In the Spirit of Hearing our Silence

Coalitional work is being undone. It is not a simple matter of Medhurst, Zarefsky, and others. It is not a matter of the plethora of reasons people choose to speak or not speak at this particular moment. We all have things we’d rather be doing. Trust me, I’d rather be drinking a caipirinha. But during the past days, many scholars in the field of communication and/or rhetoric have been forced to state their allegiances. What a terrible thing.

 

Speaking for myself, I’m concerned with the state of our commitment to each other. I, for one, don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, communist or socialist, anarchist or libertarian. Actions speak louder than words, and certainly louder than what we say we are.

 

But coalitional work is also being renewed and strengthened. Personally, I feel closer than ever to some of my colleagues. I’d like to commend Ashley Mack, Michael Steudeman, Bryan McCann, and many others for their care in attending to issues of race and privilege. Truly, they exemplify what we mean when we say: if you’re white and you want to help, let us teach you how to be our ally. And if you need more help, check out Anjali Vats’ twitter account. Thanks, amigxs.

 

Al grano

 

I offended several of you. Right now, I’m okay with that. I’ll definitely think about you and the things we’ve said. Things are moving quickly and I do not regret letting the frenzy of what feels like a revolutionary moment pass me by (even if this moment is a whimper). I do not know what will come of this. I said what I needed to say. I don’t have a ton of time left. None of us do. So, in the spirit of hearing our silence, I’ll share some thoughts.

 

The future of RPA

 

I do not call for the death of RPA. I certainly would like to see my work published in a journal of high recognition, such as RPA. I don’t speak on behalf of all of the rhetoricians of color involved in this movement, but I’m involved in this debate precisely because I want to see changes within RPA that might become exemplary for other journals taking diversity and inclusion seriously. I love the study of rhetoric: why would I want its demise? Personally, rhetorical studies has been a place where I can try to understand the world around me (which, obviously, others don’t understand), try to help others navigate the world we live in (while we are still alive and as much as I can), and help me get through the day, to be frank. I yearn for a space where I can discuss rhetoric with people with whom I share interests and concerns. Maybe some day these conversations will appear on the pages of RPA. But until then, I will fight any attempt to make me falsely believe that my interests in rhetoric are of lesser merit, degree, and substance.

 

The scapegoat and its possibility

 

Is Medhurst the scapegoat, and is this movement a ritual? Sure. Whatever helps scholars make sense of things. The scapegoat could’ve been Richard Vatz, or some other dude. Maybe tomorrow it’ll be me. I am not aware of all my shortcomings, and I am not aware of how my shortcomings will come back to haunt me. For me, the real matter is the future of our discipline. I guess Zarefsky and I have that in common. To focus on M while ignoring why there is a focus on M is to miss the point entirely. It was only a matter of time. When we say #BlackLivesMatter we mean in the streets and in places of distinction. When we say #NiUnaMenos we demand accountability. When we say #MeToo we expect backlash. When we say #CommunicationSoWhite we demand the opportunities to show the world what the discipline can become if we expand our horizons.

 

M has given us the opportunity to redefine merit—the possibility is opening itself to us (and, no, I do not believe he had the intention to stir change like some sort of revolutionary hero, but that’s a whole other matter). The push to double-down on what “merit” has been under the laziness of “but aren’t we all complicit?” and “but isn’t even the slightest violence still violence?” is the other side of this border of possibility. And make no mistake of who is the dominant power and who is pushing for change. Don’t tell us that because we cannot entirely do away with power relations we should not react to this moment. We’ve already heard that. We already know. We could’ve given up long ago.

 

How far are we willing to go?

