A few days ago, I still had not made a decision on whether I’d be staying home from work and school on Monday, May 1st. The decision didn’t come easily despite years of activism around immigrants’ rights and an academic interest in immigrant students.
I realized that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Isa, my roommate and a teacher at a LAUSD high school hadn’t decided when we spoke about the topic on Thursday night. She was unsure about skipping out on the first day of classes when she returns for B track (she’s on a year-round schedule). I didn’t want to skip work after a short week at my new job. We also both knew that our jobs — positions that require advanced degrees — are not the types where most immigrants from Mexico are concentrated. It’s easy to go a day without spending, but not teaching or working with students didn’t come easy. I’ve read other Latina/o bloggers who are also conflicted (Jenn, Xoloitzquintle, and MsABCMom). They are all educators and feel that the education of their students will also contribute to the boycott and overall goal of empowering Latinas/os.
Although I respect decisions to go to work, I know that I had to change my mind. I thought of my grandparents who came here with several children in hopes of a better life. Although my parents and their families did not come as undocumented immigrants, I know well that I have a number of extended family members and good friends who do not have that privilege. I considered the day I walked along campus observing a display of crosses set up in remembrance of men and women how had died crossing the US-Mexico border. It all seemed rather abstract considering most of the people close to me are not immigrants and have not had to sneak across the border. Well, it was abstract until I read a cross with “____ Mosqueda, Guanajuato, Mexico.” I can’t remember the first name. I know it was a common name, probably José, Jesús or Juan. But the last name and state of origin struck me. This man (or boy?) who shared my name and home state in Mexico had died in the harsh territory separating the country my family came from and the country in which I live.
My privilege as the daughter of immigrants, graduate student, and US citizen became incredibly clear that afternoon. It’s something I know other young Chicanas/os and Latinas/os also identify with, including César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández (el not-so-dailyTexican’s hermanito) who wrote at alternet
I will join the boycott because my privilege demands it. I am a citizen of this country, a well-educated man with a love of justice. I must speak now because the people who clean my classrooms might not be able to, because the people who prepare the restaurant dinners I eat might not be able to, because the people about whose lives Congress is debating cannot talk back except through the power of protest.
I will stand with my immigrant sisters and brothers because I recognize and value their contribution to our country. I will join the nationwide boycott because their work makes my privilege possible. I will join because, as the book of Leviticus teaches: “The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and you shall love him as thyself.” (Lev. 19:34).
Now… for how to figure out how to get to the marches in LA without having to drive (’cause I’ll surely be charged for parking) or getting some kind of pass for public transportation.
In the photo, Mamá Toni holds her eldest daughter, Chilo, on her lap. Beside her stand her siblings Sabás and Josefa. When this photo was taken, my Papá Chepe had already left to work as a bracero in the US.
Chicana on the Edge has also written on the topic. Ktrion wrote about the concerns of potential little felons (if HR 4437 becomes law). Finally, I found a great piece ¿Qué onda Aztlán? by Oso Raro in response to the earlier protests and how the current activism around immigrants’ rights links to the Chicano Movement (thanks to Chicana on the Edge.