Language Matters

Why We Must Resist & Reject Discriminatory Statements

 

When I heard John Kelly’s recent statements on the radio, my heart started racing with rage. Hearing someone–in a position of authority in the White House–call an entire community “lazy” made my blood boil.

 

Immediately I thought:

 

  • How dare he talk about the undocumented community like that?
  • How could he be so incredibly disconnected from reality?

 

 

Our words are vehicles for our values, and his words say a LOT about his values.

 

We can’t afford to be careless with our words OR our values for so many reasons.

 

One of which is because the children are listening. All of them. They are sponges. What they absorb eventually seeps out into their actions and words. 

 

And they’re learning lessons like this in school, hearing A stereotype is a generalization about a person or group of persons.”  + “When we judge people and groups based on our prejudices and stereotypes and treat them differently, we are engaging in discrimination.”

 

…so we can’t be silent.

 

This is close to my heart because I taught many undocumented students and know DACA recipients.

 

I’ve heard stories of college students who arrived to the United States at a very young age, who were 4.0 students (and valedictorians of their high school class)–some of the most dedicated, driven, and responsible people I know–who now commute one hour to college, who struggle to access financial aid, who can’t leave the country to visit loved ones, who have no healthcare, have never been to the dentist, have no drivers license…the list goes on.

 

I know parents who have emergency backpacks by the door and pre-written goodbye letters, students with emergency contacts on them at all times. I’ve heard stories of confusion about the DACA paperwork, which includes questions about the time and place their parents crossed the border. From what I’ve heard, the fear of getting their parents in trouble is pervasive, persistent, and painful.

 

I can’t begin to understand or empathize with that type of pain and anxiety. I can only listen and show up. I’ve attended events in solidarity to better learn how I can support.

 

My new friend, Antonio, (below) couldn’t be farther from “lazy” — he’s one of the most resilient people I know. He drove 4 hours to attend a DACA event to share his inspiring story, to be in community, and to have hope. Just hope. That tomorrow could be better. That someday his dream of becoming a teacher could come true.

The depth in his eyes captured so much: perseverance, pain, confusion, love, anger, sadness. Hope.

 

So I hold his story and the powerful conversation we had close to my heart.

 

His story adds more fuel to my fire (my moral imperative)–to resist unjust practices and statements.

 

I feel so strongly about this because this is life or death for many students these days. 

 

Bullying and hate-crime-related incidents at schools are on the rise in an unprecedented way. 

 

It’s being referred to as The Trump Effect by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

 

They note:

“In the immediate aftermath of the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) noticed a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country. At the same time, a wave of incidents of bullying and other kinds of harassment washed over the nation’s K-12 schools. The SPLC decided to make an effort to document all of this in real time.

Incidents were reported in nearly every state. The largest portion (323 incidents) occurred on university campuses or in K-12 schools. The incidents were dominated by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim incidents (together, 329), but included ones that were anti-black (187), anti-Semitic (100), anti-LGBT (95), anti-woman (40) and white nationalist (32). A small sliver of them (23) were anti-Trump, but the vast majority appeared to be celebrating his election victory.”

In another article by SPLC, they note: “Ninety percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

Here are more facts on cyberbullying + a rise in youth suicide rates in case you’re interested.

 

Needless to say, we have a LOT of work to do to fight this administration, to resist this divisive discourse and ALL the unjust laws and practices in our current government.

 

A lot of work to do.

 

So, rather than get angry and frustrated, throwing my hands up, and giving up–everyday I make a choice. I think of Antonio’s radiant resilience, and I choose radical hope. I channel his perseverance and strength, and I show up in solidarity.

 

Because I know I’m not alone, and strength comes with unity.

 

Because thousands and thousands of people are by my side. 

 

Because countless organizations like Jolt Texas, attorneys like Alfonso Maldonado Silva, and countless organizations like United We Dream, and community members on the grounds working tirelessly, advocating for the rights of undocumented citizens every day.

 

It truly takes a village to change the conversation.

 

We ALL can–and must–stand up and speak out against injustice for the next generation.

 

It starts with one step. One conversation. One choice.

 

To listen. To show up. To ask. To see.

 

To say “that’s not how we talk about groups of people, and here’s why…” or “hurt people hurt people” over and over again to our children.

 

To put a sign on your window saying “no human is illegal + we support DACA” to signal to our undocumented community members that they are safe and welcome in our space.

 

To choose courage over the comfort.

 

To resist silence.

 

It starts with one choice.

 

So what is one choice you will make today?

I’d love to hear about it.

Please comment below and/or share with friends. 

 

Also, if you have other resources to share or ideas for organizing, please contact at spark@rachelvrosen.com.

 

Rachel Rosen, the founder of S.P.A.R.K. Community and S.P.A.R.K. Leadership, is on a mission to start a global conversation about inclusion, empathy, and racial equity. With a Masters from Stanford, and extensive training in leadership, coaching, team and organizational development, S.P.A.R.K. experiences are grounded in theory and practice–all in service of making the world a better place. With love. For justice. 

 

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