 

After the exchanges of this past week, I have to say that I don’t know what other scholars are up to. I will not speak on their behalf here, but I will say this about LCSD/LRC based on my observations: We are deeply involved with and in our communities. In fact, we do nothing without them. I don’t know what people mean when they ask how far “we” are willing to go. This is a question for gringos, to be honest. Because “we” know we want to go far. So let me ask: How far are you willing to go with us? When we step into the bus after our conferences end, we will be yelled at for speaking Spanish, our colonial tongue. Or we will be asked when we plan to return to Mexico (for some, our neighbors to the north). How far?

 

Some of the most painful conversations happen in the safe spaces mentioned in LCSD/LRC’s statement, and without meaning to betray the trust of my colleagues, I’ll explain. One of the most emotional debates we’ve recently had surrounds the use of the letter “x” following the word “latin,” as in “latinx.” I’ll let you do the research (or, read Catalina de Onís’s article), but suffice it to say that earlier this week, when we sat down to write a response that we agreed represented the stances of all committee members, no one raised the issue of the “x” when it appeared in our translations. That is to say, there are things we argue passionately about internally, and then there are pendejadas that get in the way of activism—pendejadas that remind us that outside there are sharp-shooting goose-steppers. A single letter is that important to us (maybe start there when deconstructing a sentence in a language you can’t fathom). How far?

 

Far

 

White people who have risen to the occasion, who understand that our discipline is in long need of change, I thank you. White people who break their silence, I thank you. Yes, you, who in your stance have indeed broken your silence. Thanks. Together we will contend with many of the gruesome realities that shape our world. M, Z, and others have hurt their colleagues, but this may not be the end of their story. They still have another part to play. Until then, coalitions have been broken and maybe they’ll be rebuilt. White people who cannot speak at this moment: perhaps you can speak later.

Until then: we see you.

 

Ángel

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A Statement from the Executive Committee of NCA’s Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus

The Executive Committee of the Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus, composed of Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, and Raquel Moreira, unanimously disapprove of the comments made by Martin Medhurst in a recent CRTNET post meant for publication in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, and of the signatories of David Zarefsky’s complaint letter to NCA’s Executive Committee. Specifically, we 1) express our indignation at the notion that identity and diversity, so-called “god-terms”, are mutually exclusive from intellectual rigor, 2) our indignation at what Martin Medhurst conceives of as an attack on NCA’s Distinguished Scholars, and 3) our indignation at the notion that distinguished scholarship belongs solely to whiteness.

Grounded on the history of the colonization of our continents, the erasure of our languages, the destruction of our cultural legacies, and the ongoing and unending reclaiming and decolonization of our heritages, alongside our two-spirit allies, and alongside our brothers and sisters of different races and ethnicities across the globe who continue the fight against colonial, white supremacist patriarchy, we condemn actions that seek to undermine decades of decolonial work under the banner of meritocracy.

Underlying Medhurst’s grumbles are a series of well-known rhetorical moves, what Hasian & Delgado, Hurtado, and Squires call pendejo games, wherein members of a dominant sector of society feign ignorance toward the ongoing historical oppression of racial minorities. Such hypocrisies have been used to defer and deter radical change, safeguarding systems of privilege, inequity, and oppression, alienating scholars of color from the academy, from their own intellectual labor, and from the material conditions wherein they might create new spaces to pursue their intellectual endeavors.

We deplore the tokenization of scholars of color and diverse gender identities, sexualities, physical abilities, and backgrounds. Perhaps Medhurst expected an ovation as some sort of white savior. Perhaps Medhurst expected gratitude. Nonetheless, the tokenization of the unnamed transgender scholar only proves ineptitude at the face of the perceived changes in the academy—changes feared as attacks on the privileges of white, heterosexual, cisgender male scholars. In his message, Medhurst provides little to no mention of the scholar’s own intellectual merit, begging the question: why bring this up, if not for self-aggrandizing and self-defense? While we do not speak on behalf of the transgender author, and while we do not wish to “out” this author, we want to emphasize that our division has, from its beginning, sought to serve as a place of safety and inclusion.

