This is a great article highlighting the growing rates of poverty and asking why no political candidate is discussing this issue that is plaguing so many of us:
Imagine one Saturday you’re at home doing whatever you normally do on a Saturday. Maybe your children are in the back yard playing, your husband is in the office working, and you’re juggling between a weeks worth of laundry and preparing lunch…..
Suddenly there is a harsh banging on the door. When you open it your surprised, an armed solder of the U.S. army is yelling orders at you to pack one bag for each member of your family, sell or disperse the rest of your belongings, and report in one week to be picked up. The next few days are a chaotic mess and your family reports as demanded, terrified.
An army truck appears and you’re ordered to board at gun point. Reluctantly you climb aboard, and along with several other families on the block, you discover you are being taken to a train station.
You board and ride for several hours. When the train finally stops, you off board and find yourself in some sort of camp.
There are rows and rows of shanty buildings that all look the same, armed guards everywhere, families running around confused, and a parameter of barbed wire fencing surrounding the place to keep you locked in.
You are handed a gunny sack and pushed into a line where others are collecting hay and filling the bag. You don’t realize at the time, but this will be your mattress for the next several years.
Finally you’re escorted to one of the shanty buildings, a place you will call home. If your lucky, you and your family will be living in a room not much bigger than your living room, made of hardwood floors, and walls without insulation, and a stove to keep warm. If your not so lucky, you will be sleeping in a horse stall.
When you need to shower you will use a community shower house and you will eat in a communal dinning hall.
What have you done to deserve this type of treatment?
You are an American citizen that has Japanese heritage.
During World War II, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government made the executive decision to ’round-up’ all American citizens of Japanese decent living in the United Sates (addressed as ‘non-aliens’). Non-aliens were relocated to specially designed camps for ‘protection’ against American backlash. The result was devastating; entire generations lost property and family wealth. Living conditions were squalor inside the camps and systemic racism was created throughout the country overnight.
Despite Japanese American efforts to prove their patriotism, including fighting for America in the war and earning more decorated medals than any other infantry, Japanese American’s maintained interned for several years.
Once released the United States government did not acknowledge its acts. Internment camps were not talked about in history classes, and America’s sin was swept under the rug. It took 45 years of petitioning the government before President’s George H. Bush and Bill Clinton offered formalized apologies on behalf of the nation and awarded $25,000 in restitution to each remaining individual survivor.
Now the Japanese American community is doing its part to make sure this never happens to citizens again. Most recently the Japanese American community was instrumental in rallying and petitioning against the unlawful detainment of perceived ‘terrorists’ at Abu Ghraib prison.
To hear firsthand experiences of life in internment camps please visit:
For those of you questioning the FBI involvement instigating clashes with the Black Panther party; it seems this week it was discovered that a key player in the movement, Richard Aoki, who supplied guns and weapons training to Black Panther leaders was actually an FBI informant.
This article can be found here at SF Gate:
The Man Who Armed the Panthers (video)
Irma Medellin stands in front of our group and beams ear to ear as she welcomes us into her community, “We wish we had someplace to welcome you, but what we do have is yours.”
The place she has welcomed us is her community center, an aluminum tarped canopy that sits in the side yard of a home. The floor is dirt and there are only two walls, the side of the house and a wood fence. The average daily temperature reaches high nineties, and since we arrived at noon, the sweltering heat of the day was already radiating. Irma’s community center serves as the location for summer activities for neighborhood children, and you could see their handiwork and crafts adorning the walls.
There are no sidewalks, only roads, no streetlights, no air-conditioning, and no public restrooms in her town. The water pipes being used are over 100 years old, suffer from contamination leeks and will not sustain community growth.
It sounds like a village in Mexico, but this is actually Central Valley, CA, the town of Plainview. It will not appear on any GPS or Google search, but sits halfway between two of the richest economies in California – Silicon Valley and Hollywood. Plainview is only fifteen minutes from Lindsay, CA a typical American town with a Starbucks, grocery store, and other amenities, but the residents of Lindsay are unaware of the hardships happening in Plainview.
Who lives in Plainview? Immigrant farm workers and their families:
- Individuals who left their home out of starvation with the hope of a better existence
- Mothers who trusted the lives of their children with ‘coyotes’ – people who smuggle immigrants across the border- never knowing if their children would make it alive or be left for dead
- Men who walk days across two deserts carrying only four gallons of water, praying its enough
- Young couples who want their future children to live a life apart from drug cartel violence
- People, just like you and me who have dreams, desires, hope, and faith in something better
What is waiting for them if they survive the journey? Most end up like residences of Plainview, farm workers. They get up before dawn and arrive at orchards to pick fruit trees. Each carry a canvas bag, for women the bag is 40lbs and men 100lbs. They wear heavy long sleeve jackets with high collars and a large hat with bandanna’s to protect their face from pesticides (remember daily temperature hover in the nineties). Each worker runs up and down ladders with pruning sheers and fills their bag twenty times over to fill one tub that sits below the trees. Women usually fill seven tubs and men ten, all before noon. Each are paid by the number of tubs they fill.
