I’m angry. In Spanish we call this anger digna rabia, dignified rage, and I invite you to share it with me.
My anger is rooted in love for the hundreds of families being ripped apart under the guise of “internal homeland security enforcement” (nice euphemism meaning Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids and deportations). My rage is for the 25,000 families who might be kicked out of public housing if the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule prohibiting mixed-status families from receiving housing assistance is approved. And for the thousands of kids across my state and nation who are going to bed tonight without their parents, the hundreds more ICE is adding to that sad list this week and the hundreds attempting sleep in caged squalor hours from my house.
Part of the reason I’m so fired up is because I was — I am — one of those kids. My grandmother broke the news to me after school in front of the TV. I was 12 and was well cared for after my mother’s deportation. I didn’t used to think so, but I know now that I’m one of the lucky ones. Sure, I’m 35 now and planning my wedding, but there’s still a little girl with frizzy curls and mismatched socks in me, and she needed her mother as much then as she does now.
And so do the millions of kids like me across Texas and our nation who have endured family separation for decades because of draconian criminal justice policy that started with incarceration for crimes but now includes detaining and deporting people for civil offenses, locking up refugees for profit and putting asylum-seeking toddlers in kennels. It is these atrocious state-sponsored acts of violence that drive me to practice, and invite you to share in, what I call deep democracy.
Deep democracy is messy. It’s built on love, action and a willingness to figure it out together. It’s how we don’t just say “Never again” and “Not in our name” — rather, it’s how we live it on the day to day. The freedom struggles of our brothers and sisters of the African disapora have shown us that deep democracy can transform lives, cities and, yes, even entire nations.
And though the long road to freedom for all people is still yet a promise, I can promise you that it will go unfulfilled if we don’t pave it ourselves. It is our national opportunity to unreservedly agree to another iteration of freedom struggle. No more sitting on the sidelines and wringing our hands and washing our words and emotions so they are palatable. We gotta go all in. So my invitation to you is to sit in this difficulty with me, to channel these feelings and to take our democracy back.
As we round into the last 18 months of this president’s term, let’s make it meaningful. Let’s use this dark and frightening moment in our country to salvage what we can and find ways to participate deeply.
Go beyond your vote, beyond your post. Get your hands dirty and kick up a storm. Empty your wallet if you’re able, make eloquently ragey phone calls to your electeds and demand protections for DACA recipients, demand an end to the kids in kennels and press for a reinvestment in our refugee resettlement infrastructure instead. If you do nothing else, demand we defund ICE and undo the criminalization of migration to help us end this dark national nightmare. And then show up at the polls and primaries and make your demands there too.
In doing so, know that you’re helping me keep my family safely together. Let it come from anger if you like. Just don’t forget to do it from a place a love. Because as Dr. Cornel West reminds us, justice is what love looks like in public.