I’m sitting in my, now, favorite corner of the apartment. By the window and the sliding door. I have the southern face of Bell Rock to my left, with Court House Rock right next to Bell, on the east. And to the west, stands Castle Rock. All so beautifully red, splattered with green, and towards the top, a white sediment line along them all.
The last rays of sunlight lightly above Court House, the rest is under the cool shade of the evening, as the sun says its good-bye for the day.
Right outside of the apartment, we have a porch that goes almost all the way around. There is bird food positioned right outside the window. We get a beautiful display of birds every day. Quail, sparrows, ravens –Brad’s favorite –, and other species that I haven’t seen before. The smaller species always delight us with their morning chirping. They warm up the wind with their singing.
The first thing I hear is the loud engines of two vans pull up to the parking lot. Doors slammed shut. Heavy footsteps going up the stairs. A loud pound on the door.
I freeze, my heart dropped to my stomach. I look out the window and I see men in uniform and guns.
“It’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A suspected illegal immigrant was reported. We want to speak with her.”
Different versions of this scenario have played out in my head since this morning. After my workout, I took a relaxing hot shower. I got dressed for the cold day. I headed towards the kitchen to make a peanut butter sandwich, Brad stayed in bed –catching up on the news –. Peter left to run some errands. I was pretty much alone when I headed to the kitchen.
As I was getting the ingredients ready for my post-workout snack, I heard a knock on the door. I made my way to the door to answer it. I opened it and a white man, about my height, with white hair and blue eyes was standing on the other side. He informed me that he had to work on the door that connects the apartment with the healing center downstairs. I let him in and he headed toward the door.
Now, I’m an introvert so I normally don’t engage in conversations with people I know, let alone with strangers. So, I went about my business, rather hungry after a good workout.
He started the conversation by asking me if we (my boyfriend and I) were visiting. I said yes. And got the jelly out of the fridge. Then he asked me where we were from, originally. Which I thought was weird. Not the question itself, the way he asked it. The “originally from” part is what threw me off.
I felt nervous and laughed. I figured it was my accent that prompted the question. I thought it was a weird way of quenching his curiosity of why I spoke differently. But it seemed like a pretty standard question. I grabbed the peanut butter from the cabinet and told him I was originally from Ecuador; he informed me he was from Michigan. He didn’t insist on my boyfriend’s place of origin, though.
Ping. My toast was ready. I reached for it, placed it on a small-round-blue plate, and grabbed a small spoon.
As I opened the jar of strawberry jelly –my favorite kind of jelly –the man asked me:
“Do you have papers?” “Are you legal?”
I put my spoon down for a second. I laughed nervously. A bit uncomfortable. A bit amused. And continued making my sandwich. In my 14 years of being in this country, I had never really been in a situation quite like that.
Yes, I have had people –geometry high school teacher, for example – treat me differently. Once they hear the accent or learn that I’m Hispanic, they sort of stiffen out. Make an “oh”, and quickly change the conversation to something more trivial.
I’ve had people speak to me loudly, and very slow. Jajajajaja That amuses me the most. I always wonder, what if I actually didn’t speak English? How does increasing the volume of your speech help in any way? I get slowing down the speech frequency. There is actually something helpful about that. But still, if a person doesn’t speak the language, I doubt speaking loudly and slowly will help someone understand what is being said.
I continued making my sandwich and dismissively answered him –by dismissively I mean a head nod and a low yes –. I didn’t really know how else to respond. Plus, I was really into making a tasty-hearty sandwich. I love to top it off with banana slices.
He then asked me if I went back to Ecuador often, as he continued to work on the door. He was placing something –I forgot what he said they were – on the hinges of the door so that it would close on its own.
I told him I had gone last October with my boyfriend. And finished making my sandwich.
“Alright, it’s all done. I locked the door, but check it after I leave.”
He closed the door and headed downstairs. That was it. I felt a little weird after that interaction.
While editing one of the slides of the powerpoint, my mind wondered. What if my answer would have been no.
“No, I actually just crossed the border two weeks ago, and I’m hiding out here for a bit.” Or “I’m actually under DACA”? Not that it’d matter, Trump turned to the program as soon as he realized that he couldn’t really make Mexicans pay for his wall. He had to give something to his racist-action-craving-masses. What if I’d said, “you voted for Trump, didn’t you?”. What if I’d ask him, “does it matter”?
Overall, I laughed it off; as I tend to do. Incredulously amused by his question.
Later I commented this to my boyfriend and Peter –the vortex jumper –. I laughed as I told them about my interesting encounter, to say the least. We debated on what would be the best way to react to such a comment. My boyfriend was actually upset at this. More so than I was.
After our conversation, I thought to myself, what is the best way to approach this?