We take this moment to remind our allies, and in particular our gringo allies, of the ample research that ought not be forgotten or dismissed in a moment like this: research on the violent discrimination inherent in the language of American exceptionalism, bootstrap mentality, and liberal meritocracy. Many of our members grew up being told we are not good enough, intelligent enough, and in short, not worthy of existence in the academy and beyond. The myth of meritocracy that at one point, perhaps, led us to think of the academy as a place of belonging, now forces us to reconsider our aspirations, to continue our unending struggle in the decolonization of the academy, and to reify our commitments to the creation of a world without injustice.

Let us not forget the Zarefsky gang, who perhaps too aware of their audience, appear to have no trouble placing and patrolling the baseless border between “distinguished” and “diverse.” For some, this may appear as a mere result of the current political climate. They might tell us to chill and enjoy the summer. To throw on a pair of cargo shorts, break out the Birkenstocks and socks, and enjoy a margarita. Summer time is the grinding season. But the signatories must not be ignored. The same bordering practices that allow Central Americans to be thought of as “immigrants” are central to our concerns in the study of Latina/o/x communication studies. And such bordering practices are clear in the actions of those who seek to claim indigenous land as their inherited territory. This practice predates Trump and the signatories. Let us not dismiss this as a symptom of the times and, instead, address this as the reality of centuries-long colonization.

From the historically-grounded perspective of the Executive Committee, LCSD/LRC has aspired to serve as a space where Latina/o/x scholars can feel safe and where their work can be valued, not just by friends, but also by intellectual colleagues in the field of communication studies. In that spirit, we want to assure those who seek asylum within the warzone that is communication studies that our division and caucus stand alongside its less privileged members and will advocate on their behalf.

The leadership of NCA’s Latina/o Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus strongly condemn the statements made by Professor Medhurst. Moreover, we are disappointed in the signatories that accompany David Zarefsky’s Distinguished Scholars complaint letter as well as the displeasure with the numerous white scholars who continue to write about Latinx issues is various subfields of communication, but remain silent when it comes to making space for scholars of color. We want those involved to know that while we are disappointed, their actions do not necessarily surprise us. Deep inside, we always knew there was a reason to distrust whiteness within “our” institutions. In their actions, they have undone decades of coalitional and decolonial work. We would like to say that it’ll take time to rebuild alliances, but, historically-minded as we are, we know—and they have shown—that such an expectation is far from reality.

Signed:

Michael Lechuga, Immediate Past Chair

Leandra H. Hernández, Chair

Sarah De Los Santos Upton, Vice Chair

José Ángel Maldonado, Vice-Chair Elect

Shantel Martínez, Secretary

Raquel Moreira, Parliamentarian

 

Español

 

El Comité Ejecutivo de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza, compuesto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah de los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga, y Raquel Moreira, unánimemente reprueban los comentarios de Martin Medhurst hechos en CRTNET e intencionados para aparecer en la revista Rhetoric & Public Affairs, y al igual, reprueban las acciones de lxs signatarixs de la queja al Comité Ejecutivo de NCA escrita por David Zarefsky. Expresamos 1) nuestra indignación frente a la noción que la identidad y la diversidad puedan ser mutuamente exclusivas del rigor intelectual, 2) nuestra indignación frente a lo que ha sido llamado un ataque hacia lxs Eruditxs Distinguidxs de NCA y 3) nuestra indignación ante la noción que la erudición distinguida pertenezca únicamente a gringos.

 

Basado en la historia de la colonización de nuestros continentes, la borradura de nuestras lenguas, la destrucción de nuestro legado cultural y el rescate y la descolonización continua e interminable de nuestro patrimonio, acompañado de nuestros aleados de doble espíritu y junto a nuestrxs hermanxs de distintas razas y etnias que, alrededor de mundo, pelean contra el patriarcado colonial, condenamos las acciones que buscan profanar décadas de labor descolonial bajo la bandera de la meritocracia.

