“We came here on different ships but we are all in the same boat.”
This quote written on a piece of cardboard is the first thing I saw when I walked up to the highway directly across from Suffolk County Correctional Facility to protest deportations at the first event of NDLON’s Not One More Deportation week of action in Massachusetts (June 24th-30th). The woman holding it was waving it in the air, eyes fixed on the prison behind me, and chanting with dozens more beside her: “Up, up with education! Down, down with deportation!” I looked across the street and saw several detainees banging on their windows, holding up signs, and flashing us heart and peace signals.
The truth of the quote on the sign really stuck with me. I constantly think of it as I am walking down the street, and it amazes me how easy it is for us to forget. One of my favorite things about the United States is this culture’s understanding that the “self” is important – individual liberties, freedoms, and opportunities are rich in this country because of it. At the same time, when we forget that the individual “I”s are part of a larger web of “we”s we are doing each other – and ourselves – a terrible disservice.
I met a Renata Teodoro on Wednesday (at the Student Immigrant Movement’s Teach-In at City Hall Plaza) who had not seen her family since they were deported six years ago. I spoke to another woman who confided that she lives in constant fear that her own family will be torn from her. I keep hearing stories like these more and more often – stories of our friends and neighbors, of the people who are shaping our future. We should be fearing the fact that the people around us are feeling this way, instead of xenophobic nonsense that leads us to militarize our border. Many of the DREAMers, for example, are going to be our future teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists; how does it benefit anyone to strip them of their families, their support systems?
Looking at the detainees across the street at Suffolk Correctional Facility was like a slap in the face. It was the first time that I was able to put faces – actual flesh and blood – to the stories I constantly read about. There was still so much distance between us and the detainees, both physical and metaphorical. Some of them had been there for years, and many are not able to see their families. They are almost completely removed from society. Each one of those men has a story, hopes and dreams, and people who care about him. It baffles me to think of the injustices we inflict on each other, all in the name of “protecting” what is “ours.”
This week of action has reminded me I have a stake in my neighbor’s well-being and he in mine. No matter where we come from we are all in this together.