I grew up with privilege. I had my own room, went on vacation to the beach and Disney World, went to the dentist regularly, attended a fancy private school, wore a nice dress to prom. We had heat in the winter and AC in the summer and my parents were always around to help me with homework and college applications. My dad taught me to drive and play the guitar and my mom always had a garden in the backyard. I got a Bachelor’s degree in English, of all things, and then a masters in International Education from an ivy league school in New York City. My parents never deterred me from these less than lucrative paths and I knew I could always reach out to them if I was in need of practical or emotional support. My life has been one of opportunity and acceptance and limited struggle.
The formative years of my life were spent in predominately white spaces in the suburbs of Atlanta. My peers were mostly white and our neighbors were mostly white. The girls in my ballet classes were mostly white and my teachers were mostly white and the people at my family’s church were mostly white.
But my dad is not white. My dad’s family moved to America from Ecuador when he was 7. He didn’t speak English but he quickly learned through being thrown into the American public school system with no language support. My Abuelita never learned English and my Abuelito hardly did either.
They came to America for the same reason everyone has always come to America: the hope of a better life. First came my Abuelito, to California, and then my Abuelita with my dad and his two brothers and one sister. They would work hard for that better life they had hoped for. My dad would teach himself to play the guitar with a shoebox, fishing line, and the Beatles on the radio. Later that year, for his birthday, my abuelita would drive to Tijuana to buy him a real guitar for $20 and he would play it until his fingers were raw.
When my dad got to high school he and his older brother would get in trouble with an LA gang that would result in my abuelita buying them one way tickets back to Ecuador to finish high school. This would begin a chain reaction that would lead to my dad meeting my wonderful, blonde-haired, blue-eyed mother and consequently I and my siblings exist.
But what if it hadn’t happened that way? What if my existence hinged on right now?
Our current president ran his political campaign on demonizing people who look like my family. He capitalizes on and perpetuates the racism rooted in our culture that results in christians at our local mega church asking my dad if he’s a mechanic or a gardener, in my high school classmates asking me if my family is “legal”, in police officers pulling over my dad for no reason (which my dad would have to go to court and prove). While minor, these instances show a larger problem. That because someone “looks” like an immigrant or is an immigrant, they must have less value as a person.
People in my family come, not just from Ecuador, but from Peru, Cuba, Mexico and Guatemala. What if they hadn’t come decades ago? What if they were coming to America today? Would your politics allow for that? Would the candidate you voted for in 2016 allow my family to start a life here? Or would the politicians you are voting into office right now support policies that make my family’s story impossible? Would your president chant to “build a wall”? Would he call people with skin like ours murderers, rapists, and animals? Would he create new policies that turn my immigrant family into criminals, that legalizes pulling my 10 year old cousin Gabriella away from her parents? What if our immigrant families were coming to America today? What would our lives look like? Would I even exist? Would you?
Children are being taken away from their parents as part of a punishment for daring to think that they could belong in America. They have hope for a better life for their children. They have dreams of learning to play the guitar and going to college to study something trivial like English Poetry. They hope to one day be privileged enough to sit and read or write some blog post on the internet from the comfort of a nice computer in an air conditioned room.
What if we gave them space to do that? What if we leveraged our privilege, our white-washed, heteronormative, christian privilege, for those who were born into less?
Right now the news is filled with pictures of kids who look like us. And by us, I don’t mean me or my siblings or cousins. I mean all of us. No matter what your skin color is. No matter where you come from. Whether your family came to American 200 years ago or 2 days ago. Immigrants are not immigrants. They are me. They are you.
For more information on what’s going on in regards to immigration, #wherearethechildren and new policies legalizing children being taken from their parents, PLEASE check out Glennon Doyle’s website and donate!! LINKED HERE.