 

Las quejas de Medhurst no son más que una serie de actos retóricos, comparable a lo que Hasian y Delgado llaman pendejo games, o mejor dicho, pendejadas, donde los miembros de un sector dominante de la sociedad fingen ignorancia ante la opresión histórica y continúa de las minorías raciales. Este tipo de hipocresías han sido usadas para diferir y disuadir el cambio radical, protegiendo sistemas de privilegio, desigualdad y opresión, y al mismo tiempo alejando a lxs eruditxs de color de su propia labor intelectual y de las meras condiciones materiales donde puedan crear nuevos espacios para el desarrollo intelectual.

 

Deploramos la tokenización de otras personas. Quizá Medhurst esperaba una ovación, sintiéndose héroe o salvador. Quizá Medhurst esperaba agradecimiento. Sin embargo, la tokenización de xlxs academicx transgénero no nombradx comprueba la ineptitud frente a los cambios dentro de la academia—cambios considerados un ataque a los privilegios de académicos blancos, heterosexuales y cisgénero. En su mensaje, Medhurst falla en tan si quiera mencionar el mérito intelectual de xlxs autor, generando la pregunta: ¿por qué mencionarlx, si no por autoengrandecimiento y/o autodefensa? Hay que aclarar: no pretendemos hablar por parte de estx autor. Mucho menos le pedimos a estx autor sentirse obligadx a hablar públicamente. Lo que sí queremos dejar claro es que nuestra división y nuestra cámara ha sido, desde un principio, un lugar donde valoramos la seguridad y la inclusión.

 

Recordamos a nuestrxs aliadxs, particularmente a nuestrxs aliadxs gringxs, de las amplias investigaciones que no deben ser olvidadas o ignoradas en momentos como este: investigaciones sobre la violenta discriminación integrada en el lenguaje del excepcionalismo americano, la ideología “bootstrap” y la meritocracia liberal. Varios de nuestro miembros crecieron pensándose ser menos que los demás, al punto de cuestionar nuestra mera existencia dentro de la academia. El mito de la meritocracia que un día nos llevo a creer que la academia podía ser un lugar en el cual pertenezcamos, ahora nos lleva a reconsiderar nuestras aspiraciones, a continuar nuestra batalla interminable en la descolonización de la academia y a cosificar nuestro compromiso a la creación de un mundo sin injusticias.

 

Y no olvidemos a la pandilla de Zarefsky, quienes sabiendo bien a quien le hablaban, parecen no tener algún problema patrullando la frontera entre lo “distinguido” y lo “diverso.” Para algunos, esto puede parecer nada más que el resultado del clima político contemporáneo. Nos podrán decir “calmados, disfruten el verano.” Nos podrán pedir que nos pongamos los shorts cargo y las sandalias Birkenstock (con todo y calcetas), y que disfrutemos una caipirinha. Pero el verano, para nosotrxs, es una temporada de lucha. La lucha sigue. Y no podemos ignorar a lxs signatarixs. La creación retórica de fronteras nos permite pensar que lxs centroamericanxs sean “inmigrantes,” cuando en realidad este continente le pertenece o todxs o nadie. Al igual, aqullxs que han firmado su nombre han participado en la creación de fronteras dentro de la academia. La creación de fronteras antecede a Trump y lxs signatarixs. No hay que llamar a esto “un síntoma de los tiempos.” En vez, reconozcamos que luchamos contra la realidad de la colonización de siglos.

 

Desde la perspectiva histórica del Comité Ejecutivo, LCSD/LRC ha aspirado a servir como un espacio donde lxs académicxs latinx puedan sentirse seguros y donde su trabajo pueda ser valorado, no solamente por amigxs, sino por colegas intelectuales en el campo de la comunicación. En ese espíritu, queremos asegurar a aquellxs que buscan asilo dentro de la zona de guerra que es el estudio de la comunicación que nuestra división y nuestra cámara está al lado de sus miembros menos privilegiados y lxs defenderá.

