I’M HERE

Sometimes when I’m really angry I get on social media and I wait… I wait to see the racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia, transphobia, and all of the other “issms” and phobias to rear their heads. I simply wait. I wait for the comments to pop up on my feed and read what the kid-now adult-I went to high school with, and his sister, and their Dad’s cousin’s to comment on a news article that the white guy who killed his pregnant wife and two kids is not as abhorrent of a crime because he was born here. Going on about how unfortunately there’s nothing to be done about that situation, but how THAT is very different from the undocumented immigrant who confessed to killing the white girl in Iowa. It’s SO DIFFERENT because he was here “illegally” and IF he hadn’t been here “ILLEGALLY” then that murder would not have happened.  Because for some reason after statistics and logic tell us that white men are over-represented as perpetrators of violent crime, when a brown, black or undocumented person commits it, well then it could have been avoided and so they shouldn’t be here and we should get back to building that wall or passing that ban… So, sometimes I get on social media when I’m angry…and I wait.  (spoiler alert: yes guys the white guy did it…again).

On other days, I don’t.  On these days when the posts are too much and there are too many crying kids in prison-like facilities, confused at the language they’re hearing and the strangers they’re around, and the dirt that’s building on their bodies-on those days, I make myself stay off social media.  Because sometimes seeing the capsized, makeshift rafts that refugees used as boats to cross oceans with their children risking drowning to escape their horrors is too much. Because sometimes, seeing babies drowned on white beaches and then seeing Tim from Indiana’s comment underneath, “they believed in sharia law, is that what you want in your country?!” “They should blame their parents for making that decision,” “We need to take care of our country first!” is just too much. So I stay off social media and, if I stayed off the entire day, I gift myself a bowl of flaming hots (and lemon), and I do it in the name of self-care. My red stained fingers a badge of honor known only to me.  A secret “Good Job, Melody!” to myself.  In all sincerity, I eat flaming hots after I lose my shit on a person like Tim too–it’s still self-care.

But then there are days. Days where all of the posts push me into a daydream of being on CNN and having the producers afraid to take their fingers off the censor button because regardless of how smart and articulate I can be, I’m still this brown girl and I can best express myself when I don’t have to “watch my French” or keep my neck from snaking around. I imagine being split screen alongside ANY conservative commentator and reminding them exactly why what I come from made America great way before it was an acronym on a poorly made hat. And sometimes, when I’m feeling really racy I imagine it’s Tami “that’s not my name” Lahren.  Those are the days I fight with the devil on my shoulder until I shut my eyes for the night to stay the fuck off social media.

Then there are those days, those days when my friend’s lists decrease and my family one too because you decided to comment that “racism isn’t real” and “they should just listen to the police!” and “If women want to be safe then they need to be smarter and not drink or run or walk to their cars alone.” Those are the days where you might catch me on my social media tip and you might flip positions too.

You might decide it was too much and block the thread. You might block my posts. You might even click the unfriend or unfollow button, maybe even the one in real life too. But I’ll still be on my social media tip. I’ll still be in restaurants hoping someone’s friend doesn’t make a racist comment at dinner and I have to spend my two free hours before bed reminding him that I am THAT kind of Mexican and that Black Lives do in fact Matter.

I’ll still be here denouncing people and ideas when I see or hear ignorance in real life or on social media.  I’ll still be challenging, reading, learning, and trying to be a better version of who I was before. I’ll still be pushing, donating, volunteering, and supporting men, women and non-binaries that are under-represented because I AM HERE.

So be annoyed, be an unfriend but I’m still here. I’m the gnat you can’t kill screaming, “Women get paid at most 75% of what men get paid and women have to pay more for things they need like tampons!” So the next time you see “click here to see 274 comments” with my name all over it, don’t scroll past it. Read it. Don’t hit me with the “I didn’t post this to argue,” because as long as I’m here, I’m doing my due diligence the best way I know how and a lot of the times that’ll be right here or on all different types of social media

So, appreciate the fire and challenge yourself to understand the movement. In the meantime I’LL BE RIGHT HERE. 

Immigrants as…Humans?