Giving him the benefit of a doubt, I’d say he was simply curious. Given his behavior, I’m not quite sure.
Would I have wanted to confront the guy? No, I, of course, didn’t want a confrontation. I wasn’t rude, I laughed and did my best to “take it lightly”. I simply “looked the other way”.
Was his question racist –as my boyfriend claims it was –or inoffensive as I made it out to be? Once you take a moment to think about it, yes, I’d say it was racist. Prejudice at the very least.
Brad asked me a question as I pondered on this.
“What if you were actually illegal, imagine how scared you’d be. That’s the kind of power he would have imposed on you.”
Did I feel that from him? I’d say slightly to none, his body language maybe a bit. His questions, the way he worded them, rather, were definitely odd –for lack of another word –. Why word them in such a way? Why not ask me about anything else? Why were my papers, or being legal mattered to him?
After pondering on this for a bit, and just for fun I decided to do some more research on the matter.
What is racism?
I googled racism, the definition I liked the most was on a ‘.org’-website that stands for the rights of Jewish people. The Encyclopedia Brittanica has a more extensive definition. Both, however, define racism as the erroneous belief, as it has no scientific evidence –or spiritual, I’d say –that ‘race’ marks humans as biologically different entities. And hence one race is superior to the other. As a result of that, the human race –that’s it, we’re all just a colorful representation of the universe experiencing itself as a human – has a dark, dense, and quite bloody history. Rather violent and destructive.
It’s definitely not a new issue, racism, and the atrocious acts performed on the basis of racism, are spread out throughout the world. Since the middle ages to the 21st century.
A blatantly voiced concern about someone’s legal status is rather new to me. And I find it hard to believe it would have happened in previous years.
Back when the U.S had a classy, well-mannered, respectful, eloquent, educated, open-minded, and kind representation. Yes, I mean Obama. Or if Sanders, or even Clinton, would have won the presidency.
Today all the Trump-minded people, as I discussed in a previous blog, feel encouraged to come out. Perhaps I am being a bit unfair at assuming that this man is, in fact, a Trump supporter. However, he assumed I wasn’t a legal immigrant, so I’d say we’re even –random white U.S. citizen from Michigan –.
The sun has finally set, the cool night embraced all my outside surroundings. I can barely make the silhouettes of the red rock mountains. All I really see now is the reflection of the room in the window.
Luckily no ICE agents, or suspicious hooded people, have come to collect me. I know I can go to sleep soundly, for now. It’s a jarring thought to know that not everybody can sleep soundly. And that the scenario that has been playing in my head, is actually a very possible reality for many.
Many questions still remain. Should I not have let it slide? Have I gotten so used to ignore comments like these, that I don’t think much of them?
I would have liked to handle it differently –it’s part of the reason why I’m blogging about it –, I know next time I will.
Next time I will not just laugh it off. Not because I am looking for a confrontation, but rather because I want to stop enabling people with that mentality.
After pondering on this for a bit, I can’t help but agree with my boyfriend’s way of thinking. No, these comments should not be taken lightly. Racism should be stopped in its tracks, even the small inoffensively seeming ones.
Why would this be important?
It’s important because no one should have power over another person. We are all equal, no matter where we come from, or how we speak. It shouldn’t matter what our gender is. What our sexual orientation is. What our religious believes are.
It’s important because if we don’t stop small comments of that sort, how will those mentalities be stopped when they gain momentum? If we let it grow and spread, things will get out of control.
The outcome of ignoring comments, making them out to be just ‘locker talk’, is ending up with someone like Trump as the leader. And the domino effect continues, people that think like Trump are encouraged and entitled in their way of thinking. Their actions a direct reflection of that.
So, If I could speak to this man again, or encounter questions like the ones he made, I’d ask him why does it matter. It’s not your job to keep track of that. I’m not harming anybody. I’ll thank him for his concern on my legality in the country, and I’ll reassure him I will worry about it. No need for him to do so.
Again, I don’t justify illegal immigration, but I can’t help but ask, why is it such a big deal? These immigrants, the illegal ones, in particular, take the jobs none of us want.
Who wants to pick up after nasty, snobby politicians at their banquets? Or pick fruit under the scorching sun. Who wants to work a low paying, monotonously demanding job?
What happens when we start to get rounded up? More often than it has happened?
Illegal immigrants are not the enemy. Hispanics –illegal or not– are not evil rapists and thieves as Trump repetitively maintained in his campaign. We just want to be part of the ideals that once were true about this country. That is why we came here.
So I urge others to speak up. Not with violence or for confrontation. With kindness, amusement, and understanding.
Thank you, random-stranger from Michigan, you gave me a lot to think about.
Have a blessed day.
An incurable passion for writing; a poet and storyteller at heart. I am a writer on the road.