 

Lxs líderes de la División Latina/o del Estudio de la Comunicación (también llamada, la División de los Estudios de la Comunicación Latina/o) y de la Cámara de La Raza condenan las declaraciones de Martin Medhurst. Además, estamos profundamente decepcionadxs con lxs firmantes que acompañan la queja de David Zarefsky sobre lxs académicxs ilustres. Falta mencionar nuestro disgusto con los numerosos académicos blancos que continúan escribiendo sobre temas latinos, o pertenecientes a las comunidades latinxs, en varios subcampos de los estudios de la comunicación, y a la hora de la hora no abren la boca para defender o ayudarnos. Queremos que los involucrados sepan que sus acciones, aunque nos decepcionan, no nos sorprenden. En el fondo, siempre hemos sabido sospechar y desconfiar del poder de la academia gringa dentro de “nuestras” instituciones. En sus actos, han deshecho décadas de trabajo de coalición, dañando—quizás rompiendo—coaliciones. Tomará tiempo para reconstruir alianzas, pero tal vez será imposible.

 

Firmado por:

Michael Lechuga, Presidente Pasado Inmediato

Leandra H. Hernández, Presidente

Sarah De Los Santos Upton, Vicepresidente

José Ángel Maldonado, Vicepresidente Electo

Shantel Martínez, Secretaria

Raquel Moreira, Parliamentaria

 

Português

 

O Comitê Executivo da Divisão de Estudos Latinos em Comunicação e La Raza Caucus (LCSD/LRC), composto por Leandra H. Hernández, Sarah De Los Santos Upton, José Ángel Maldonado, Shantel Martínez, Michael Lechuga e Raquel Moreira, repudia por unanimidade os comentários feitos por Martin Medhurst in postagem recente na CRTNET com intenção de publicação como editorial em Rhetoric & Public Affairs, e dos signatários da carta de David Zarefsky ao Comitê Executivo da Associação Nacional de Comunicação (NCA). Especificamente, nós 1) expressamos nossa indignação com a noção de que identidade e diversidade, chamados “termos divinos,” e rigor acadêmico são mutuamente exclusivos, 2) nossa indignação com o que Medhurst concebe como um ataque aos “Distinguished Scholars” (intelectuais distintos) da NCA, e 3) nossa indignação com a ideia de que “Distinguished Scholars” pertence somente a branquitude.

 

Fundamentado na história de colonização de nosso continente, no apagamento de nossas línguas, na destruição de nossos legados culturais e na reivindicação e descolonização incessante de nossos legados, junto aos nossos aliados dois-espíritos, junto aos nossos irmãos e irmãs de raças e etnias diferentes em todo o globo que continuam suas lutas contra forças coloniais patriarcais brancas, nós condenamos ações que buscam minar décadas de trabalho descolonial sob a bandeira da meritocracia.

Subjacentes aos resmungos de Mehurst está uma série de movimentos retóricos já conhecidos, o que Hasian e Delgado chamam de pendejo games, em que membros de setores dominantes da sociedade simulam ignorância sobre a contínua opressão histórica de minorias raciais. Estas hipocrisias vêm sendo usadas para adiar e desencorajar mudanças radicais, salvaguardando sistemas de privilégios, desigualdades e opressão, afastando da academia intelectuais pertencentes a minorias, de seus próprios trabalhos intelectuais e das condições materiais em que possam criar novos espaços para buscar realizações intelectuais.

