It remains difficult to articulate the gravity of the crisis we find ourselves in as a society and as a country today. While there’s plenty of thoughtful critiques to be offered about the harms of 24 hour news cycles, spectacular mass media consumption, and how quickly we become desensitized to images of violence, it is fair to say that photographs of babies in cages should give all of us a moment of severe pause.
In spite of these disturbing images, most associated with the “zero tolerance” immigration policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April, we also feel the responsibility to echo what many have been relentlessly raising: these atrocities are not actually new or contained to the border. With ICE detention centers operating all over the country, and Black and brown working class folks arrested and imprisoned every single day even with documentation status, it appears the border is in fact everywhere there is money to be made off of violently separating people from their families and communities.
Yet it is a mistake to categorize a moment in history only by the cruelty and horror perpetuated by the dominant power or regime; there is also profound and beautiful resistance radiating from neighbors who refuse to cooperate. Across the country people have flooded streets in protest, shared resources to help reunite families, and even occupied ICE offices while holding their own children close.
As a publication dedicated to the South and all the people who live here, we feel that this is a moment to rely on the exhortations of Toni Morrison: "This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal."
Because this is a time for truth telling, in order to get to the subsequent work of resistance and healing, we must be extremely clear about where we stand when the stakes are this high. While there are some who feel the need to encourage ‘civility’ in response to expressions of outrage and solidarity with immigrant communities, we return this logic with another one: to be accountable to one another in this moment is to prioritize the lives and freedom of children over the fragile sensibilities of complicit officials, or as June Jordan said best, “In the context of tragedy, all polite behavior is a form of self-denial."
We write this editorial not as a perfect list of steps to take but as potential ways you can get involved beyond social media posts. As Scalawag is trying to figure out what real impact looks like for us as an organization, we also want our readers and contributors to think about what impact might look like for them. Here are a few suggestions. This is one contribution among many to say that state violence is not our only story, to say that we are learning and fighting with the gifts and tools available to us, and we refuse to be silent in the face of oppression.
- LEARN about the history of U.S. border enforcement, militarized policing, immigrant detention, and how these current practices connect back to slavery and indigenous land theft. While it might feel nitpicky or negative when folks critique phrases like “This is Not America” or when people point out that separating families has actually happened many times in this country’s history, reckoning with our past and the root causes of state violence is the only we can begin to dream up bigger, bolder, abolitionist solutions towards a cage-free future for all of us. Editors of the New Inquiry put together this comprehensive reading list shortly after the 2016 elections that contains many useful educational sources: https://thenewinquiry.com/a-time-for-treason/
- SHOW UP to a June 30 #FamiliesBelongTogether action near you: https://act.moveon.org/event/families-belong-together_attend1/search/
- PRESSURE elected officials to take explicit positions of dismantling ICE, ending all deportations, and refusing to accept political contributions from private prison contractors.
- BOYCOTT companies profiting off of locking up family members. Florida-based private prison corporation GEO Group, the second largest in the U.S., has profited immensely off of increasing immigrant detention, recording revenues of $2.16 billion last year. Prison companies like CoreCivic and GEO Group receive millions from lucrative contracts with ICE, CoreCivic has received $225 million from ICE to manage immigrant detention facilities just since 2017. In turn these private prison corporations donate huge sums of money to political campaigns, creating an unaccountable and profitable scheme on the backs of community members. Imagine if hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government were being used to fund community needs instead of more prisons? Check out The Dream Defenders on Instagram for more info on how much GEO Group profits on immigrant detention. Names of other companies profiting off of immigrant detention can be found here.
- SUPPORT existing organizations on the ground that fight against immigrant detention, deportations, and other forms of incarceration. Here are a few organizations we have pulled together that work across the South. Donate resources and find ways to get involved where you live. And let us know if there is an organization you would like to see added to this list.
Please join us in keeping our communities together.