Send ‘em all to Mexico, or Trump’s plan to “other” people en masse

So, this was something that I hadn’t really seen much (if at all) online in the social media realm until recently, although it’s a few weeks old now in terms of newsy-ness: Trump and his cronies want to deport all the illegal immigrants to Mexico, whether they’re Mexican or not.

OK, that’s an overstatement; so far, I don’t think there are plans to send Europeans, Arabs (Muslim or otherwise) or Asians who’ve overstayed their visas or whatnot to Mexico. But the literal truth is still pretty awful.

Trump’s evil crew wants to deport immigrants who cross Mexico’s border illegally to Mexico, regardless of their nationality.

Now, for some of you (and I’m sure for most of the people who incorrectly think undocumented immigrants of all sorts are snatching up all the jobs and sucking up all the government welfare benefits), that might not seem so bad. They crossed over from Mexico, so send them back there.

But the fact is that you don’t generally deport people of one nationality to a country other than their native one unless you’re extraditing them because they need to face charges for a crime they are accused of committing in that country. And that’s the difference: deportation and extradition are similar in some ways but are two entirely different things.

Imagine crossing into some Western European nation on some grand tourist journey, right after you’ve been through Russia to grab some photos of their architecture and buy some good vodka, and then you overstay your visit in that European nation. And they say, “Hey, you were last in Russia, so we’re sending you back there.” So you, an American citizen, have now been deported to Russia, and God only knows what will happen to you and where you might be detained and how long before it’s all sorted out. If that thought doesn’t send any chills down your spine, there’s something wrong with you.

The idea that non-Mexicans who cross the border illegally would be sent back over and it would be Mexico’s responsibility to detain them if they’re asking the United States for asylum is ridiculous. OK, they cross illegally. They are in the United States in violation of our immigration laws. So, we should be detaining them until such time as we can arrange to send them back to their country of origin or hear their case for asylum.

If you catch you neighbor Al’s dog pooping on your lawn, you don’t take the dog over to your other neighbor Lisa’s house just because the dog is closer to it when he’s doing his business on your greenery.

Naturally, Mexico isn’t pleased with this and, much like asking them to pay for a wall that Trump wants to build on the border, they are sending up a great big south of the border middle finger, and God bless them for that.

One of the big problems with this plan, beyond the legalities and the common sense aspects, is how it so clearly is meant to “other” all people who are from Latin American/Hispanic nations. To make them one big block of “Mexicans” with no remote desire to actually treat them as individual people. It’s dehumanizing, and that’s so in line with what Trump and his people have been doing since he started campaigning to be president.

It reminds me of a story from several years back that made the news, in which a Puerto Rican man in Chicago had run afoul of the law. The authorities there were all set to send him to Mexico, despite his mother even intervening to provide proof of his identity, before U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez stepped in and things were sorted out.

Mind you, the worst thing about that story isn’t the idea of deportation to Mexico because the man “looked” to Chicago immigration agents like he “must” be Mexican (which is pretty damned bad).

What’s truly horrifying is the fact he was a U.S. citizen. Yes, people born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. It’s a territory of the United States. Immigration agents almost deported a U.S. citizen to Mexico. That’s some peak white supremacy, bigotry and ignorance all wrapped up there.

And this was in 2010. Now we have Trump sounding the trumpet for all the bigots in America to look with suspicion and disdain on people who aren’t white and just maybe might not be American citizens. It’s not about illegal immigration. It’s about anyone whom the racists in power think…and the racists who voted for them think…doesn’t look like they should be here.

With Trump and his crew ready to try out mass roundups and deportations, one can only imagine whether…and how many…actual citizens might find themselves kicked out of their own country.
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Calling all white people, part 9: Seeing and respecting race

Calling All White People, Part 9

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Don’t be the “color-blind” numbskull nor the “race fetishist” weirdo
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

Speaking on behalf of my fellow white people, I’m going to say that (on the whole) we are pretty awkward about how we deal with racial, ethnic and cultural difference. We tend to fade into the woodwork and not address such things when we should, or we go overboard. It’s not dramatic in either direction all the time (or maybe even most of the time) but it does tend toward the useless and/or counterproductive more than it does true inclusiveness and acceptance of non-whiteness as a perfectly normal thing.