I sit in court a lot, most mornings that’s where you’ll find me, sitting in a courtroom.  While I wait, I online shop, check the news, Facebook stalk people who were mean to me growing up–realize they were actually all terrible even at 8 years old because as adults they all voted for trump.  It’s all a distraction.  It distracts me from focusing on the fact I have to get up there and be better.  Just in general I have to be better.  Better prepared than the other attorney, know more facts than the other attorney, write down the new deadlines faster than the other attorney, etc.  Why?  Because sometimes judges think I’m an interpreter and ask me to interpret for pro se parties in a courtroom full of my colleagues.  I do it willingly, every time  The people I interpret for remind me of my parents, my aunts, uncles, and my friends’ parents.  The ones that know more English than they think but get really nervous when they’re put on the spot.  The ones who want to make sure they don’t miss one word in a legal proceeding because it could mean the difference between OK and oh fuck.  They trust me, I’m brown like them, my Mexican accent is comforting and they see their kids in me, they see what the kid of an immigrant can be.

My parents are immigrants, they came here undocumented and remained so for a really long time.  So long so, that I remember going to their citizenship ceremony and reciting the pledge of allegiance with a picture of Bill Clinton hanging on the wall.  I had to miss school that day and I went back thinking I too had become an American Citizen at that ceremony.  I proceeded to tell all my 2nd grade classmates how cool it was.  Some of them started to call me an illegal alien.  At parent-teacher conferences my teachers asked my mom if she was lying about my social security number when she enrolled me.  My mom had to explain to them that I was a citizen, but the ceremony was so important to them that they brought us with to witness it–also they couldn’t be sure they would be home before we got home from school.  As an adult I know now that schools are not allowed to ask a child’s immigration status.  My parents, although now documented, are still immigrants.  But they’re parents and they’re people and they’re human.

They aren’t doctors or biochemical engineers who are working on the most forefront research on the cure for pediatric cancer, they’re just humans.  They’re two people who have run a small business for over 30 years.  But they still deserve to be treated as humans.  We all do.  Not every immigrant, documented or undocumented, is going to be a doctor or a the next Harriet Tubman but they still deserve human rights.    My parents are luckier than most, they get to point to my brother and me, and our accomplishments to bolster the undocumented immigrant narrative, like, “look at what we can contribute to society if you let us in!”  But they shouldn’t have to,  sometimes just existing in this country as an immigrant is hard enough.

A lot of people think that immigrants come to this country to take advantage of what the US has to offer.  To that I say, “TRUE TRUE.”  BUT there are two things you’re missing: 1. people wouldn’t leave their countries if the US didn’t go in and colonize the fuck out of places, 2. these people leave EVERYTHING behind, EVERYTHING.  My parents told me, like most other undocumented immigrants I know, that when they came here they left with the clothes on their back….THAT’S IT.  The clothes on their backs.  They left family, homes, jobs, security, etc., because there was more opportunity here.  Or at least the prospect for more opportunities.  Whatever it was, the idea that they could improve themselves was worth leaving behind their entire lives.  Not because they wanted to but because they HAD to.  I don’t think I have to go into the extensive history of the United States and its colonization of  Mexico–Hi Texas!–or the entire maquiladora systems they set up in countries all around the world but long story short, the opportunities aren’t there.  And NO it’s not all the US’s fault, these countries’ governments have played a role, but when your fighting for survival, everyone is fighting for survival and there wouldn’t be a fight for survival if there wasn’t a trigger, *cough cough* US colonization.

But immigrants come here and for the most part they just try to exist.  They work, they pay taxes, they are friends, neighbors, property owners, fathers, mothers, children AND SOMETIMES they produce children or they themselves are impeccably, outstandingly smart and accomplished and are about to change the world.  But mostly, they just try to exist, like you and me.  And I think it’s time to stop seeing immigrants as worthy because they are doctors or engineers or overly accomplished in any other area.  Immigrants are worthy just because they exist here.  Period.

I don’t know one person who has or had the courage to get up and leave their entire life behind to take a chance in a country that has a force whose sole purpose is to remove them from it.  I lied.  I do know people like that, they’re all immigrants, they all came here undocumented and they’re all here EXISTING.  And they are just as worthy of a reason to reform this broken system as Malala, Justino Mora of Undocumedia , and every immigrant engineer and doctor whose story  I see on my Facebook feed.

So I’m done.  I’m done with having to push the stories of the top 1% of undocumented immigrants to convince people that fixing this system is necessary.  From now on, I’m pushing the majority.  The men and women, or however they identify, that are working in the back of the restaurant, cleaning our homes, fixing our shit, working tirelessly to put their kids through school all while not having seen their parents since they left their home countries.  Those are the stories I’m pushing, because that is worthy that is necessary.

