid being seen by the schoolchildren. They are invisible to the public to hide themselves from the authorities. Then, when grape season is over and the boy can go to school, he is ignored by the children around him. When he first gets on the school bus, he "[sits] in an empty seat in the back." no one talks to him or tries to make friends with him. (The Circuit pg. 70) After he struggles to read in class, he goes to his English teacher to get help during lunch. For the next month, his only friend is the teacher as he teaches the boy English. (The Circuit pg. 71). This shows that he is invisible to his fellow classmates, as he does not speak English well, and no one cared enough to talk to him. Only the teacher decided to befriend him. If others were his friend, he wouldn't have to just be friends with the teacher and would feel more included. Because he is invisible from having to hide from people other than his family, he doesn't have many friends, and most likely feels like he doesn't exist, or that no one cares about him. If people could notice people like the boy in the story, they would help them through their situation, and make it easier to live through, especially in places like schools.

Works Cited

Jiménez, Francisco. The Circuit. New York: Scholastic, 1997. Print.

Clements, Andrew. Things Not Seen. New York: Philomel, 2002. Print.

Have the Homeless Become Invisible? YouTube. New York City Rescue Mission, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. <>.