 

Nós lastimamos a tokenização de intelectuais pertencentes a minorias raciais e de diversos gêneros, sexualidades e habilidades físicas. Talvez Medhurst esperasse ser ovacionado como “herói branco.” Talvez Medhurst esperasse gratidão. De qualquer forma, a tokenização da intelectual transgênero prova ineptidão face a mudanças na academia—mudanças temidas como ataques aos privilégios de intelectuais homens, brancos, heterossexuais e cisgênero. Em sua mensagem, Medhurst fornece pouca ou nenhuma menção aos méritos da intelectual, implorando a pergunta: por que trazer isso à tona, se não por motivos de auto-engrandecimento e autodefesa? Apesar de não falarmos pela autora transgênero, e apesar de não desejarmos expô-la, gostaríamos de enfatizar que nossa divisão tem, desde o início, buscado servir como um espaço inclusivo e seguro para todxs.

 

Aproveitamos esse momento para lembrar aos nossos aliados, especificamente nossos aliados gringos, da extensa pesquisa que não há de ser esquecida ou dispensada: pesquisa sobre a discriminação violenta inerente à linguagem do excepcionalismo estadunidense, da mentalidade “bootstrap” e da meritocracia liberal. Muitos de nossos membros cresceram ouvindo que não eram bons o suficiente, inteligentes o suficiente e, em resumo, indignos de existirem na academia e além. O mito da meritocracia que em algum momento talvez tenha nos levado a pensar na academia como um espaço de pertencimento, agora nos força a reconsiderar nossas aspirações, nossos esforços contínuos para descolonizar a academia e para reificar nosso comprometimento com a criação de um mundo sem injustiças.

 

Não nos esqueçamos do grupo de Zarefsky que, talvez bastante conscientes de seu público, aparentam não terem problema algum em estabeleceram e policiarem uma fronteira sem fundamentos entre “distinto” e “diverso.” Para alguns, isto pode parecer como um mero resultado do clima político atual. Eles podem nos dizer para relaxar e aproveitar o verão. Para colocarmos um par de shorts, colocar os chinelos nos pés e beber uma margarita. Porém, o verão é tempo de luta para nós. E os signatários da carta não devem ser esquecidos. Práticas fronteiriças que permitem que pessoas da América Central sejam tratadas como “imigrantes” são cruciais para nosso interesse no estudo de comunicação latina/o/x. E tais práticas fronteiriças estão claramente presentes nas ações daqueles que continuam a tratar terras indígenas como seus territórios por direito. Essas práticas antecedem a Trump e mesmo aos signatários. Não caiamos na armadilha de entender esse momento como um sintoma dos tempos atuais, mas sim como a realidade de séculos de colonização.

 

Da perspectiva historicamente fundamentada pelo Comitê Executivo, LCSD/LRC tem servido como um espaço onde intelectuais Latina/o/x possam sentir-se seguros e onde seus trabalhos possam ser valorizados não apenas por amigos, mas por colegas intelectuais no campo da comunicação. É com este espírito que queremos assegurar a todos que buscam asilo no campo de guerra que é a comunicação que nossa divisão apoia nossos membros menos privilegiados e continuará a defendê-los.

A liderança da LCSD/LRC repudia veementemente as afirmações feitas pelo professor Medhurst. Ademais, estamos decepcionados com os signatários da carta de reclamação escrita pelo professor Zarefsky, assim como repudiamos o silêncio que acompanha inúmeros intelectuais brancos cujos trabalhos estão centrados em questões latinas, mas que se recusam a abrir espaços acadêmicos para minorias raciais. Ao mesmo tempo, gostaríamos de dizer aos envolvidos que apesar de estarmos desapontados, suas ações não nos surpreendem. No fundo, sempre soubemos que não se pode confiar na branquitude dentro de “nossas” instituições. Em suas ações, eles desfizeram décadas de esforços de coalizão. Gostaríamos de dizer que levará tempo para reconstruir alianças, mas conscientes de história que somos, sabemos—e que eles nos mostraram—que tal expectativa está longe da realidade.

