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Archive for the ‘Educational Justice’ Category

Bring Them Home: Plight of Undocumented Youth

In Decolonization, Educational Justice, Geography/ Spatial Justice, Latin@ Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on July 23, 2013 at 11:06 PM

The various links between the school-to-prison pipeline and immigration policy are astounding. Rather than investing in our underfunded public schools, jurisdictions throughout the country have been putting money into building new prisons and expanding law enforcement agencies.

A group of undocumented Mexican-Americans decided to showcase the need for a humane immigration policy by making a trip to Mexico–and then trying to cross back into the united states.

The eight activists from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA)–dubbed the “Dream 8”–were almost sure to get arrested despite the applications they brought to re-enter the u.s. on humanitarian grounds. Yesterday, as they attempted to cross through a Border Patrol station by Nogales, Mexico, they were detained and sent to Arizona’s Florence Detention Center.

Although the youth from NIYA did not explicitly target the DREAM Act, I’m sure their courageous efforts resonate with many undocumented youth looking for an opportunity to “naturalize,” go to college, no longer live in fear. (The DREAM Act, first introduced to the Senate in 2001, would provide permanent residency to undocumented youth who grew up in the united states for an extended period and complete two years of college or military.)

Currently, after twelve years of activists and politicians fighting for approval of the DREAM Act, it seems as if some important congressional ground has been traversed. The DREAM Act was embedded in the  S. 744 Border (in)Security Act passed by the Senate last month (read more about S. 744 from my previous post). And after several debates within the House of Representatives, with strong pro-immigrant leadership from Chicago’s Luis Guitierrez (D-IL), Reps are now wrangling over whether undocumented immigrants who are not covered under the DREAM Act should receive amnesty.

For some activists, this has been an exciting as well as nerve-wracking period as immigrant amnesty seems, for the first time in a long while, possible. Others are cautious, wary of of the attached provisions and stipulations, or completely furious about the potential hazards immigration reform (as it exists right now) can unleash. I definitely fall in the latter group, fed up as I am with congressional-statist politics as well as the lethal implications of border militarization that congressional Republicans are demanding.

Lulu Martinez, an undocumented youth activist, discusses her decision to travel to Mexico:

Having worked around a number of immigrants’ rights campaigns in New York and Rhode Island, not to mention my steady passion May Day immigrant-labor solidarity, I usually have much to say about the politics of immigration to the united states. As the son of Latin American immigrants, having grown up in a large immigrant neighborhood in a multiracial metropolis, working for immigrant justice was intuitively appealing. And as a college student at Brown, I became involved with a group that worked on policy and legislation. I’ve since come to disdain electoral and statist politics, having been inspired by anarcho-communist activism, but I very much understand the impact of laws on peoples’ livelihoods.

Investigating immigration history and reading about these latest DREAMers, I’m also reminded of the fascinating politics that surround this bill.  Acknowledging this bill as dreadfully reformist,  a growing number of leftists are voicing an opposition to it for creating a stratification  of merit and arbitrating who has good “moral character.” By giving youth the option of becoming naturalized through military service, it essentially incentivizes matriculation into the country’s large war machine, particularly for youth with limited success in academics. And by selectively  deeming which undocumented youth are “worthy” of naturalization (i.e. those with good grades, with no criminal record, etc.), it also promotes a meritocratic myth that is simply harmful for youth trying to overcome life obstacles. Personally, I would be glad if the DREAM Act passed (it’s just common sense), but I would temper that optimism with an acknowledgment of those immigrant youth who are not eligible under the  arbitrary legislative measures. 

Once again, I am left sighing about the unfortunate state of immigration policy. It is one of the most conspicuous examples of how the state adjudicates who a belonging member “citizen,” who is in and who is out. Focusing the public’s attention on distracting issues, such as the question of who has a right to reside in this country, mainstream politics succeeds in diverting us from thinking about the more fundamental questions. Why, for instance, do we have borders? Why do we have countries, and why are millions of people immigrating to the u.s.? And why is it that we give special privileges to citizens, as opposed to acknowledging the humanity of every global civilian?


Patriotic, nationalist fervor typically goes hand in hand with xenophobia. This flyer is truly fascinating, if misleading: whites were the original colonizers, the first “aliens” to steal land on Turtle Island.

Articles on the Dream 8:

Washington Post


Lizbeth Mateo:


My sentiments, exactly.

