The Frustration of Silence

To have some tunes while reading, check out this great song by Kendrick Lamar. Warning, it does have explicit language, but it’s also solid so I encourage you to listen to it.

Part of my job here is to lead groups of people who come to learn more about immigration and life on the border. We go to many different places in Agua Prieta, and we always end up at the wall at least two or three times. Something I have noticed about these groups, whether they are religious or school based, filled with older people or young, is the silence that surrounds us at the wall. And it bothers me.

For me, silence occurs for various reasons. People are silent out of respect. They are silent because of fear they have. They are silent out of sadness or reverence. People are also silent due to pressure from others to keep quiet and not interrupt the peace, like at a library. And for me, the dirty, heartbreaking we Americans have made is not deserving of this silence. The wall does not deserve any reverence. Sadness I understand because of the countless lives that have been terribly affected by a piece of metal; but reverence no. I see why people fear the wall, because it represents danger, violence, and a militarized police force that is constantly watching you. But there is no way in hell this wall deserves any form of respect. As for the silence due to pressure…we can no longer do that. We as Americans have been silent for too long due to peer pressure and fear of changing the status quo. We have been silent about the suffering of people of color by police officers. We have been silent about the stealing of lands and destroying of culture of native peoples. We have been silent on the treatment and abuse of women, and on how they do not receive fair wages for their work. We are silent about Japanese internment camps and the systematic oppression and segregation of people of other races. We are silent about vicious governments and paramilitaries that have been installed and supported by our government that have dissolved into countries run by gangs that rape, steal and murder indiscriminately. I understand. I have been there. I have been overwhelmed by white guilt and that fact that I have helped feed these systems because I was scared to speak up and break the silence of fear and pressure. I still am scared at times and still am challenged everyday to be in solidarity with those who are oppressed and live their lives in fear. But we must try to change our world and create systems that are fair and loving world for everyone.

Tonight I ate dinner with a Salvadorian man at our local migrant shelter. While there he shared a little of his story with us. He told us about how he left because he fear for his life in El Salvador. Of how the gangs take whatever they want, no matter who owns it. He told us how he was able to get out but how all of his family was killed by these gangs. He is now alone in a country that is not his own without anyone he knows or loves around him. He told us about he wants to right a letter to Obama to tell him of the dangers in Salvador and ask Obama to create an easier way for those being persecuted to come to the US. Yet while he was telling us this, you could hear the fear in his voice. You could tell in the way he constantly looked to see was around, and how he lowered his voice when mentioning kill squads. He was terrified and for good reason. Yet he still wanted to share his story with us and with Obama. He was terrified yet still wanting to be a voice to create change. And he wanted our help. We can do so much. We as Americans, and especially us Anglos, have so much privilege that we don’t often use. It’s because we’re scared into silence.

And it bothers me. But as Kendrick says ‘if God got us then we going be alright.’

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