Friday, April 30, 2010

My contention with “Do I look illegal Day” and “White-T shirt Immigration Reform Rallies”

I’m dumbfounded by some en masse actions taking place in reaction to the AZ legislation. First, there is the call for another rally on May 1st across the nation from the same folks who did it earlier this year. Now we have this ‘do I look illegal’ piece floating around FB and Twitter where individuals are asked to post on their FB statuses that very question. Both are acts to bring up solidarity, ‘raise awareness’ and other positive goals.

Both measures are mass examples of power by assembly, or a more recent trend, groupthink. What I am afraid of is a lack of individual fearlessness to really discuss and find solutions to these issues, hindering discussion that will eventually belittle progress. And, a closing in of the dialogue to harbor only on administrative actions and the ‘illegals’ themselves, with no space for identifying the missing factors in this public discourse such as human rights violations, ways to empower ourselves to deal with this issue, or questioning the economic push/pull factors created by the same legislative body we are asking to deliver us from this plight.

A problem I see in these superficial acts of solidarity is the use of temporal physical items such as T-shrits and statuses to raise awareness. It’s the classic “Are you wearing the ribbon?” thing from Seinfeld. The encouragement of White T-Shirts, the gathering of folks at the Mall, and this notion of making all of our beautiful profile pics and statuses ambiguous is a rehashing of the ‘melting pot’ all over again. These viral acts always intrigue me because in both instances, there is no real articulation of what the agenda is, and who is directing the show.

I wholeheartedly agree with a freedom of assembly, and rallies are supported when cognizant of their limited capacity. But, these are superficial covers, temporal moments, viral moments are where a true agenda is lost, and a committed agenda cannot be made. What I mean by commitment is when the participant is educated on the issue, empowered with action and interventions, and choosing to engage in this process. And how can true agenda and platforms, and views and stances be truly made when the act is only wearing a t-shirt? It’s through discourse, questioning, critical thinking, debating, contemplating, process, calling out, shouting out, feeling the different levels of privilege and hurt where ideas and innovations can come to pass. Weigh the notion that the white-t you are wearing was just bought from Target, versus the white-t worn by your friend-in-solidarity was passed to them cause the other ones were too dirty or old (or not white anymore). Its setting your status to ‘Do I look illegal” with my albino-ass profile pic next to it, and the one after has a picture of a brown-skinned black-haired person who has been racial profiled in his/her own neighborhood. It’s where you stand up to me and ask why? And where I ask you “why do you need to ask?”

Lets talk, lets debate. Tim “He’s so wise” does the same ‘temporal solidarity trick’ through his latest piece where he asks us ‘what if the Tea Party was Black”… Again we are seeing temporal, physical, and superficial techniques being applied to address a social problem. Again, I understand that these are minimal attempts to just get awareness out there… but how many times have I seen ‘awareness’ through Pink and Red Ribbons, Yellow rubber bracelets, Whtie T shirts, Swoosh signs, Golden Arches, etc etc etc… , it’s a redundant technique.

Point is, wearing these little masks, veils, shirts, colors, will not grant me the opportunity to know what its like to be undocumented, and it doesn’t eradicate the educational system and prevalent culture that continually teaches us to profile and stereotype. As a Latino who has/had family and friends without documents, I can try and pretend to know, but I really won’t. So because I wear the shirt, because, I act and look like them for 5 minutes, or for 8 hours in my FB status, will that really help? And because I DON’T look or know what it means to not have papers, do I REALLY need to resort to these makeup acts to show awareness? Truth is, if you are a rich white woman who is down, then show that you are a rich white woman who is willing to speak and act against these fascist laws. If you are a college educated Latino who went through shit and has felt the burn, and yet your college status grants you a shitload of privilege… putting on a white-t with your hermanos and hermanas doesn’t mean you get it either. Be that college educated, English-Dominant citizen and act anyway.

I found this article where I gave props to the Chief of Police Association in Arizona for expressing disagreement with the passing of the law. I gave them props because they are who they are, and they will not change who they are, but they spoke up anyway… they held their ground as law-enforcement officers. This public action and display of disagreement among law-enforcement breaks up the notion of groupthink, it will certainly create dialogue and sharing of ideas among those in uniform. Do we fear it will ‘destroy the police force as we know it?’ No we don’t… but when there is disagreement among people based on race, socioeconomic status, and so forth, we think the country is falling apart. And it is this very notion of finding allegiance through ‘group-think’ and ‘makeup’ to make us look alike is what the problem is all about… we still rely on physical attributes to group ourselves… this reminds me of racism… we should use issues, discourse, ideas, and thoughts to bind us together, to bring us closer rather than physical descriptors… that’s profiling.