Thanksgiving and the Native American Holocaust

In Decolonization, Educational Justice, Geography/ Spatial Justice, History, Identity Politics, Racial Politics, The Revolution on November 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM

I recently started reading a revolutionary classic that revamped the world’s popular understanding of U.S. history: Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Published in 1980, the book  was meant to tell the story of the United States from the perspective of the disenfranchised, from the people whose blood and toil created the governments, institutions, and physical structures that we often equate with “progress.” I wonder why it took me so long to start this book, but I was drawn to it recently because of our impending holiday.

Given my recent life experiences, I am all for an explicit expression of gratitude. But I am of the opinion that giving “thanks” should be a quotidian practice, something that is interwoven into our daily habits the way brushing our teeth and saying “good morning” to our neighbors and co-workers have become innocuously habituated. With respect to the importance of “giving thanks,” I am completed supportive of it… but one must ask why a special day is needed for this practice. In a world of violent material inequalities and war-related savagery (consider the U.S.-supported air strikes against non-militants in Gaza and Afghanistan), doesn’t the necessity of a day of giving thanks not reek of First World cultural elitism and token appreciation? How would the majority of our planet’s residents feel about the excessive cultural commodification imbued in this country’s “holiday,” with its short-term gathering of air-mile-flying passive aggressive family members who then disperse to continue their mindless practices of material consumption (for instance, consider the meaning of Black Friday)?

Chief Seattle

A statue of Chief Seattle, an indigenous leader for whom the largest Northwestern city is named.

This, however, is only a minor aside to the more egregious point: the failure of (North) Americans to recognize how our presence in this land was founded upon the displacement and genocide of millions of First Nation (Native American) peoples. As Zinn writes in his book, the purpose of raising awareness about the Native American Holocaust is not to simply accuse, judge, and condemn the incredible misery and bloodshed perpetrated by European colonizers. Understanding our true history is about making sense of how we got here, living in a globe of vast inequalities, and how many of us blindly benefit  from a legacy of genocide and destruction.  As one writer puts it, “celebrating Thanksgiving is as if Germany had a day of celebration for the Holocaust. Thanksgiving is the American Holocaust.”

The “quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress” is a practice that must end–but not simply for the purpose of extracting a history lesson that we can then use to claim we’ve “come far.” Such a dismissive disposition towards the atrocities committed on American land simply fail to understand the workings of legacy and the continual violence perpetrated against First Nations today. Rather than showcasing a worthless “overemphasis” on the past, rejecting the “quiet acceptance” of genocide is a practice in mindfulness: that is, using our awareness to understand how the pain of our past perpetuates through the sufferings of today. Though it may seem like a mere exercise in understanding social history, it also about recognizing our true humanity–to recognize our abilities to hate and murder but also to transcend these evils to create peace, love, and harmony. 

To be clear, I am not suggesting that people give up Thanksgiving as a hopelessly evil, imperialist project. Instead, we can reinvent Thanksgiving as a time for transformative healing, a time to spread mindfulness and genuine gratitude in a manner that does not contribute to the continual silencing of “shameful” histories.

At the end of the day, we are all agents capable of transforming the world. If we take understanding our history seriously (as we should), it can become a brutal process that requires the courage to accept our faults and misunderstandings. It can be difficult to accept how our privileges are based on the brutal oppression of others (past or present). However, this process is one we must all collectively share, for decolonizing our hearts and minds is not simply about our egos. It is about creating the world of loving kindness we all need.

The American Holocaust of Native Americans

For a concise 101 introduction to the genocide of Native people, you can see this 30 minute documentary with tell-tale interviews.

The Story of Leonard Peltier, a Native American (AIM) activist

I highly recommend learning–and educating students about–this Native activist and current political prisoner. Peltier is a Lakota who was highly active with the anti-colonial, anti-imperial resistance of the American Indian Movement (AIM). As with many revolutionary groups active in the late 1960s/early ’70s, AIM made crucial connections with Black Panthers and other groups fighting for liberation. Unfortunately, as with others persecuted by the FBI’s COINTEL program, Peltier was scapegoated and imprisoned on charges of murder for which he is still (after nearly 40 years) imprisoned.

Cartographies of an Ongoing Colonization

**For an interactive map that showcases how Native land was stolen over the centuries, see: A Map of Destruction **


A map of First Nation reservations, from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Parks Service. Contrary to the views of dominant amerikkan society, First Nations still hold sovereignty over many lands, albeit considerably (and tragically) less than what they’re entitled to. And contrary to public opinion, indigenous Americans are still persecuted by the government today.


Colonization is characterized by the stealing of land from a sovereign nation. Can you see what is left of indigenous-owned lands in the heart of empire (continental united states)? And can you see what lands remain to indigenous Palestinians?


Rendered cartography of pre-columbian First Nation / Native American civilizations

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