I never asked my parents what their dreams were when they were kids but they always told me the only thing they ever wanted was for me to have more than them, to have it easier than them.  I’ll always remember my dad telling me, when he grew up all he wanted was a house with walls and a real floor.  His favorite thing about our house is our hardwood floors, he always told me he dreamed to have the house he lives in now, to him that is a mansion compared to where he came from.  He just hoped that he was able to put me in a position where one day I could have better, that I could have more.  And every immigrant parent I’ve ever met, from doctors to service workers, their goals are the same: to give their children more opportunity than they had.  And that, that makes them worthy.

So the next time you’re thinking about whether the Democrats should let the government shut down because the Republicans refuse to pass a clean DREAM Act or reform this broken immigration system, think of these immigrants.  They have the same goals as you.  The have the same aspirations for the future as you.  They are just as worthy, as you.

 

Brown Girl Talks Meets Bourbon N Browntown

I spend a lot of time on social media sometimes silently but mostly vocally judging people’s opinions on certain human rights topics.  Sometimes though, my social media stalking leads me to discovering new forms of resistance that are happening right in front of me.  This time in particular, my gym life stalking lead me to Caullen Hudson’s Instagram and podcast Bourbon N Browntown that he hosts with his roommate and friend, David Moran.

I causally and creepily slid into Caullen’s DM’s and shot my shot and asked him and David to come have a Brown Girl talk. Luckily for me, they didn’t think I was a major creep and said yes!  Below is what transpired after 5 people of different shades of Brown and religious affiliations chatted over a bottle of tequila and homemade guacamole.

Obviously David and Caullen are doing great things and I am so grateful to have been able to pick their brains a little.  Check out SoapBox PO here!  You can also catch their podcast on iTunes or their website!

Tweet Caullen here!   Caullen’s Instagram!

Tweet David here!     David’s Instagram!

SoapBoxPO Instagram!

Thank You, Lin Manuel Miranda

A few months ago I was lucky enough to have my SO take his mom and me to see Hamilton.  I have been on the Hamilton train since it opened and I couldn’t wait to see it.  So when my SO said that he got us tickets for our anniversary back in November I was SO EXCIIIITE.  It was a bittersweet time for me because it was a few days after the grand jury decided the officer who murdered Philando Castille wouldn’t be charged so I was in my emotions.  I had been going through a series of emotions: anger, rage, hate and guilt.  It felt like mainstream society would never understand how hard it is for people of color to survive here, particularly black men, in this country we are supposed to be so proud of.  Too often it seems like people of color, especially black men, are paying a toll for living in this country with their lives.  For lack of a better description, I felt really hopeless.  I felt like no one could truly understand how it felt to be a person of color in this country and how absolutely terrifying something like driving a car could be for a non-white person.  Needless to say, I had a lot of emotions swirling  inside of me pre-Hamilton that I hadn’t quite dealt with so it felt almost perfectly timed that I was getting to see this show.

Now I’m not going to give any spoilers in here if you haven’t see the show (GO SEE IT) and if you have then you’ll understand when I say that I cried.  Not at the end, not in the middle-the entire time.  I started crying about 10 minutes in, holding in audible sobs unable to control tears and it lasted until I took a break at intermission.  At some point before intermission my boyfriend realized I had been silently crying in my seat, squeezed my hand and whispered slightly embarrassed, “why are you crying? nothing sad is happening?”  I responded half laughing half crying, “I don’t know I just feel so moved, so emotional I can’t stop.” Then came intermission and the lights came on and my boyfriend asked me again, “babe what’s wrong why are you still crying?” and suddenly all of the things I was feeling attempted to morph into words and I tried to explain to him the best I could…  The cast on the stage was 85% people of color.  The audience was 85% white.  The lead, Alexander Hamilton, was hispanic and his accent, sounded like mine, my dad’s, my brother’s, my cousins’ and my friends.  The accent my dad calls his “Mexican accent.”  The accent that I have been made fun of for.  The accent that pops out when I have a few too many drinks.  The accent that rears its head when I get too emotional.  The accent that I consciously suppress everyday at work and on the phone.  Yes, that accent was on stage, coming through a microphone, from the lead’s voice at a show running in Chicago on Broadway and he sounded like me, on purpose.  