More to the point: We need people to stop saying stupid crap like “I’m color-blind when it comes to race” and we need people to also stop treating people of color (especially folks like Black people and Native American/American Indian people) like zoo exhibits or merely as educational opportunities.

Now, those are pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum. On one end, trying to pretend like race and ethnicity don’t matter and on the other end sort of fetishizing it. But what they share in common is that they often lead to white people committing microaggressions against non-white folks (or other people of difference or marginalization). And as most of us realize when we really think about it, it’s the multitude of “little shit” like mircoaggressions that really wear people down day to day, hour after hour, and often more so than the big crap like being called the N-word. Big stuff can be startling and scary, but it’s probably not what’s gonna contribute to anxiety, high blood pressure and the other things that have often shortened the live of people of color or at least led to them having overall unhealthier lives compared to white people of similar socioeconomic status. Microaggressions matter on a social and societal basis

So, let’s take a few examples of these extremes of white people dealing with (or not dealing with) racial stuff and thinking (wrongly) that they’re doing good.

I don’t see color! – This is perhaps one of the most annoying statements people of color hear from white people who think they’re being all open-minded and progressive. To say that you don’t see color when you deal with people is ignorant unless you actually have a visual or neurological impairment that literally makes you see in black and white or to not be able to somehow differentiate pale skin from darker skin. To be honest, this is a form of erasure. It’s like saying a person’s very identity and background doesn’t matter. But it does. We are many of us defined by our cultural, racial and/or ethnic backgrounds. That doesn’t mean people of color are stereotypes, but it does mean they tend to have various (and varied from person to person) distinct character traits (good, bad or neutral) that come from their racial background and racial experience. Black people, overall, often have different cultural behaviors and language compared to white people, for example. It’s a fact. Someone who is part of an immigrant family or only a generation or two removed from immigration probably has all kinds of cultural differences compared to the average white person. Ignoring that is being purposefully ignorant. When a white person from the North meets a white person from the Deep South, you can best believe that Northern white person is gonna notice differences in the way the other person speaks, reacts to situations, eats, etc. (and vice-versa). So don’t act like you didn’t notice the person in front of you was Black, brown or whatever. Acknowledge and respect differences; don’t pretend they don’t exist or don’t matter. Acceptance is better than mere inclusion.

Oh my gosh, can I touch your hair? – This is a statement that is so often followed by the white person who said it putting their hand into the hair of a Black person without actually waiting for permission. It’s a very specific example, but probably one of the big ones that Black people complain about because it happens to them or to their children, and there are all kinds of variations on this theme. But regardless of whether it’s hair or something else, it’s invasive and creepy. It turns non-white people into something like the human equivalent of zoo animals. It is, in a sense, as fetishistic as the white person who “only dates Black (or Latinx, or whatever) people” (often because they are seen as exotic). People of color and other forms of difference are not interactive exhibits to be handled or ogled at the whim of people in the more mainstream/privileged groups (white, cis-male, hetero, Christian). This is the kind of thing that happens when people think they’re being open-minded and/or progressive, but instead they are making the person’s difference(s) the only interesting or important thing. Turning a person into an object.

You speak so well – This is the example I will finish with. I mean, I could go on and on and on but I just want to give you some starting points to open your own eyes. The previous two examples were on the two ends of the spectrum: “color-blind” vs. “fetishist.” This you speak so well example is often committed by white people not only at both ends of the spectrum but most of them in between. It often comes out in other variations: You write so clearly, you speak so eloquently, you’re a credit to your race, etc. It’s insulting because chances are in the 95% or more range that you would never say the same thing to a white person if you read something they wrote or listened to them speak publicly or argue a point in a discussion. It is insulting because underlying it is the suggestion: “Most of the people who look like you are lesser in skill than us white people but you’re different.” Under the guise (and often the honest intention) of sincere flattery, you’ve just not only insulted most of the person’s fellow race/ethnicity but also “othered” them…set them apart from everyone else and made them out to be something rare and not belonging to any “normal” group. It’s one thing to tell a person of color, for example, after a talk they’ve given, “That really moved me” or “I learned a lot from hearing you speak”…that’s often fine. But that’s because it’s the same kind of thing you would say to a white person who spoke. Don’t give the backhanded compliments, though, spiced up with racism or bigotry, however unintentioned it might be.
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When the work of change becomes a tiresome burden, or Racial justice reality