 

Assinado,

Michael Lechuga, ex-presidente

Leandra H. Hernández, presidente

Sarah De Los Santos Upton, vice-presidente

José Ángel Maldonado, vice-presidente eleito

Shantel Martínez, secretária

Raquel Moreira, parlamentar

Tent Cities in Tornillo, Texas

I used to talk to my upper-middle class friends (Latino college students at the University of Texas at El Paso) about the importance of caring about Syrian refugees. Most of them agreed with me, but mostly because they didn’t want to argue with me. I can win arguments by making others realize the lives they live come with a series of responsibilities they are not living up to. I can make them feel that voting for Obama is not enough.

I like to think that I hold myself to a similar standard. But winning arguments comes with its own backlash. No one really knows who the winner of an argument is until we see the aftermath of “winning an argument.”

I went through college as an undocumented immigrant. To say that El Paso, Texas is close to Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua is but an approximation to what we might mean by the word, “close.” Apart from my family and about two professors, I never told anyone that I was undocumented–not through the four years of my BA and not through the two years of my MA. Winning an argument might come with a serious backlash–someone’s call to INS. I knew that then, but failed to recognize that this logic permeates society beyond matters of immigration.

After about a decade, I told one of my closest friends that the entire time we had been friends I was undocumented. He is a good person. He is now a dedicated educator in Tornillo, Texas–where tent cities for unaccompanied minors have been established. The tent cities were always a possibility–after all, this is not a new chapter in American history (and don’t give me the typical clichés: “history repeats itself,” and “we need to study history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past”). As a society, regardless of political affiliation, we have failed to do both. Remember boarding schools for Native children? Remember the internment of Japanese Americans?

But it is not too late. You and I can still correct this. After all, isn’t this the so-called “greatest nation in the world”? We should live up to that standard and test the model of democracy that we have so long flaunted–an example that we have dared to say other countries envy and imitate.

Internment creates hostility. This is a human rights violation: global mobility is a human right. You and I are responsible. Can we really live like this?

I became a citizen 22 years after migrating to the US. I told myself that I would take back the 22 years that I feel the US owes me. I had to live in the shadows while contributing to the welfare of this nation in ways that go unrecognized simply because few people knew that my actions (good or evil) were the actions of an undocumented immigrant. I never truly felt that I belonged. And when I made the oath I felt that a part of me gave up. Still, the judge reminded me: unlike other Americans, you chose to become one–you have fought to achieve what others take for granted–you contribute to this nation in unfathomable ways–and yes, unfathomable is the correct term.

Why lock up children who enter this nation already carrying a love and contribution that other people lack? The simplest example is the multiple languages they know–and as communication scholars like to say–a language is a way to knowing, constructing, and relating to the world. Why deny ourselves new forms of knowledge?

I have tried to commit myself to human rights politics by looking beyond borders and into human rights violations the “victims” of which are people who are not like me: indigenous communities in Mexico, feminicidios, South and Central American migrants, migrants across other borders, and people from my own home state who have to live under the threat of military violence–of Mexico’s (US-fueled) Civil War. And I always wonder if I’m doing enough. And you should too. After all, you hold power in different ways than I do. You know people that I do not know. You persuade communities in ways that I can’t.

I’ve been told by White folks with good intentions that I am “one of the good ones,” as though they truly recognize malevolence in others (and I’m not talking exclusively about immigrants). Still, as “one of the good ones,” I know that I have been more fortunate than other migrants who are not bad people–immigrants who are denied entry (even into their ancestral lands) due to insignificant differences like poverty.

I ask that you take action. 1. Call your representatives and tell others to do the same–put pressure on your representatives, and if they do not represent your interests vote them out. It is your right. 2. Donate to organizations doing the work that you and I are not doing: The Border Network for Human Rights: http://bnhr.org RAICES: https://www.raicestexas.org Check out this list: https://www.ajc.com/news/national/trump-and-immigration-how-help-immigrant-children/LoIKme5lhXLI1d9KqkkPRK/ 3. Volunteer and Protest Peacefully 4. Talk: Make others remember that empathy defines humanity.

We can do better.

Sincerely,

One of the bad ones