This was not how I had planned to start this blog. But, have you ever felt like you just HAD to do something? That’s what this post is about. Maybe it will give you an idea of what you can expect in future posts should you choose to come back.
May I tell you a story?
It’s tough, but it’s about a family that was forced from their home, brought to a foreign land, robbed of their names, and their freedom. Exton is my last name. My father taught me that, over 2 centuries ago, our descendants were slaves, in the West Indies. We were owned by an English woman, who gave all her slaves her last name. That is about as far back as we can trace our history.
The Extons, like so many others, were directly impacted by slavery, the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement, and so on. African Americans (or black Americans), like a lot of minority groups, have made progress as these centuries have passed.
Here’s the thing about hatred- it’s a poison, it’s a spirit in people so strong that it acts as a force all its own, so we can no longer tell where it begins or ends. That’s what happened with African Americans. We came to this place without a choice, and it became the only home we recognized. We helped to build it, and to defend it, and grew to love it. And as we began to ask for recognition as human beings and citizens of this place, a growing fear, discontent, anger, then hatred, swept across this country.
Many Americans believed that giving black Americans rights would lead to the collapse of American society; the erosion, even destruction (as fatalistic as that sounds) of the “white” race. The media and the government fed that belief- which emboldened the less stable of us to take their hateful words and turn them into hateful actions- lynchings, burnings, beatings, killings, and beyond that, non-violent aggression- legislation, segregation in housing, schooling, and so on.
The hatred grew and became so strong, it even set black Americans against themselves. We hated ourselves, our sons, our daughters, our brothers, our sisters, our fathers, our mothers… we hated blacks of a different complexion, blacks of the same complexion, but a different lot, blacks from the same lot, but a different street, blacks who tried to excel, blacks who failed, blacks we just didn’t like. The hatred was everywhere. It was poisoning us, strangling us, suffocating us, and, but for the grace of God (I’m a Christian), it would have eventually done what racists could not, destroy us all.
I see the toll and weight of this history in my own life, and in the lives of my family, my culture and ethnicity everyday. It’s a horror that I would never wish, even in part, on another human being.
Simply put, that’s why I support DACA, and why I believe it’s a necessity that Congress create a path to citizenship for these young people, who didn’t ask to come here, but now are here, and love this country as much as any American.
I hear what some of you may be saying- “But these people are breaking the law!”
Okay- long ago, when under the yoke of oppression, some slaves broke the law by fleeing their masters’ lands, and with the help of other “lawbreakers” (former slaves, free blacks, free whites, etc.), made their way north, staying in relative hiding. They had to hide because some aggressor, under the guise of following the law, could take everything from them. Is it REALLY that different today? Today, I view all of those “illegals” as heroes and heroines, because of their courage and their daily small actions that helped changed the course of a nation. Because they acted in knowledge of the truth: that sometimes the existence of a law doesn’t equal its merit; that sometimes what’s legal is not what’s right.
Ultimately, history judged those “criminals” and their cause as the right one. I am grateful that people looked at my descendants and saw human beings, worthy of life and liberty. I am grateful that they saw my descendants’ intrinsic value to this nation.
HOW MUCH GREATER WOULD AMERICA TRULY BE IF WE SAW EACH OTHER LIKE THAT? If we could make an attempt to connect, and identify, with people not like ourselves? If we could recognize the intrinsic value in people different than us? If we didn’t allow some form of vengeance to drive our decision making?
That’s who I want to be. I’m going to side with the marginalized and if nothing else, tell the world that it’s not okay bring suffering on people just because they are different. I hope you will do the same.
Here’s a place offering some ways for you to make a difference: http://defenddaca.com/.
Here’s how you can contact your Senators: https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/.
Here’s how you can contact your House Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.
Take a couple of minutes tomorrow and make ONE call. And maybe let me know what your thoughts are.