They have no health insurance or workmen’s comp, if they fall from the ladder and break their back they rely on goodwill of friends and neighbors to support them. Without preventative care, by age 40, many workers develop a hunched back from the weight of the bags and develop skin rashes from exposure to pesticides.
It’s hard work, and its tempting to dismiss; but what if I told you children were exposed to these conditions too? I met a 14 year old girl who helps her mother everyday because her father was deported. If she does not work, they have no money to support her younger brothers and sisters. She started working at 11 years old.
You may not believe this, taking solace in child labor laws, but protections offered to U.S. citizens are not accessible to immigrant families. Take automobile ownership for example. Local authorities know residents of Plainview are undocumented, they often stake out a few miles down the road and pull over motorist. When coming across undocumented drivers, cars are confiscated and sold at public police auctions. This leaves families devastated, they have no way to access grocery stores or get to work. Many automobiles are financed from ‘by here pay here’ dealerships. Having a car impounded does not absolve owners from monthly car payments, creating more strain in families already in financial hardships. Two cars have been impounded from this young girl’s family; they have no legal recourse for help.
These kind of systematic abuses are widespread among immigrant communities. It’s easy to think this could be avoided by ‘waiting in line’ to come into the U.S. legally, but that’s the misconception. There is no ‘legal’ way to enter the United States for many citizens of countries in South and Central America. One man in Plainview was granted citizenship this year, one, and he applied in 1986. He waited almost thirty years. The current policies and structure of the United Sates immigration system are outdated and were never intended to manage current trends. This makes immigrate communities very susceptible to con-artists and abuses of power. I believe it is our responsibility to pressure community leaders to take a hard look at current practices happening in immigrant towns across the country.
If you would like to help:
- EDUCATE: learn current immigration public policy and stories
Dying to Live, A Migrant’s Journey : A video chronicling United Sates boarder crossing and its dangers
Immigration Policy Center: A non-profit organization dedicated to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration
Dream Act: Allows a 2 year reprieve of immigration status to individuals between 16-31yrs who have not been involved in criminal activity, have lived in the U.S for five years, and has obtained a GED
- VOTE: know initiatives on local ballots and how it will effect immigrant communities
Ballot*Pedia: A website devoted to explaining current California ballots to be voted on in November
Write to Congress: Locate your representative by clicking the link
- VOLUNTEER: Find non-profit organizations dedicated to helping immigrant families
El Quinto Sol De America : Irma Medellin non-profit organization that is helping citizens of Plainview, CA
- STUDY: Discover Biblical views of immigration and other political issues
What’s the Biblical View on Immigration?: My blog post quoting thought from some of the top Christian leaders on immigration and the Word
Patheos: A website that discusses hot-button issues from a faith-based prospective
Do you picture a Mexican day laborer? A family you saw at the grocery store (buying tortillas)? Perhaps your mind drifts to political pundits and their squawking on telivision?
Here are just a few phrases that came up when I did a Google search on immigration:
- “America does not have an immigration problem it has an illegal immigration problem” –Yahoo! Voice
- “My solution to immigration begins with eliminating incentives for people to come to America illegally.” – Teen Ink
- “Leave. They don’t deserve equal rights, they are the reason California is so broke. Along with other states.” – Amanda on Yahoo! Answers
- “What do other nations do if someone crosses the border without permission? During war time, we should shoot to kill, that would stop most of them.” -Yahoo! Answers
Notice a trend in the comments? Is there a name used? A face? An individual story?
As a Christian, what should you believe and who should you support? Here are a few thoughts from Christian leaders taken from www.patheos.com that moves the conversation from a political platform into a biblical arena.
M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas) Professor of Old Testament at Denver Theological Seminary:
“What might a more fully biblically informed response to the immigration challenge look like? Where would it begin? The starting place of a discussion determines in large measure its tone and content. If we begin with Genesis 1 and the fact that all humans are created in the image of God with infinite worth and great potential, the debate will be quite different than what is witnessed now in media sound-bites. It will focus on persons with needs and gifts that can contribute to the common good, instead of taking a default negative defensive posture against newcomers in our midst.”
