The Kids Who Look Like Us

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

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Reconciliation to self.

My sister wrote this poem and sent it to me the other day, and it was so exactly right, so exactly how I am feeling. I haven’t had the will or the strength to come up with my own words lately, but hers have filled my heart and spoken for me. I am learning how to hold the good and the bad, the light and the dark, because as long as we are in this world we will have both. We will live through both. Life is learning how to live in the tension. Learning how to choose good, to choose the light, and learning to forgive ourselves when we don’t. Learning to forgive the people we love when they don’t. And learning through all of it to remain rooted and grounded in love.

 

I promise to go away

I promise we will travel and see all the places we said we would

And we won’t wait, we’ll do it now.

I’m sorry we failed, I’m sorry we feel

Like it is not enough

To just lie on the couch and think about life

Because life doesn’t look like something we planned on

We will drink more cups of tea and less alcohol

We will hug more friends

And less boys who say they like to be with us

I like to be with us

I like to be at home

All alone,

Because I never feel lonely when I am at peace with what I choose to be.

I am sorry to my stomach for treating it like steel and

Sorry to my heart for pretending it was immune from feeling

And I’m sorry to my friends for the lies I’ve told them about where I’ve been

It is so isolating to hurt on the inside

Without being able to get the true words out from inside my mouth.

In my head I am trapped

But it will not be forever

I believe there is forgiveness and a bridge to walk over

To a field where there is peace

And freedom for the past

I have a friend there

He doesn’t need me to speak

He knows

And he felt the ache in my stomach

And the cold bathroom floor

I can feel he is with me

And I will meet him there

 

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A Moment

My life is quite full at the moment, but here is part of poem from Thich Nhat Hanh that spoke to me this morning. Take a moment to breathe and be and meditate on love and compassion.

 

The only thing worthy of you is compassion-

invincible, limitless, unconditional.

Hatred will never let you face

the beast in man.

 

One day, when you face this beast alone,

with your courage intact,

your eyes kind,

untroubled

(even as no one sees them)

out of your smile

will bloom a flower.

And those who love you

will behold you

across ten thousand worlds of birth and dying.

 

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Some days are hard

I say a bad word in this post… You’ve been warned.

“For the ones who are told only to speak when they are spoken to and then are never spoken to.” -Anis Mojgani

I have yet to decide what this post is about. I just need to write, so here I am. There is something that I want to say, but I’m not sure what it is. So, I’m going to list (my favorite pastime) some things that this post is not about. Press play on this spotify playlist, and I hope by the end you feel less alone than you did before.

 

What This Post Is Not About

-It’s not about how my grad school applications are in and the deadlines have passed and all I can do is wait and wait and feel inadequate and wait.

-It’s not about how seemingly everyone I know is getting married or engaged or acquiring a boyfriend and the only boys who are interested in me are the homeless men on Marta and even though I’m a feminist to the core I can’t help but have moments where I feel like I’m not good enough.

-It’s not about how it has been 2 years and 3 months since I’ve been overseas which is the longest I have gone without traveling out of the country since I was 13 years old and I feel like I cannot breathe this Georgia air one minute longer.

-It’s not about how Syria won’t leave my thoughts or my heart and I find myself standing in the grocery store trying to decide on which almond milk to get and I hate how much food I have to eat.

-It’s not about how “Facebook strait up ruins lives” (that’s a sister quote) and social media is the worst… I say as I type on my blog

-It’s not about how fall makes me feel dead and alive all at the same time.

-It’s not about how I just want to sit down and write a poem or a story, but my inspiration is dwindling and I worry I’m running out of things to say.

-It’s not about how the guys sitting at the table next to me in this coffee shop are playing chess.

-It’s not about how beautiful Atlanta has been to me lately.

-It’s not about how hard today was even though there was nothing in it to make it so.

-It’s not about all the feelings I have bursting from the tips of my fingers and top of my head and breaking through my rib cage and exploding from every part of my body except for the one place it would be useful: my mouth.

It’s not about any of those things (except by listing those, I made it about them). But really it’s not, I promise. I’m writing in spite of those things. I’m writing about hope and peace and being ok in this moment in this body in this place. Because it’s really hard sometimes, and I know I’m not alone in this. Things are hard for really dumb reasons. Life is heavy and you can’t articulate why, but that’s ok. Here’s what I want to say. Shake the dust. When you make a zero on your Spanish quiz because, well, senioritis, shake the dust. When you can’t walk into Walmart without thinking about orphans, shake the dust. When you get tired of going on adventures by yourself, shake the dust. When every photo or mirror makes you feel ugly and hungry and tired, shake the fucking dust. When seeing airplanes flying over your head makes you cry, shake the dust. When you’re tired of driving and thinking and walking and thinking and sitting and thinking, shake the dust. When the future is terrifying and you’re tired of explaining why you don’t have a “real” job or a boyfriend or any idea what you’re doing with your life, shake the dust. Why do we hold on to it? Why do we let it sift down into our souls and pollute the way we breathe? Why do we cling to our human hearts no matter how black and cracked they are? We are so free. The heavy things are always going to be heavy, but we are not. We are full of light. But it’s the dust we hold on to. We could brush it off so easily, but we let it gather and block out every good thing. Hope lies behind the dust. And it’s time to let the hope in. Do you realize that these walls surrounding your spirit are simply walls of dust? You thought it was stone, didn’t you? So did I. It’s not. The stones broke and crumbled such a long time ago. This is what is left. See it for what it is. Call it by its name. Dust. Blow it away. Brush it off. Shake the dust. Let love come in like the wind and stay like the air we breathe.

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Thank you Anis Mojgani for the inspiration.