By Angelica Salas
A dark cloud is setting over our nation’s horizon as the unthinkable, fringe, and dangerous words and actions of a few is permissible once again in one the world’s top and most ethnically diverse democracies.
“As we take time to reflect on a string of recent extremist Supreme Court decisions — the abortion ban, gutting affirmative action, attacks on LGBTQ rights, and eliminating student debt relief– we cannot help but acknowledge a crisis of legitimacy in the highest court in addition to emboldened, extremist lawmakers in states like Florida to enact SB 1718, one of the cruelest, most hateful anti-immigrant legislation in the history of the state. Stoking the flames of racism are a number of candidates for president of the United States who have taken it upon themselves to brand the flag of white supremacy, xenophobia, and even use language that instigates violence against others.
When in other times and in other circumstances people and nations of conscience rose to warn the world a certain hateful rhetoric was spreading throughout an entire continent, many dismissed these calls as exaggerations, political red herrings, or lies. We now know better than to dismiss well-crafted propaganda because it can be divisive, destructive, and deadly.
The greatness of American democracy is our ability to course correct when the most fringe and hateful forces in our country suddenly become mainstream ideas. We are now at a crossroads, do we lean into our better angels, championing the values of justice and equality, or do we cave to those who seek to spew hate and divide the American people? Now is the time to show that the American experiment is a work in progress, but that it leans towards justice. We cannot go back to the recent dark days of supremacy and rule of the strongest, whitest, wealthiest amongst us.
Whatever your political affiliation, we are one nation of diverse communities, where immigrants of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, will make up a sizable chunk of our vibrant and energetic population. These aspiring Americans are contributing essential workers, doers, and crafters of the next great chapter in our nation’s history. It has been this way since the first migrants came to the US from Europe seeking respite from persecution, intolerance, and imperial overreach. Laws that discriminated against, pitted one community against another because of their skin color or nationality, and kept us from recognizing the value and contributions of each generation of immigrants, have long come and gone. They hurt so many people though while they were on the books and now some of them are rearing their ugly head in places like Florida, Texas, and Kansas, just to name a few.
We have so much work to do in the months and years ahead to ensure we do not give in to our lowest, basest of instincts. There will be some who will try with their incendiary rhetoric to divide us, instigate violence, and seek to rise to power claiming their gender, race, sexuality, economic or educational status, political affiliation, or immigration status, is better than their neighbor’s. We have seen this playbook before and it did not end well for the communities, nations, and divisive forces who believed they were in charge of other people’s destinies. We have an opportunity in this country who has been the bosom for so many of us seeking refuge and a new beginning, to listen to our hearts, lead with the facts, and avoid falling prey to the cacophony of vultures intent on eating the rotten spoils of their victory.
We have said it before and we will say it again: there is hope despite the troubled dark clouds hovering above us. There is hope if we stand together and we act with discipline, commitment to justice, and compassion and love for one another.”
Angelica Salas is the Executive Director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, (CHIRLA), the largest immigrant rights group in California.