I have a confession. I am tired. After years of writing about racism in both Maine and America, combined with several years of running an anti-racism organization, I am tired. There is also the pesky fact that racism affects me personally as a Black woman. As a white colleague, author Debby Irving, once pointed out: It’s rare that I get a break from my work.

This work is the work but it is also my life. Which means that I spend a great deal of time pondering how we can move the needle on race in this country and beyond in a positive direction. It means that even when I am “off work,” racism has a habit of rearing its head at the most inopportune time, whether that is when trying to enjoy a meal, take a walk, check out a dating site or just exist. In a country built on white supremacy and the dehumanization of Black people, there is always a situation or person nipping at my existence to remind me that I am a Black woman in a world where whiteness as the ultimate thing is now gasping for air but not fully on life support.

While the narrative is shifting and greater numbers of white people are starting to delve into examining white privilege and tackling what it means in the larger picture, what’s become clear to me is that we need more work. In the past several years as we have seen the mainstream media pay greater attention to Black death at the hands of law enforcement, we have seen organizations like Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and others spring up in an attempt to educate and activate white folks to fight against racism.

In theory, these organizations are very much needed, but at the human level it gets messy because despite “good” intentions and desires, we are dealing with real humans and, well, as I am fond of saying: Humans are messy. As we all grapple with the reality of a Trump administration and the turning back of the clock on issues related to immigrants and civil rights, now more than ever, white people do need to activate and organize. But the challenge as I see it from my perch is how to do it in a way that is responsible and accountable and doesn’t cause harm.

Despite greater numbers of white folks understanding what is going on, in too many instances whiteness perpetuates itself and causes harm. In too many instances, People of Color are erased and what really happens is a circle jerk of white folks who get to claim the moral high ground compared to, say, a white nationalist. Which in the larger picture isn’t saying much. Being better than a metaphorical Uncle Rusty the Racist or real-world Richard Spencer is not how we are going to dismantle white supremacy and create a racially just and equitable world.

We have multiple uncomfortable realities happening simultaneously, and the very real reality is that many white people who are starting to get it are doing it on the backs on people of color. People of color are too often asked to provide free labor to be a part of white people’s learning which, despite the learning that occurs, creates the very real continued inequities that seem inherent in racial justice spaces. There is also the request by people of color to have white people be accountable to POC [people of color] in their organizing spaces, but no one quite being sure of what that means. Does that mean to follow the orders of POC in the work? Does it mean working in concert? Everyone has a vision of what the work looks like but at this moment, that vision is not shared, in part because despite the language and goals we do share there is too much about the work that is not shared. However, if we are to affect real change, we need a shared language along with a shared vision and mission. We also need to understand that today’s racial justice work stands on the shoulders of those who have been working already and to create inclusive and intergenerational spaces that ultimately will serve us all.

One of the barriers that prevents racial justice work from being as effective as we would like it to be is that too much of our existence is siloed. How can we create a unified mission and vision when rarely do we have true trust amongst ourselves nor are we truly part of the same community? We can’t; instead, we pay lip service and dilute our own work with the type of busy work that keeps us running from protest to meeting where we work in reaction to the moment rather than creating a proactive vision.

As I struggle with doing the work in a climate that is filled with tension, what’s clear is that so much of the progress we think we have been making is performative and not nearly as progressive as would like to believe. And at this moment in time, we need more than the performative. Otherwise, we burn out rather than burning down the walls of white supremacy. Our collective survival in this moment will involve acknowledgement of our collective humanity and in a nation built on divisions, that is easier said than done. Change requires not only a head shift but a heart shift, and that is a harder place to reach. 
If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.