From UUC’s Racial Justice Team
Supporting one another in our ongoing learning is a key function of UUC’s Racial Justice Team. Our team member Judith Wood offers a valuable reflection in response to a photo that accompanied a recent Gateway article regarding the June 30th immigration justice protest.
Learning in Public: My Latest Lesson in Anti-Racism
By Judith Wood
July 17, 2018
This week I was given the gift of a teachable moment, thanks to another UUC member. I feel very fortunate to be trying to walk the walk within this beloved community, among people I can trust to support me and keep me accountable along the way. I stumbled recently, and with their help, I will keep on walking the path of justice work as best as I can.
In preparation for an immigration support rally last winter, I made some signs and took them with me to Westlake on a drizzly day. I wrote the following messages and carefully covered them with contact paper so they would be at least somewhat water resistant:
No Ban No Wall
We Love Our Muslim Neighbors
No Human is Illegal
We Are All Immigrants.
On June 30 I grabbed the signs and my umbrella and headed to Mt. Vernon to join a friend who is active in the immigrant rights community there. In doing so, I didn’t yet recognize the difficulty with that last phrase.
Even though my ancestors willingly came to this country from other places, I know perfectly well that this is not universally true. Indigenous people have a claim to this land that goes back thousands of years and they are clearly not immigrants. Africans brought here as slaves did not choose to immigrate and their descendants carry this trauma in their very bones. The words “We Are All Immigrants” may ring true to some ears, but this phrase actually perpetuates the mythology of our colonial history and represents a hurtful erasure of other important truths.
I’ve spent the past few weeks in many conversations about family separations at the US border and our country’s deep and painful history of family separation – of enslaved families and Native American families in particular, as well as families split by incarceration of both adults and children. How can I understand these truths and still carry the sign? Our societal programming runs deep and it tripped me up, despite my best intentions. I offer my apology and hopefully an example of what it looks like to learn in public.
If we want to change the world we must speak and act boldy – and we may not always live up to our own expectations when doing so. My activist’s heart is hurting, but this experience has given me an opportunity to practice humility and accountability. Let’s all keep moving forward together.