Last night I dreamed groups of us moved slowly, herded like cattle, pushed into large spaces meant to contain undesirables, those folks swimming across oceans, desperately chasing illusions of freedom; they hail from countries we callously dismiss because their faces are the color of copper pennies and mahogany, faces like mine.
I tried to run, all of us did, but escape seemed impossible; our mouths full of invisible cotton, choking words we longed to utter into the angry stillness enveloping us. It is the kind of dream one finds nearly impossible to awaken from because it echoes real life.
What is unfolding in America today under the guise of “immigration policy” is barbaric. Infants and children callously taken from their parents arms, left screaming for hours in unending agony, unable to be held or touched by workers in these shelters. Is this what we are becoming? Perhaps it is partly who we always were? Facing this scares us. And so, we swallow self examination with either avoidance or the shallowness of political correctness.
For the last several months, I have come back to Andrea Ritchie’s recent book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. It’s an arduous read, with account after account of atrocities committed by the state against women of color, from the indigenous to those who were enslaved:
“On the estate I am speaking of, those women who had sucking children suffered much from their breasts becoming full of milk, the infants being left at home. They therefore could not keep up with the other hands: I have seen the overseer beat them with raw hide, so that the blood and milk flew mingled from their breasts.”
Pain. Suffering. Sorrow. Ripping families apart then and now…
All of these practices exist within a continuum of the historical dehumanization of people of color. And at this moment, migrant children are under attack with no regard for their psychological or physical welfare. According to a recent article in The Washington Post “nearly 4,600 mental-health professionals and 90 organizations have signed a petition urging President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several elected officials to stop the policy of separating children from their parents. The petition says:
These children are thrust into detention centers often without an advocate or an attorney and possibly even without the presence of any adult who can speak their language. We want you to imagine for a moment what this might be like for a child: to flee the place you have called your home because it is not safe to stay and then embark on a dangerous journey to an unknown destination, only to be ripped apart from your sole sense of security with no understanding of what just happened to you or if you will ever see your family again. And that the only thing you have done to deserve this, is to do what children do: stay close to the adults in their lives for security.
I read these words over and over, each time the weight of my anger and sorrow grows. As I look back at the lead story photo, a little girl bewildered, desperately trying to make sense of a senseless situation, I see Nai, myself (the daughter of an immigrant), and every child. They all long for reassurance, love and safety. Now a country which espouses the rhetoric of inclusion has taken this away from them in a burst of fury led by a few and fueled with xenophobia.
James Baldwin once wrote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it faced.” If we continue to run from ourselves as a society, we will merely create new iterations of the same oppressive systems rooted in ideologies of white supremacy, patriarchy and greed.
And folks of all ethnicities can internalize and carry on the work of institutionalized racism, turning hatred inward, toxically afflicting their own communities. Have we not seen it’s manifestations time and time again with practices like colorism, a term first used by writer and activist Alice Walker which she defines as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color,” in her collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.
None of this is going away until we confront the ghosts who refuse to leave because we so vehemently deny their existence. The crying children of immigrants; our response to the hurricane in Puerto Rico; high maternal mortality rates for women of color; the school to prison pipeline; deadly attacks on those in the transgender and gay community, all of these egregious wrongs are symptoms of a society at war with both the most marginalized and itself.
Each of our lives depends upon tearing down the myths which have held generations captive for centuries. Our collective freedom is inextricably linked to each other. When we come to understand this then fully lasting liberation can blossom within our hearts and souls.
Feeling overwhelmed by all of this? Start with this action:
Sign the petition over at Moms Rising, urging your lawmakers to reject the bills on the table. Here is some info from Moms Rising (the rest is available when you click the link above – “Sign the petition”):
On Friday, President Trump suggested that he won’t change HIS policy of intentionally separating kids from their parents, unless Democrats agreed to his other destructive immigration demands.
Trump’s demands include passing a very dangerous bill proposed by Speaker Ryan. This bill will NOT end family separation. Instead, it would result in children being detained indefinitely in worse conditions, without basic standards for their care or well-being.
It would also result in the near immediate return of other children to the very life-threatening conditions they are fleeing and from which they are seeking asylum (a legally protected right in both national and international law).