New Clear Vision

constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted

On Disruption

March 06, 2017 By: NCVeditor Category: Angeles J. Maldonado, Community, Current Events, Politics

Community Action and Immigration Justice

by Angeles J. Maldonado

{Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from a presentation for a keynote panel at the “Local to Global Justice” Conference at Arizona State University. The arrest referenced in the narrative refers to the physical blocking of a government van that was in the process of transferring Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, an undocumented immigrant woman, to a detention facility so that she could be processed for deportation, after she was detained at the ICE offices in Phoenix during what was supposed to be a routine immigration check-in. Seven were arrested on charges of obstructing governmental operations and obstructing a public thoroughfare: Walter Staton, 35; Manuel Saldana, 31; Beth King, 57; Angeles Maldonado, 36; Maria Castro, 23; Kenneth Chapman, 41 and Luke Black, 37. Garcia de Rayos was ultimately deported to Mexico, but her case illustrates the problematic intricacies of immigration law and the new executive orders by President Tr$mp, which make people like Garcia de Rayos a deportation priority.}

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I came home after that night with the intense desire of burning my clothes. I wanted to shower. I wanted to wash away every trace of that awfully abusive place from my body. I was arrested for civil disobedience. I was not initially scared. But that place is so effective at what they do. They are in the business of dehumanizing you and that they did. While I knew from so many, what that experience would be like, it was still such a disgusting and horrifically humiliating experience, and nothing short of psychology and spiritually damaging. No person should endure such conditions. Nonetheless, I would do it again. In the grand scheme of things, my discomfort is minimal and pales in comparison to what so many people go through and are going through as I proceed with this presentation. That thought alone hurts and haunts my psyche. I visualize the cold dirty and urine covered concrete. The etchings and remnants of desperation rampant on the metal outlines of the doors: “Fuck you Sheriff Joe.” “Some-one help me!” “I hate jails” “Fuckkkkkkkkkkk” “God HELP me!!!”

When I first arrived, I looked at the words with curiosity but nothing more. After hours of loud silence, I too wanted to write my own messages. I visualized the ways in which they were written. I counted the bricks, I jumped, I hallucinated, I could write pages about the experience, about the thoughts that went through me, the things I saw, the parading of people in handcuffs, mainly people of color, the sounds of chains, the phone calls, the shouting, the silence, the loud fucken cold silence of pain and intense anxiety. The anxiety of time. Time. Time. Not going fast enough. The chirpy and normalized happy go lucky this is just a fuckin’ job desensitized attitude of superiority of officer after officer. I mention this because I want to remember what detention looks like. I want to expose it. I want to inscribe and etch within my mind and body the memory of imprisonment, of detention. I want to never forget that I exist in THIS society. A society that rationalizes the enslavement of human beings. That mistreats and operates as if it is logical and normal to dehumanize individuals.

This is the context in which human beings are treated. So if we do this to human beings, doesn’t it make sense what we do to people who are not human? Illegals, aliens, the undocumented, the invisible, the dirty, the Mexicans, the migrants, the criminals, the outsiders, the foreigners, the monsters, “THOSE people!” are seen as illegitimate disposable carnage. Their efforts to deport are but a game of playing at killing. Killing and disappearing darkness from the light. It is about race. It is about White Supremacy. I don’t have another explanation for understanding why our government, why “Americans,” good old patriots, can rationalize the idea of fear in children who go to school without knowing if their parents will be okay when they get home. I do not understand why students must worry about their status and live in a state of anxiety and fear of being found and taken, of being uprooted from their homes, from their schools, from their communities. I cannot justify why being human is not enough reason to understand that we are deserving of rights, rights of simple dignity and respect.

I believe in civil disobedience, because I believe that what we are experiencing today is not moral or right. I chose to get arrested because I did not want to go another day regretting not having done more with my privilege in the face of the ongoing injustice and violence that my community experiences. A person can only tolerate so much. In the last fifteen years, I’ve witnessed such trauma, oppression, and violence against migrant communities. Against people that I live with, that I talk to, that are my neighbors, my family, my friends, our clients, and even those that are strangers—we cannot afford to not empathize. I’ve seen tears on children’s brown cheeks, fear in our families, and the perpetuation of systemic racism against our gente.

