Last Sunday, I spent a few hours recounting the history of my neighborhood and a 20 year old racial violence crime that stole the life of a 19 year old son of Dominican immigrants. I didn’t expect to begin crying in the middle of the filmed conversation but I did, especially when thinking how last year I had to explain to my four year old daughter why a mother, like her own, was crying in front of a place her son was killed for being Latino, for being the son of an immigrant.
Yesterday, Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck made comments that he labeled as a joke, comments that stated that the way to deal with undocumented immigrants was to shoot them from the air, the way one shoots wild animals.
“It might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled—with hunters shooting from helicopters.”
The response from Latino orgs and immigration advocates has been swift. The National Council of la Raza (NCLR) has called for a real apology from Peck. Change.Org almost immediately launched a petition demanding Peck’s censure. The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda has called for Kansas Governor Brownback and the state legislature to denounce and censure Peck.
While all of the above actions are good, and nice, and important, they fail to make the connection that the messages being sent out by legislators, on the state and national level, and the messages being sent by the federal administration itself is that violence is an acceptable way to deal with “those people” – immigrant people, Latino people, our people – our families, children, and vecinos.
As more and more laws get passed across states, like the just signed Utah immigration laws , that attempt to “temper” criminalization by granting temporary work visas, the message is, immigrants, Latinos, can stay/be in the United States as long as we know our place.
As I wrote on Monday, Obama’s handpicked head of Homeland Security continues to show off high deportation numbers while being very clear that it is acceptable policy to shoot to kill along the border with Mexico.
If you are an immigrant who identifies as a woman, you will be dealt with by having your body criminalized and under the constant threat of rape. Your children will be taken away from you or killed in front of you.
And I think of the DREAMers, young people across the United States announcing their undocumented status, and how it feels like twice a month or more there is another petition, another round of calls, another set of actions to prevent a deportation.
This is not a joke and calls for respect, petitions, actions mean nothing if we, as activists, media makers, and advocates continue to look at comments like Peck’s as isolated incidents. The hate crimes, the laws being presented and passed, the deaths are all tied together and send a clear message to those who have a white supremacist vision for the United States. Everything is acceptable. As a community, we need to be clear and model survival, strength, support and resistance.