This month has been one of zero compassion on the part of the administration. Children taken from their parents. Little ones put in “tender age” facilities. Older kids housed in a repurposed Wal-Mart as if they were nothing more than merchandise. The constant call from those who follow Trump: “They came here illegally.”
The sad thing is this is nothing new when it comes to Black and Brown children in American history. One of the facts that Disney missed was that Pocahontas was kidnapped by the English to force her father, Chief Powhatan to the bargaining table. Children were often stolen out of Africa and endured the Middle Passage to America. Families were split up during slavery, both on plantations and on the auction block. Native American children were taken from their parents and sent to inhumane schools where they were forced to abandon their own culture and become “civilized”. According to a Department of Justice report published in 2017, African American youth are 5 times more likely as white youth to be detained or incarcerated.
How do we move past a history and a culture that makes it all right to demonize the other and mistreat their children? One way is to look at how whites have been enculturated, what messages we have been taught. One way of thinking that pervades this conversation is a pattern of either/or thinking. You can see it in the whole “legal or illegal” discussion when it comes to immigrants. If people are undocumented—“illegal” then there seems to be a sudden shift in thinking. They become “criminals” and “dangerous”, not people who need shelter and care. Either/or thinking does not allow for thought—our culture has trained us to make snap decisions and then to harden those decisions into bias without being aware of it.
Another aspect of white American enculturation is that there is not ever enough to go around. There isn’t enough money, or time or power to share. These things are to be hoarded and any challenge to the status quo is to be fought. This makes newcomers suspect. It makes internal or external change frightening. It becomes easier to not “rock the boat.”
But rocking that boat is one of those things we need to do, I think. To take a while and consider what beliefs we have sucked in from a culture that was set up so that some would benefit and the rest would keep those benefits going without getting a lot of good stuff themselves. Anytime we see a huge injustice happening might be a good time to have those thoughts, to see what we might need to change in ourselves so we can do the most good in the world.
—Cary Betz Williams