At my day gig, I channel my inner Blanche Dubois and rely on the kindness of strangers. From a post on Facebook soliciting donations of winter clothes, bilingual books, or help securing employment to voluntelling the kids and their friends to help out at a community event I know that I cannot work solo.
Helen Keller says it best
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Armed with this knowledge, I am still hesitant to accommodate the newly formed community groups that want to partner with me to fight for immigrant rights. It is not that I am against partnership. Partnering with other organizations is how I accomplish the majority of my work. There is the attorney I call for complicated issues, the organization that provides quality employment, my partnership with two universities, and a score of other places I turn when I am in need. I am not too proud to ask for and receive help.
My hesitancy for accepting new help is personal. As I look into the earnest faces of potential partners I wonder why now?
Of course that answer can be found on the evening news. The chaos in a Trump presidency ruffles even the most unflappable person. His first three months in office I prepared more Naturalization forms than I had in 2016. I also slipped into a deep depression, dreading each day. At home I tried to placate an over anxious family while carrying the fears of my students. Despite their status, many were making contingency plans to leave the country. Fear of a Trump America cast a dark shadow over every facet of my day.
As I stare into the earnest faces of the newly formed community group members my hostility bubbles up. I admire their moxie: this was NOT who they wanted to lead the United States and they are tired of standing in the wings waiting for change.
As much as I admire their newly stoked fire, my anger overshadows their eagerness. As they proudly present English and Spanish Know Your Rights cards, I barely contain my contempt as I ask if they have the same cards with French, Arabic, or Mandarin translations to help with those populations. When they tout the ACLU’s nine point action plan, I repeat the position of the Township. When they ask “How can we help?” I explode.
Help? What is this help? I am not the only person affected by immigration. I cannot and will not make myself a martyr of this cause. I was not always this enlightened on immigration issues. Like these newly formed groups my days revolved around The Daughter and The Son, The Mister, and other things that affected me. Unlike these new groups, my gender, skin color, income gave me a consciousness of issues that cannot be alleviated by donning a pink hat and carrying a clever sign.
To these newly awakened groups I ask:
Where were you when Black mothers were fearful for their children doing mundane things like going to school, going to work, changing lanes?
Where were you when chants of “Build the Wall” eclipsed images of children fleeing countries because they feared for their lives?
Where were you when Blacks protested the large number of people pulled over for stop and frisk?
Where were you when murmurs of Muslim bans became roars?
Where were you when I was asked to leave community meetings because I was registered as a Republican?
When I see moms grinning with chiefs of police or state representatives with a hashtag heavy caption, I immediately notice that these women are always white. I see your willingness to finally join the fight, but this fight has been going on LONG before you got your photo opp. You congratulate yourself on making a change but at the end of the day, did you really change anything?
This is the part of this piece where I am supposed to assuage the bruised feelings of those who are finally woke to this horror show some of us have have always learned to navigate. I am supposed to acknowledge you stepping up to the plate and congratulate you for finally joining the fight.
I will not.
This is not the place to come for this. Doing the right thing is not synonymous with appreciation. You are a mother, a neighbor, a coworker. You may not have understood the writing on the wall, but believe me you saw it was there. I can not express admiration because you want to do the right thing. For me, doing the right thing is like breathing. I do not have the luxury of waiting for disappointing election results to act. I live this daily. I do not get to choose when to be outraged. To be black is a constant state of wariness and outrage. Your social media selfies to fight for justice is just another form of hashtag activism.
At the end of the day, did you really change anything?