the philosophactivist

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tu Lucha es Mi Lucha: More than Acknowledging each others' struggles, Organizing for Immigrant Rights

A page from my journal this summer:

Yesterday, we went to Polk Detention Center and protested and had a vigil for Father's Day. There were about 100 people there- from babies to elders. The security officers watched the whole time and we were relegated to a fifty yard patch of grass (with lots of ant hills). It was sweltering hot- in the upper 90s- and humid. We made two 4 hour trips for a 2 1/2 hour demonstration, but we got some press. The Observer went on the ride with us and Telemundo met us at the detention center. Texans United for Families also sent out some press releases. 

The Larger Movement: Dignity not Detention- Expose and Close

It's all part of a larger movement, the Dignity not Detention Campaign, with the Detention Watch Network to bring awareness to expose and close these horrible immigrant detention centers owned by private companies who treat people as if they're nothing more than a way to make profit. Polk Detention Center is one of the worst in the nation according to recent reports.
Human rights violations and sexual assault run rampant in these centers and the DWN seeks to challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. 

Families Torn Apart:

Having a Father's Day vigil 

Video here

Families are constantly being torn apart because of the assumption that this country belongs to anyone other than the First Nation's people. 

There are so many causes to work toward but only working on single issue battles is not going to bring about the revolution. We must organize across issues and support each other in our struggles. Indigenous, immigrant, black, brown, white, young, old, disabled, able-bodied, chornically ill and healthy, queer and straight.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our struggles may not look the same but the roots are similar. The colonizers of this country, built on the extermination and subjugation of thousands, have never been kind to "Others". Othering is the basis of domination- othering is the basis of genocide. When you fail to see the humanity of people you deem different than yourself, it is easy to be a cause of their suffering - voluntarily or involuntarily.

The culture of this country is wrapped up in individualism. Those of us not born into wealth, entitlements, or privilege often find ourselves fighting with each other for scraps of the American Pie. We constantly have to try to go to sleep to catch a glimpse of the American Dream.

But what is this dream but the values and aspirations of a now-minority?  
Is it what our ancestors would have wanted for themselves or for their descendants?

When immigrants and migrant workers cross the border to escape genocide or to escape conditions in which they cannot survive (largely due to intervention from imperialist countries such as our own- see Harvest of Empire) why is it ok to allow for our law enforcement to detain them, separate them and their families, violate their human rights and/or send them back to those countries to die?

Why is this not our problem? 

I realize that when we, ourselves, are trying to survive that fighting for the rights of others can seem like more than we can bare- and that's because it is. We have to do this together. We have to come together and fight for our basic human rights. Not just for one group's rights over another. Not for a feigned sense of  "equality". Don't you see that we can never, ever be "equal" under this system? That would require shared power in a way that is just not possible with the way this country was built. 

When the "fathers" of this nation said that all men were to be created equal, they didn't mean immigrants or any other people of color or women. These folks, these others, were not even considered human. They were possessions. They were chattel and this was in the eyes of the law. 

So, the sharing of power cannot happen in a system that is meant to run only by the subjugation of others. It is fueled by inequality. This is why we are pitted against each other. So many people try to assimilate into the dominant culture's values only to find out that 100% assimilation can never happen. No matter how educated you are or how much money you accumulate or how much of your culture you leave behind, you are still seen as lesser than. 

POC have fought each other for years to be one step above the other...a few rungs down from "the man"...but this isn't equality. With structural racism (and all structural oppression) there can be no equality. As long as we turn our backs on human rights violations anywhere, there can be no equality. There will always be an "other" and a "lesser than" who is not seen fit to have a certain amount of power. Someone to be policed, criminalized...subjugated.

As a defense mechanism, the marginalized subjugate each other. The oppressed oppress each other. There's always got to be someone who is weaker.

Another look at Equality vs. Equity

Pretend "equal access"

ex: saying people of color and whites can all go to school so all have equal opportunity for education and therefore have the same access to good jobs.
issue: schools on the black/brown side of town may be of poorer quality and get less funding, therefore an education from one of these schools isn't exactly competitive with higher ranked schools.

"leveling the playing field"
ex: affirmative action: people of color and whites with similar scores and qualifications can get into college but because of a lesser percentage of POC applying to college (for many reasons) they may be given priority

Of course this brings up all kinds of emotions for folks around what they've "earned". No one wants to think that they haven't earned something or that someone got a free ride. 

Who has "earned" their citizenship? Who "belongs" here? Most of us are the descendants of immigrants or people forced to immigrate for various reasons. But is being here for two, three or four generations grounds enough to belong here more than someone else? Does that justify the exploitation of those who haven't been here as long - at the hands of Big Agriculture and other industries? Is it ok if some people aren't "equal"? Maybe we can't be bothered with their equality and we don't care about a sense of equity.

I notice that whenever I post something on my facebook pages about immigration or undocumented queer immigrants, that no one comments. Is it because people don't understand the issue or don't know much about the issue? Or is that people think the issue doesn't concern them? Or worse, do people really think that some do not deserve to be in this country no matter the reason or that people should go about doing things the "right" way? Citizenship that is. I can't be sure. Maybe it's all of the above.

All I know is- que tu lucha es mi lucha. I'm not struggling alone and I refuse to buy into some meritocracy saying that I deserve more (or less!) than someone else or that anyone has less rights than I do because of where they were born. Xenophobia kills. It permeates the fabric of this country, originating before its "founding". Sometimes immigrants are quick to assimilate into the American Dream, othering folks from other countries or their own country and believing that they deserve to be here more. 

Have you seen what is happening to the actual people who "deserve" to be here? Why do so few stand in solidarity with them? Why do folks get bent out of shape when we talk decolonization? 

And we're back to entitlement, no wait...merit...

The truth is that we all deserve basic human rights and until everyone has them...there is no true freedom. Another's exploitation will always be a threat to everyone's liberation. 

For the descendants of the freedom riders and fighters on this 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. (a poem)

Silence and stillness 

as I write my own future into 

Carving my own path, the cosmos are listening
poised to conspire. 
The journey within, mirroring the journey without. 

The stars, my ancestors- 
swirling conspirators on this liberatory voyage. 
Chains dissolving with every moment of awareness. 

I am Free. 
We are Free. 

Not "at last"- 
no, always and everlasting. 

Spirit knows no cages. 

Enveloped in the stillness, 
my ancestors whisper songs about 
beyond comprehension to 
those who don't talk to the Ocean 
or sit with Trees. 

How can we know Freedom 
without acknowledging co-existence, 
and more importantly, 
that I am You. 

Though my path seems solitary- 
though my dreams seem singular, 
our wants, needs and aspirations are 

So when I sit in silence, 
writing my future into existence. 
I think about your future, too. 

As I carve my path, 
I think about your path, too. 

And the Universe conspires for both of us. 
Our journeys coincide. 
Our chains dissolve together 
as we realize that our struggles are not separate, 
our paths are not separate, 

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