I cannot begin to relay how difficult the last few months have been. Do I live in fear that our nation will be torn apart, that all around me I will see families torn apart, both my own, and the families of those I hold dear? The answer is yes. It seems like since November, the main thought haunting my nightmares and creeping ever so visibly into reality has been the question of immigration.
The question is this: if this country is a country built by immigrants, why are “immigrants” not welcome? This isn’t a new question, and it isn’t even a very difficult question. But it is the answer to the question which causes me grief. Truly, it is because they are not “Americans”. Not that they don’t belong in America, but that they don’t “share certain values.” But here’s the truth: modern immigrants are non-white, non-English Speaking, and non-essential. Immigrants represent a threat to the archetypal White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) that make up what “Americans” want the world to believe America is.
America is a land stolen from Native Americans, bought from the French, taken by force from the Mexicans, built by African Slaves, cultivated by Mexicans, connected by Chinese railroad workers, and then “overseen” by Europeans. The history of this country is one of deceit and manipulation. But all of this was okay when there was hope for a better tomorrow. Which is why recently I’ve been crying more than you would think a US Citizen should be crying.
Ellis Island is a beautiful symbol of hope. For immigrants fleeing persecution and poverty in Europe, the statue of Liberty represented the opportunity for a new life. Lady Liberty represents hope in the American experiment. She represents the country built and maintained by foreigners. It represents a home for the discarded, and place of rest for the destitute, and a love for those not welcome elsewhere. In America, anyone can be anything that they are willing to work to become, or so the hope is. But when those same huddled masses are called, “rapists,” “drug dealers,” “criminals,” when they are refused entrance because of their faith or because they come from a “dangerous” part of the world, does Lady Liberty still stand proud as a symbol of hope for the downtrodden?
No, Lady Liberty weeps. And so do I.
I weep for my grandfather Ramon, who came to this country as a Bracero, a worker who simply sought to make money for his family in Mexico. I weep for my father who followed his father to this land, and wished to make it his home. I weep for my mother, who raised her children in this land, hoping that they would become strong, smart, soft-speaking men of God. I weep for my brother, who has worked his entirely life, facing odds that could (and did) dissuade others from attempting to achieve only a fraction of what he achieved. I weep for my sister, doing everything she can to raise her son. I weep for my Nephew, who knows not why this country despises him, why his father isn’t around, why he needs to speak two languages, and why his mother struggles so hard to be only a fraction as proficient as he is. I weep for those whose families might be torn away, whose loved ones have died in pursuit of the dream of a better life, and whose lives are stuck between two cultures, not feeling particularly at home in either, but knowing that they belong to the space in between.
But my tears are not enough. None of this enough. It is not enough to speak of the past, and what it tells us about today. It is not enough to be well-read, and well versed in speaking about these things. It is not enough to write blog posts and Facebook posts and tweets and emails and reflections for emails. These things are all great, but they are not enough.
It is not enough to simply complain.
It is not enough to be a feminist (especially if your feminism is purely white feminism, and/or doesn’t hold up to intersectional scrutiny and critique).
It is not enough to march (especially in a march that is epitomizing white feminism and/or doesn’t hold up to intersectional scrutiny and critique).
It is not enough to listen, especially if the people you are listening to do not feel that they are being herd.
It is not enough to simply talk about what needs to be done.
My people are judged at first sight.They are judged so harshly, and so unnecessarily. They do so much for a country that cares for them so little. We support agriculture and industry, we uphold morality and family and culture, we devote our lives to building beautiful lives here that don’t take from anyone else’s garden, but instead fertilize their soil.
But we are met with walls, borders, guns, hostility, and hatred. And that’s not even counting the wall that has yet to be built. But we, my people, the brown skinned people in a country which we are told is “not our own, do so much for this country. “They” (the immigrants, the other, the marginalized, the oppressed) do so much.
They build and provide and protect and defend and grow and water and nourish and clean and feed and inspire and uphold America. They sing and act and love and create by, with, and for and secure and appreciate and educate and entertain and establish America. They speak the most tongues, and tell the best tales, and make the best food, and give the best hugs, and love stronger, and deeper, and with no bounds. They give so, so much to this country.
They Make this country what it is: Great. And every day they are making it greater.
So why is there not enough space for them to also be American?
All we want is to be allowed to sit at the table.