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Stand Against Racism - Take Action

Author: 
Valeriano Ramos
May 15, 2019

On April 26, 2019, Everyday Democracy hosted its 7th Stand Against Racism Day event in partnership with the YWCA of Greater Hartford. Entitled No Hate, No Fear: Immigrant Justice is Racial Justice, the event brought together Everyday Democracy staff members as well as representatives of some of the nonprofit organizations that are also part of the CT Nonprofit Alliance to address shared concerns about the racist, divisive, and hateful narrative that we hear almost every day about immigration and the so-called “crisis at the border.”

This narrative compels us to challenge its assumptions and statements with facts and with respectful conversation on what has always been a complex issue in our nation’s history. Complex because it has often been part of a larger racist strategy and used to justify policies and practices of oppression, discrimination, and injustice. Historically, immigrants in our nation have been used as scapegoats and targets of hateful speech and actions, some very direct and intentional and others more subtle but, nonetheless, hurtful and inhuman. So the event engaged participants in an open and respectful conversation about immigration, but one that recognized the racist undertones of much of the anti-immigration narratives we hear every day. The conversations offered a space and framework for participants to examine and dispel the myths and stereotypes that those narratives spring from.

The event began with a pairs activity, which allowed participants to learn about each other’s experiences and relationship with immigration. This helped the participants examine their own views on immigration based on their cultural and racial background as well as immigration experience—whether ancestral or recent. A short video by Splinter News entitled “Racist History of Illegal Immigration in America” then offered a historical narrative on the ways that racialization in our country has influenced and determined immigration policy and practices. This served as context for the small group dialogues that followed.

Using our new “busy citizen” issue guide on immigration developed by Malana and Brendan, participants then broke into three small groups of 6-8 people each and took part in a facilitated dialogue. Val, Sagacity and Brendan guided the conversation after sharing with participants four different narratives that anti-immigration advocates and others have put out:

● “Immigrants are overrunning our country.”
● “Why don’t they just wait in line?”
● “Immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens.”
● “Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.”

They then challenged the dialogue participants to unpack these by answering these questions: When you hear the term “immigrant”, what images and stories come to mind for you? Where have you seen/heard these images and stories? What underlying assumptions or biases relate to this message?

Some of the comments that emerged from the conversations challenged the myths and unpacked the racist attitudes behind those statements included: (1) undocumented immigrants pay sales taxes (so they pay taxes) and, because most often they earn very little, they probably would not have to pay taxes anyway even if they were citizens or legal residents; (2) some so-called “illegal immigrants” come through this country legally—seeking asylum, a basic human right protected by international and U.S. laws; (3) despite what the short video clips that media outlets show, immigrants are not over-running our country, as there has been a slowing down of undocumented immigration over the past ten years (especially from Mexico); (4) the vast majority of jobs that undocumented immigrants “take” are jobs that nobody wants because of the extremely low pay and hard working conditions; (5) most undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. are here because they over-stay their visas; and (6) racist anti-immigration legislation has hurt financially both, low-resource communities were immigrants live as well as private and corporate farms in the south that have lost low-wage laborers due to the anti-immigration hostile narrative and policies.

The event closed with participants sharing their takeaways and what actions they could take to address the racist assumptions, misconceptions and myths behind anti-immigration rhetoric. Among the action steps they paln to take:

(1) Challenge the citizenship question that some want to include in the 2020 U.S. Census surveys; this coupled with educating communities, including undocumented residents, on the importance of completing the Census to avoid under-counts, which could result in less federal funding for already distressed communities;

(2) Host similar conversations, using the “busy citizen” issue guide, to educate everyone about the racist undertones and history of anti-immigration rhetoric and narratives; and

(3) Advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the complex economic social, and political realities behind immigration in our country—not paying lip service to the false messages and narratives.

Won't you consider taking on some of these actions as well? 

 

Download the Guide Here

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