The vast level of ignorance and injustice that we are exposed to today has reached proportions of lunacy. We are living in such a toxic environment, one where we are expected to alienate ourselves from this reality. To observe. To passively observe and distance ourselves from the continuous infliction of this pain and rationalize it as part of our everyday experience. This is not only wrong, but it requires that we divorce ourselves from the very elements which make us human. We are expected to silence our conscience and our very instincts to protect and safeguard White Supremacy. Our country lives in a state of historical amnesia. And it is every bit intentional. We are performers in a spectacle of national security, a mindset of “America is the Greatest Country in the World.”

Violence? Violence is what you worry about? We live in violence. We breathe violence. We play with violence. We bathe in violence every every every day.

A recently deported man threw himself off of a bridge as he yelled “I don’t want to go back to Mexico!” A teacher uses social media to tell the world that instead of deporting us, they should just kill us. A drunk guy in a bar shoots and kills two Indian men while yelling “get out of my country.” An off duty cop takes a gun out at a thirteen year old brown boy with a backpack that could have been my own son. Friends posting angry updates on Facebook. More stories on Facebook, Twitter, CNN, more fake news. Executive orders. Tr$mp hit a hole in one. Jobs. Tr$mp is making jobs. People are hiding. Communities are organizing. People are scared. People are unafraid. Students worry. Children are scared.

Violence? We wake up to violence. But calm down. Don’t get angry.Don’t feel. Don’t exist in this evil that it will consume you.But we are consumed.

Disruption. Disruption is what we need! Interruption of this monster is what we need! I don’t want to be a part of this anymore! We are all dying! I want to die fighting! I want to die a human being!

I came to the United States at the age of eight and have been involved in the immigrant rights movement for well over fourteen years. Throughout this time, I have thought about resistance and civil disobedience in many instances. I have also written and reflected upon the many aspects of migration and its politics. At the end of the day, I continue to end up with the same conclusions. We need more resistance. I believe that the most powerful weapon we have as a community is to interrupt and disrupt the ongoing narrative that this process of dehumanization is somehow legitimate. It bewilders me how property is worth more than human beings and their right to travel the world unimpeded. Why is it that we fail to understand that our presence here is arbitrary? We are all animals and we have a right to live and migrate wherever we please. The earth does not belong to us. We create borders and boundaries without rhyme or reason and only when it benefits the interests of a few.

After considering the various arguments for migration and its merits, I realize that even creating a defense is an oppressive process in itself. It pained me to write this. It requires that we look for logic that is palpable, for logic that “makes sense” to those who don’t understand that this is an issue of human rights. But that in itself is a violent act of dehumanizing our intuitive experiences and searching for socially acceptable arguments of why people are justified for migrating. It’s exhausting. I think at the end of the day, some people with empathy and conscience will simply get it, and others will not. Those who don’t will never get it, because they have no desire for it. Our effort to reclaim our humanity simply does not serve them, and threatens their idea of a secure community, a community free of color and race. We need to abandon these efforts and start taking ownership of the rights we know we have.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos is one story among many. It should not matter how sympathetic her story is. People have a right to cross borders. We don’t interrogate the value of each corporation as they navigate the world freely. Yet we want strict parameters for human beings. Perhaps because our society continues to disregard the value of human life itself.

We were arrested around 9 PM. I still remember the way the noise from the protest fueled us. The sounds, the pain, the aggression all contributed to this amazing feeling of strength and power. It’s empowering to tell a force of police: You will not scare me. You will not force me to be less than human.

Angeles J. Maldonado, Ph.D., is a mother and scholar-activist in Arizona. She is a Faculty Associate at ASU, recent founder of The Institute for Border Crit Theory, the Operations Director for the Law Office of Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, and serves on the Community Advisory Board in the racial profiling lawsuit Melendres vs. Arpaio.  Her research focuses on discourse, immigration, policing, social movements, and community organizing.

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