Dear White Friends,
Can we talk again?
I can’t shake the story of Francisco Erwin Galicia.
He’s the 18-year-old American citizen that was detained for almost a month by Border Patrol and ICE.
I can’t shake the story, because it play directly into a narrative that I have been preaching about for perhaps a decade now…that the *way* we treat immigrants, refugees —especially those from Central America— directly affects People of Color in our own country.
Keeping children in cages, failing to provide them with even basic necessities like soap and toothpaste, these affect how ALL of us see brown and black people.
It’s been happening for years, far before the Trump Administration chose to accelerate the caging of children and adults in concentration camps.
For YEARS, I have been saying that the process through which Border Patrol enforces border check-points…
The process through which a Sheriff in Arizona caged brown people some years back…
The process through which they used to routinely harass South Texas school children…
The process through which Border Patrol and ICE routinely speak about brown people (as evidenced in their own intercepted emails and Facebook messages)….
All of these, dear friends, have a corrosive effect on our culture. They “Otherize” POC. We —people of all races— get the message very clear message that they are sub-human. The message is that they DESERVE to be treated poorly.
And our law enforcement, and now our President, routinely use language and engage in conduct that reinforces this view.
Over the years, I have shared here on Facebook and in sermons how POC of color are routinely concerned and afraid to even leave the house without ID. Almost every time I do, some Facebook friend (often a person of color) writes me to privately admit that this is a fear of theirs.
Friends, this is at all levels of our society. I’ve heard from doctors, lawyers, judges (multiple) who describe the concern they have, as POC, when it comes to law enforcement and the police.
This was an eye-opening learning for me some years ago. Perhaps, dear White readers, some of you are still unaware of it.
Two examples stand out poignantly.
One was Dr. Brian Williams, a trauma surgeon at Parkland Hospital, Dallas. Dr. Williams was tasked with treating the wounded officers shot on our streets in 2016.
But during his press appearances in the days that followed, he noted how, as an African-American, he also shared the concern of potential being harassed and stopped by the police.
The suggestion was that without the “signaling” of his white doctor’s coat, he too could be subject to the same harassment that had been protested that very night on the streets of Dallas.
It’s the same for those who wear the black judicial robes too.
I’ve shared this before, but I share it again here because it’s so on point to the conversation about Francisco Erwin Galicia.
Years ago now — probably early in our marriage— Dennise and I were going for a walk. She was insistent that we couldn’t leave until she found her driver’s license.
“Why?” I groaned…
“We’re just going around the block. We’ll just be out for a moment.”
And it was then that she told me how she NEVER leaves the house without ID.
This was revolutionary to me. As a CIS gendered straight White man, it had never occurred me to be concerned about having ID on the street. It seemed like ridiculous worry.
So, she told me about her experience as a small girl, on a Saturday, when she was helping her Dad mow yards. Richard Garcia was a yard man, and once-upon-a-time, while they were working, Immigration agents walked up to Dennise while they were working on a yard.
Who was she?
Did she have documents?
Of course, she was a kid. She had no idea how to answer the questions. Very quickly, Richard showed up from around the corner and pushed back, and the authorities left.
But it left Dennise with an unsettled lesson that she carries to this day. The lesson was that even though she routinely benefits from the “signalling” of her black judicial robe, it’s still not safe to go out without your ID…EVEN IF YOU ARE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.
I *still* forget this lesson. Just this morning, I set out to walk to a local coffee shop, got almost all the way there, before I realized I’d forgotten my wallet.
You can’t make this stuff up.
And so, dear White people, you can say that perhaps Dennise, or Dr. Williams, or the countless other POC who are American citizens are being paranoid.
Then what are they, what are we, to do with the case of Francisco Erwin Galicia?
Francisco Erwin Galicia is an American citizen, born in Dallas Texas on Christmas Eve in 2000 at Parkland Hospital.
His mother faxed his birth certificate, and other supporting documents to Border Patrol officials last week, and he was *still* held until after the Morning News broke the story on Tuesday.
But, it’s worse that this.
As reported by the Dallas Morning News, when he was picked up by Border Patrol a month ago?
Wait for it…
HE HAD ID.
He HAD a STATE ISSUED identification card.
Read that last sentence several times, until it deeply sinks in to your soul.
HE. HAD. ID.
And they *still* took him and held him almost a month. Rather than assume that the Texas ID “signalled” citizenship, they allowed alternate facts to cloud their judgement. Francisco was told that he was detained because, they said, he was not carrying a US passport.
Stop, and let that sentence sink in too.
So, black and brown people must carry a *passport* in order to not face harassment from Border Patrol?
Are you paying attention?
We have a deep and abiding problem in our country. The problem is racism and White Supremacy. It’s a problem as old as the founding of our Republic, and one that manifests itself in every new generation.
We will either find a way to develop a truly multi-racial democratic society, or will we devolve back into warring tribal groups. Sometimes, it feels to me that we are very close to this now.
My eyes have been opened by listening to POC themselves. And I have been pushed to action by my Christian faith, where Jesus was always pushing his own people to accept the “other” and the outsider. You may have your own motivations for speaking up, or shifting away from our latent White Supremacist culture.
But, it’s incumbent on White people to speak out on these issues, to express outrage when POC are “Otherized” in this way. It’s incumbent for us to vote for candidates who also speak out, and who do not simply look the other way or minimize these issues.
We must find a way to police our border that *reduces* and does not *increase* the Otherizing of People of Color. It’s such a deeply embedded problem that most of us don’t even notice it.
I’m not sure most of us White folks are truly clear on just how much fear and anxiety there is for the average POC today. I’m sure I only know a part of it myself. And I’m sure I reinforce White supremacy in many ways that I still am unconscious of in this moment.
I implore you, however, to open your eyes to this.
Ask yourself what it means that Border Patrol can detain a US citizen for almost month.
Ask yourself how we got to this point, and how much you don’t see as a White person.
And when you see your black and brown friends, dear White people, think of Francisco Erwin Galicia, and how what happened to him could happen to them.
They are not paranoid. They are not hyperbolic. This is who we are as a nation right now.
Pay attention, White friends.
Please, pay attention.
(Photo from the Dallas Morning News)