I wish you were more unapologetic.
Yes, you, the citizen.
When I say check your privilege, I don’t mean apologize for it, I don’t mean feel guilty for it, and I sure as hell don’t mean don’t take full advantage of it. All I’m saying is be more considerate of folks who don’t have that privilege, recognize the system that marginalizes both of us in different ways and sets us up against each other by giving you a piece of dignity and denying it to me. Own up to it and do something about it. It’s not an accusation, it’s a challenge.
I wish allies (if that’s the term to use) were *more* unapologetic about being allies. When I say I’m an ally to the LGBTQ community, for example, I’m damn proud. They are the leaders of their own movement, and their spaces are their own, and I support them with everything I have, because honestly, I’m honored to call myself an ally to them in a hostile community that shuns and degrades them. I’m proud.
I look for similar allies for my undocumented self. It’s support that we’re so hungry for, as well as the right to lead our own movement, make our own choices, and create our own spaces/resources. For our own survival, we need that. That does not equal I wish you’d stop driving, traveling, going to school and working. Dude, do it. Just recognize why you have it and I don’t.
I know you see yourself in my struggles. I know you’ve been marginalized as well. Not to the extent that I have, and you get it but you still see you in me. And I love it and I love you for seeing yourself in me because to me it’s the direct opposite of the anti-immigrants who emotionally, physically and mentally cannot move beyond “But you’re illegal.”
And I want to see myself in you. To me it’s the best way two human beings can relate to and love one another. That’s why you stick around, you love the fact that a group of people who been thrown onto the fringes of society are actively fighting the same system that gave you citizenship but also gave you hell. I know you want to resist, fight, and change it too and this may be one of the few spaces that call for radical change of the core of our society to be more inclusive.
Ahhhh it is so SIMPLE, yet so complicated.
I think undocumented people, myself included, have heart attacks every time someone says “We’re all undocumented,” because hey, you actually don’t understand what it means to be undocumented so let me speak. You forgetting your driver’s license does not suddenly make you understand how undocumented people, who by the system and by law are prevented from getting those licenses, feel. There are still strong differences. The key is to not let those differences alienate us from each other but to recognize that each individual has unique experiences from those oppressions imposed on us.
When we define ourselves, when I define myself, the place in which I am like you and the place in which I am not like you, I’m not excluding you from the joining – I’m broadening the joining.” – Audre Lorde.
I wish undocumented people can relax a little sometimes and understand that it’s ok for others to see themselves in our struggles. That people can see themselves in us but still understand that they can’t fully understand our struggle and so they understand we need to have the agency to lead ourselves. I wonder if that’s the secret to being a considerate friend to someone undocumented.
We’re both functioning under the same oppressive system. The system that gives brown people, Muslims, queers, documented immigrants, undocumented people, blacks different kinds of hell—it is the SAME system.
My struggle is intertwined with yours, and yours with mine, it’s the connection that should bond us, not divide us. You, me. Me, you. You hear me and my struggle and you’re angry and have the sincere need to work with me, and that’s enough for me. I don’t want to compare struggles, I want to hear your story too, I want to hear about your struggles too, don’t give the illusion because you’re a citizen everything is ok for you. You and I know it’s not, so I’ll sit here and listen to you because when you listened to me, I gave you a piece of me, a piece of my heart, and I want a piece of your heart as well.
I want to hear you too, I want to hear what keeps you up at night, your darkest moment, your happiest days, your needs, desires and wishes. I want you to open up to me too. The more I know you the more I see myself in you too. Because I need you and I want you here fighting with me for a long time. Because honestly, I can’t support you in the same ways that you can support me. I actually physically can’t reciprocate that support so I’ll support you in the little ways I know how.
There are times I need you to be strong, because I need a rock that’ll keep me steady when my own thoughts betray me. Do you understand this? Do you understand that there are nights I don’t sleep because I can’t stop thinking about the day I might have to take the plane back to a country I don’t remember? You can’t possibly understand this desperate feeling but maybe there’s something in that struggle that hurts your heart too. Maybe that’s why you’re still here.
“I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.” Audre Lorde.
Our struggles are different but they intersect at a thousand different points. It’s stupid for us not to recognize that.
To see yourself in me, is to be able to relate to me, and I to you. At our cores we are humans yearning for a similar inner and outer peace. I get it now.
Does that make sense? I mean, last thing I want to do is make someone who sincerely wants to be involved feel unwelcome and excluded because they have something I don’t. Yeah the allies’ role isn’t to lead in an undocumented movement and the space we create is first and foremost for us, but no need to shut them down when they’re sincere about being involved either. I love our allies. And I love our undocumented space. I’m not willing to give up either. Saying undocumented people are the priority does not mean allies should go to hell. I want them proud, and unafraid in how unapologetic they are to be fighting with me. With me. Not for me, but with me.
I challenge you to check your privilege and be a source of support for those who need it. For me. And I’ll do my best for you.
God that’s all that it is, why are people so weird?
Alaa Mukahhal, IYJL Organizer