George Washington was black.  He was a tall, handsome black man.  The other main characters were black too.  The majority of the chorus, black or brown.  There were a few white actors too.  But more importantly the majority of people on that stage were black or brown and something inside of me felt a sense of happiness and welcoming that I’ve never felt before in a setting that wasn’t built for or by people of color.  It was an emotion that was so overwhelming to me, something I’d never felt before.  I felt so emotional thinking of all the kids that got to watch this show in New York City for free because of Lin’s generosity (I don’t know if I can call him Lin but I just did because I feel like we’ve connected on a personal level since I saw this show, so yeah he’s Lin to me!).  And I just thought of all the kids, black and brown kids who are in the performing arts and who got to see themselves up there.  They got to see themselves on Broadway.  They didn’t get to see a part being played by an actor that didn’t look or sound like them and have to imagine with all of their imagination’s power that that could one day be them, they got to see themselves.  I thought of the other black and brown kids who weren’t in the arts but that went to that theater in the City and heard and saw people that looked like them on a stage that grand in a city even grander.  They saw themselves represented up there and for once their dreams to do more, to be more didn’t seem so far fetched.  So yeah, I cried.  A lot.

At one point the three older black women sitting in front of me heard me trying to explain this to my boyfriend during intermission and they turned back, smiled, wiped their tears and turned back around.  They got it too.

The show finished and everyone else decided to copy me and join the crying movement but it had nothing to do with what the cast looked or sounded like, those tears were probably because of the story.  What happened?  How did the show end?  I mean google it, but that’s not the beautiful part.  The beauty of this show is hip hop music samples, a rap musical with a cast that if you haven’t gotten it by now is full of people of color!  And I don’t think one person in the theater had a hard time believing that George Washington was any less GW because he was being played by a black actor or that Alexander Hamilton was any less AH because he was played by a Hispanic actor.  Because surprisingly it’s less about the the actors’ race and more about their talent that makes the part believable.  Believe it or not but talent that belongs on Broadway and that talent exists in all races, we just don’t get to see it nearly enough.

We got in the car on the way home and I couldn’t stop raving about how amazing the show was, the casting mostly.  Later on that evening I was trying to explain to my boyfriend the significance of the cast’s diversity and it just wasn’t clicking.  Listen, I get it, white people, men in particular are represented everywhere–entertainment, professional fields, media, government, etc., so it was probably hard to grasp how emotional it could be to see people that look like you represented on such a large scale because that’s not out of the ordinary to white men.  But this casting, it made me think back to being a little kid telling my mom I wanted to be a lawyer but only seeing women like me portrayed as housekeepers, vixens and housewives, never professionals.  It made it hard for me to picture myself as a lawyer and for a long time my journey felt never ending.  It took a lot of soul searching and identity crisis to try and find who I was supposed to be as this professional and who to model myself as because there were no examples.  I haven’t quite gotten there but I’m on my way.  But, here’s the thing, these kids who have seen and will see this play don’t have to use their imagination anymore.  It all plays out right there right in front of them.  People just like them can be on stage too, or anywhere really and it’s not just in their imagination anymore, it’s real.

So thank you, Lin Manuel Miranda.  From me, from all the kids of color and their parents who have had a chance to see this and for everyone else who’s seen it and didn’t realize that there was so much more to the show than what you got to see.

I wrote this post a few weeks ago before all of the hurricanes hit and before 45 showed again how despicable he is.  Before wonderful people like Lin Manuel Miranda had to step up and save lives in Puerto Rico.  So besides being thankful for Hamilton, I want to extend my thanks for his response to the disaster in Puerto Rico too.  Without him and various other people stepping forward and picking up the ball our government embarrassingly dropped who knows how the American Citizens in Puerto Rico would be right now.  So thank you for that and for this and for what is to come.

DACA: Are we worthy enough for you yet?

A few weeks ago I had the honor of interviewing two DACA recipients, who just so happen to be my cousins!  I did it in podcast form as I think it’s a little easier to hear what someone has to say as oppose to reading it sometimes.  The first few minutes my niece is rudely and loudly interrupting because she is strong, independent and will always reclaim her time–but then she took a nap because being a feminist is exhausting!

My cousins did an excellent job of explaining what DACA is to them and what their plan is with this this program currently in jeopardy.  If you know nothing about DACA or if you want to know what a DREAMER had to deal with to get on DACA or if you fall anywhere in between, I implore you to listen and simply educate yourself a little more.

We are incredibly lucky to be surrounded by documented and undocumented people alike in this country.  In the words of John Legend, “They’re people.  They’re our friends, neighbors and co-workers.  They’re dreamers & lovers.”  And in the words of Angel Pedraza “we’re not going anywhere.”  Thanks for listening, guys!