Jeff Barneson staff member for InterVarsity’s ministry to faculty and graduate students at Harvard University:
“What if God’s intention in the hyper-diversification of our country is akin to what happened when the Romans sacked Jerusalem in 70 A.D.? Historians question whether the message of the early Christians, without the presence of the Romans, would have spread beyond the local setting of Jerusalem. What if the present situation in the United States is just another accelerated opportunity to bring good news to people who are more than ready to hear it? I believe it with all my heart: If we spend all our time and energy on the policy discussion, and never reorient our perspective and realign our congregations to engage with actual immigrants and their actual circumstances, we may miss out on the extraordinary opportunity that God has placed in front of us.”
John March is a church planter, a pastor in Edina, Minnesota, a writer, and a blogger at Pilgrim March:
“We are all immigrants and sojourners in the world. As Christians, our primary allegiance is to God and to God’s kingdom. We are first and foremost citizens of heaven. Often times immigrants understand this intuitively because they are outside the dominant power culture in the country to which they come. White Christians living in the suburbs of America (like myself) are wise to recognize this implicit advantage immigrants have in living as though they are aliens and sojourners in the world. There is much we can learn from them. (1 Peter 1)”
Kelly Monroe Kullberg is an InterVarsity minister, author/editor of the bestselling Finding God at Harvard:
“Let’s leave behind the rhetoric and the easy sloganeering and confront the hard task of discernment. Just as Paul taught the Church to delineate among widows in order to find those for whom the Church would provide, we are called, I believe, to make difficult and principled decisions about stewardship and about providing the conditions for healthy flourishing communities that can welcome many strangers not with hostility but with hospitality. With kindness and grace. Obedience to the whole counsel of Scripture yields sustainable growth and goodness to those in need.”
My thoughts come after viewing Race – The Power of an Illusion, Episode Three: The House We Live In.
When I dream about my future, I think of living in a beautiful house in the suburbs with a hunky husband and adorable kids (who act nothing like I did because my kids are perfect!). I will drive a hybrid that is big enough to manage the school carpool and have enough money to shop at gourmet grocery stores, not Costco or Sam Club (yuck!) All the houses will be cute, neatly lined – and white. Not because of their paint color, but because of their owners. For some reason, in my dreams I never live next to an African American family, a Latino Family, or anyone who came from the Middle East (there is of course the one Frenchman on the block – because he is my husband!). All of my neighbors are just like me, think similarly like me, and value the same things that I do. It’s the perfect neighborhood…..
I never recognized I had no diversity in my perfect neighborhood. I’m passionate to fight for injustices, eliminate poverty, and celebrate diversity; but why isn’t that reflected in my dream?
Do you find yourself dreaming similarly? Maybe the setting is different, but look around at the people – do they all look like you? After watching this documentary, I have better insight as to why I dream this way.
Let me explain, here is a brief, and paling, synopsis of part of the documentary content:
Systematic racism exists and industries exploit these inequalities to make profit. One example, the real-estate industry, who subversively encouraged segregated suburbs through practices such as ‘Red-Lining’ and ‘Block Busting’. These tactics were used to persuade white suburban home owners to sell and move to new developments out of fear. What fear? That African American neighbors would drive down property value. The reality? Real-estate companies purposely drove housing values down when African American families moved into neighborhoods. Why? Simply, GREED. Real-estate companies sold homes at higher cost to African Americans. Companies could make double the revenue by selling white homeowners a new home in a new development and sell their old home to an African American family. This became the origin for the principle that diversity in a neighborhood is bad for property value. A principle that has been passed down as ‘investing wisdom’ by two or three generations.
I would argue this principle has shape the vision of the ‘American Dream’. Often my parents and I would drive around looking at homes. They took the opportunity to instruct me on qualities of a good neighborhood. Their advice went hand in hand with the philosophies created by the mid-century real-estate industry. I took their suggestions to heart and it became what I desired, dreamed, prayed, and order my life around. When I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area I searched trying to find the neighborhood that matched my dream. What I didn’t recognize was my dream was flawed and rooted in philosophy created from greed. Despite how much I begged in prayer, God in his wisdom and glory did not bless me with the ‘perfect neighborhood’. Instead he blessed me with wisdom to understand why I desired those things.
