I had never really thought about it – where I was born, who I was born to, or even what the implications of being born are. It wasn’t until right before the last presidential election that I was confronted with my own privilege; the privilege that exists in merely being born in the United States. Just by being born, I was given the privilege to work. The privilege to travel freely between borders (usually without a visa). The privilege to exist outside the shadows. I hesitate to use the word privilege because I didn’t earn any of it – and when I was a kid, a privilege was something you earned. It doesn’t matter – I didn’t earn any of it. Perhaps you could argue that my great (great-great? great-great-great??) grandparents earned it, but I don’t know anything about their story, so I couldn’t tell you if we “earned” it or not.
This realization brought me to tears as I realized that so many of the students that I fight for on a daily basis are at risk for having their work permits revoked, or worse yet, being deported, having their families deported, or any other horrors that I can’t possibly imagine. The fact that we require people to live in the shadows in this country is appalling to me. Many of those who would be impacted by the revocation of DACA were brought here as children. They did not choose this life. They have, however, worked legally, paid taxes, and contributed to society in a positive and meaningful way. Many of my DACA students outperform their citizen peers in one way or another. I have many DACA students who have graduated from college with degrees in high-need fields. They are filling a void in this country; why do we believe it is okay to relegate humans to the shadows? Some don’t even speak Spanish, they have assimilated so well. Others have grown up believing they were citizens, only to find out differently when they started applying to college. You can blame their parents (if that makes you feel better), but that doesn’t change the lack of humanity and how we treat people that we deem as not having “earned” the privilege to be here.
And while we’re talking about privilege to be here…
I have served high schools with large refugee populations. Their stories aren’t different from my DACA students, but the difference is that we’ve deemed them refugees and awarded them asylum. We’ve given them immediate status without a waiting list. We have immigration lotteries for countries we deem to be “more worthy” of awarding immigration to. I don’t seek to take anything away from those students or families, but let’s not pretend that there’s a huge difference between the two stories.
Human is human, at least how I was raised.
Consider this. What did you do to deserve to be here? I’m not asking what your parents did, what your grandparents did, or what any other family member did. Why are you here? How did you get here? What privileges did you earn by merely existing?
I’m not asking whether you worked hard.
Whether you got a fancy degree.
I’m asking what you did to earn the right to live outside of the shadows and without fear.
For me, it just so happened that I was born into the right zip code to two parents who also happened to be born into the right zip code on the north side of the border.
And for that, birth is a privilege.
Call your congressmen and women.
Wow. It’s been a couple of days. Last week, we were preparing to host my in-laws from Houston, who were coming into town for the wedding of a family friend. Thursday evening, my brother-in-law called to let us know they wouldn’t be coming because his job was requiring him to stay because of the upcoming weather. My husband’s parents, however, did make the trip. They are still here but are headed back to Houston tomorrow to assess the damage.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had to make the difficult decision to evacuate with their baby late Sunday night. Their neighbors had to evacuate in chest-deep water with their baby. I don’t want to get into this more because it’s not my story, but I’ve had a lot of difficultly sleeping for the last few days. Sunday night was rough.
I suppose I could talk about kindness. I have many friends from college in Houston, and I reached out to one of them (that I didn’t know all that well) when I heard my family needed to evacuate. Not only did he immediately offer up his cell phone, his wife’s cell phone, and his home to them (if they could get there and gave me multiple routes to consider), but he provided phone numbers for rescue services that weren’t yet overwhelmed. My staff member immediately texted her parents in Houston for resources they had. Seeing people pull together made my heart grow three sizes (because I’m a grinch).
One of my staff members wants to plan an volunteer day for our team, so maybe I’ll have more to share later, but right now I’m just in shock that it got so bad so quickly. I’m hoping that my in-laws return home to minimal damage, but I know that’s unlikely.