Yesterday, restaurants and businesses across the nation were closed. Classrooms were nearly empty. Thousands of immigrants across the nation abstained from attending work and/or school in solidarity with one another. America experienced its very first day without immigrants.
I am first-generation American on my mother’s side. As the daughter of an immigrant, today hit really close to home for me. I am so proud to be a Guyanese-Italian/Irish-American because I know that immigrants are what make this country great… but what strikes me is this: some immigrants are welcome, and some are not.
I understand that our nation cycles through this. I understand that when the Irish came, it was hard. When the Italians came, it was hard. In the end, though, they were accepted. Within just a few decades, they were White Americans; they were accepted into the White social fabric of this nation and began to reap all the benefits that come with that. They donned their white privilege and never looked back.
But let me remind you of this: the forced African immigrants NEVER achieved this. Mexican immigrants: never achieved this. Both of these groups have been part of this nation for just as long, if not longer than both the Irish and the Italians. So what’s so different, then?
Well: Skin color.
And it is completely obvious to me that all this talk of “illegal immigrants” or “removable aliens” is largely focused on immigrants of color. I understand all of this is couched in language that makes that statement difficult to prove. But I want you to think about the countries Trump and his team have targeted specifically: Mexico, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, The Dominican Republic. His team justifies this by using scare tactics. They call Mexicans rapists. They call people from Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia terrorists. They say people from the Dominican Republic have no skills.
The truth of the matter, though, is that all of the rhetoric used to justify DJT’s xenophobic, nationalist policy is false. Reasonable people know that. Most Mexicans are not rapists or murderers. There are many successful immigrants from the Dominican Republic who play vital roles in the success of our communities and contributed to the culture of this nation in invaluable ways (Oh, HEY Junot Diaz).
No one from any of the countries listed in Trump’s Muslim ban has committed an act of terror on American soil. As a matter of fact, White, right-wing extremists are far more lethal. They are responsible for the death of more Americans than any jihadists. Granted, BLACK/BROWN Americans… which is clearly not where the GOP priorities are… which is entirely my point.
This war on immigrants is just an extension of the war against non-whites being perpetuated by the far right extremists. Their fear of losing their privilege has catalyzed a whitelash unlike anything we’ve seen over the last few decades. And it’s important for us to call it like it is.
The Day Without Immigrants was vital and bold… and I am so proud that its impact is being felt and shared across this country. It is important that we keep showing up for each other and supporting one another. In times such as these, every moment counts. We are living in a time where ICE agents are raiding homes and streets in search of our undocumented neighbors. When arrests are made, our undocumented neighbors are then detained indefinitely in private prisons, many of which were deemed unfit for occupation years ago. So many times we have asked ourselves what we would have done if we had been alive during Nazi Germany’s rise to power… but the time to wonder has passed. If we are not vigilant, we will be staring at the repetition of an atrocious history.
Tangible things you can do:
- Donate to the ACLU.
- Find an advocacy group in your ‘hood and go connect! (DC Folks: here.)
- Reach out to undocumented families and ask them what they need. Follow their lead and be a source of support.
And one thing I would like to do:
To my mother, my aunts, my uncles, my grandmother, and my grandfather: Thank you for coming here and fighting to create a better life for us. Thank you for persisting against odds that were sorely stacked against you. Thank you for risking everything you had to give us the world. Because of you, we can.