When seeking to live with people who are like me (racially, socio-economically, culturally), I quickly forget the needs and problems facing others. When I hear issues like homelessness, abuse, or starvation – it becomes hard to relate. It can’t be real because its not part of ‘reality’. MY reality is figuring out who to have dinner with tonight, how to save money to fly home for Christmas, and catching up on the latest Downton Abby episode. I surround myself with people focused on the same things. Suddenly homelessness, abuse, and starvation become someone else’s problem. If these issues are brought up in group conversation, the instigator is teased and called ‘Debbie Downer’. I’m not exposed to these problems because I have created a sterilized world to live in, and by doing so, have lost touch with what I have been called by Jesus to do:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
Living an assimilated existence in a neighborhood where everyone is like me doesn’t match kingdom principles! Shocking I know! What does God want for me (and you) then? I’m glad you asked, I believe the answer is diversity.
God IS FOR diversity:
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
I believe purposely living in a community that doesn’t look like me, that’s imperfect, and plagued by ‘societal issues’ is EXACTLY where God desires me (and you) to be. After all, Jesus said in Mark 2:17 “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”. My dream of living in the ‘perfect neighborhood’ is actually the ultimate battle of the flesh talked about in Romans 8:5, 13:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. . . . For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
If you think I’m incorrect that’s ok. But I ask you to think about the current housing crisis in the U.S. Most agree it’s the effect of an entire generation striving to maintain the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ lifestyle. Selling one house to move into another before the neighborhood turns bad and property values decline….. sound familiar?
I’v challenged myself to stop dreaming for a lifestyle rooted in a philosophy of greed. Starting today I’m aligning my life to Kingdom principles. I’m reconstructing my dream and rethinking what the ‘perfect neighborhood’ looks like. I believe it’s something like Psalm 133:
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.
UPDATE : Black Panther Party and FBI
WHAT! Didn’t they hate white people or something? Weren’t they super militant and radical? Why are you writing about them? I’m a little concerned about your influences…..
Calm down! First the answer is no (mostly). Like anything in life, I quickly learned these perceptions were based off of newspaper articles, things I read about in history books, and rhetoric I picked up from educators. Not all of which is necessarily accurate.
How do I know this? I had the privilege of going on the Black Panther Legacy Tour led by David Hilliard, Chief of Staff of the former Blank Panther Party. We spent an afternoon driving around West Oakland and visiting infamous locations of significance while listening to David’s first hand experience. I was reminded of how inaccurately history immortalizes its heroes and demonizes its villains.
For example the name, did you know they were actually called the Black Panther Party for Self Defense? Do you know why? The key word is ‘self defense’. Police brutality was rapid during the 1960s against the African American community (no one can deny that) – some civic organizations would advertise trips to travel from southern states up to Oakland, CA to help ‘police’ the community. The African American community was terrorized by these organizations and the police department offered no protection. For this reason the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was born.
Do you know what their first significant act was? Petitioning the city to install a cross walk signal next to a local school after several children had been killed in traffic. After that do you know what their next great achievement was? Creating free lunch programs in the community for school children; their model became the precedent for the current free lunch program run by the federal government.
But what about the fact they carried guns? True they did, (see my first point), but did you know they also carried a copy of the California law code everywhere they went to ensure they were abiding citizens? The iconic Hollywood image has since dropped the book but kept the guns. Also, it’s a first amendment right to bear arms, as David Hilliard pointed out.
Well then why did the FBI shut down the party? The Black Panther for Self Defense party was the most successful party at mobilizing citizen support. During the civil unrest of the 1960’s that was a threat. The FBI feared the impact of citizens mobilizing to demand equal rights to African Americans (don’t forget similar attempts to quell other leaders were being made at the same time).
Not only was the Black Panther Party for Self Defense successful nationally at organizing but they were also successful organizing globally. Chapters were popping up all over the world and this made the FBI anxious. Also, if your organizing globally this includes other races – including white; many members were Caucasian even in the United States. Being a ‘hate-group’ was an image portrayed by the media (thank goodness we know the media does not continue this practice today……)
The FBI began criminal ‘investigations’ – and that is when the more ‘notorious’ incidents of the movement began happening. A lot of the incidents were instigated by the FBI. Years later after due process, the courts found that, from the hundreds of charges and lawsuits filed against the party and its leaders, only a handful were justified.
Unfortunately, after the group dissolved founder Huey P. Newton succumbed to a life of drugs. He was gunned down in the streets by a kid who wanted to kill a respected community leader to gain notoriety in his gang. David Hilliard, who was on a similar self-destruction path, credits his belief in God for saving him and turning his life around. He has been dedicated ever since to tell the true story of the Black Panther Party and leave a legacy for others to follow in building community support. Even 40 years later, as we walked down the streets, neighbors would pass by raising a fist and in respect and shout, “Power to the People!”
I can’t capture an entire afternoon in a few paragraphs, but I can give you a few facts in hopes of inspiring you to dig further and do your own unbiased research – you may be surprised at what you find.