When Do You Say Something for Immigration?
May 26, 2014
I was wrangling my kids into childcare when I vaguely registered the signs on the wall. Is immigration the theme this month? I asked myself. Wait. That doesn't make sense.
After dropping them off, I looked more closely. Several street signs lined the walls, including one I recognized from California as an immigration caution sign. It was opposite an actual "Caution: Children Playing" sign.
At first, I laughed to myself. They have no idea what this sign is.
Minutes later, though, I felt convinced I needed to say something.
Nothing makes me quite as nervous as speaking my mind to stranger in an employee/customer dynamic. Why? No idea. It has made for some... "interesting" hair cuts, clothing alterations and other experiences.
I approached an employee and started over-talking about how that's a sign on the highways in the Southwest to warn people about hitting immigrants crossing the border illegally. I mumbled something about how I used to live in California and we're an immigrant family... well, not me, but my husband.
She basically looked at me like I was crazy. I don't think she was sure if she should believe me or not. Then I started to doubt myself because, you know what... that sounds ridiculous.
It was a strange immigration encounter when I least suspected it. And it was a surprising reminder to me how few people are aware of immigration issues if it doesn't affect them directly. In our African American context, it simply wasn't recognized.
The employee was super gracious. She immediately took it down and simply said what I already understood, "They didn't know."
I'm not saying my conversation was a big social justice move. I just realized after my initial amusement that the signs presence could alienate or hurt one of the few immigrant families that may come through the door. I figured I should say something when the opportunity presented itself.
What do you think?