I’m overwhelmed with emotion each time I listen to “Deportee” yet it compels me toward subjugation. My husband is a Mexican immigrant. I’ve witnessed the sting of racism against him. Through conversations prompted by Becoming Visible, I’ve discovered that his reality is very different from mine; I’ve learned more in 14 days than during 12 years of marriage. My husband has never shared his experiences with such candor. Maybe he is too proud or is protecting me. Maybe he is protecting himself by not putting voice to the intolerance he’s experienced.
When I watch the video I fear for our daughters whom are often seen as “mixed race”, having a Hispanic father and Caucasian mother. When my husband and I moved to lower Alabama, someone actually said to me, “What you’re sayin’ is; you’re a Yankee, married to a Mexican with two half-breeds?” I didn’t respond but internally reacted with anger.
Originally from Minnesota, my connection to Alabama began in 1985, when a woman offered her condo for the weekend. She told my mother, “This is just a little fishing village…but you will love it.” That “little fishing village” was Gulf Shores, Alabama. A year later she purchased. My experiences as a Gulf Coast winter resident were wonderful.
Fast forward to Las Vegas, NV 2008 where I lived with my husband and two daughters. When the recession hit, building in Las Vegas came to a sudden halt. My husband, a 10 year union carpenter, found himself “on the bench”. I saw this as my opportunity to finally move my family to “Alabama the Beautiful”. The representative at the carpenter’s local in Mobile, Alabama, assured the Las Vegas local that “we’re keeping all our boys working.” The Union transfer papers were completed and I moved with great expectations.
Unfortunately, inland from the Gulf Coast the culture was NOT what I expected. To my surprise, I discovered rampant racism and I realized that “keeping all our boys working” does not include a Mexican “boy.” I understood it was best to never mention my liberal views. I resented Alabama, where my highly qualified husband wasn’t hired to work for 2½ years and where I now felt trapped. The heat of rage, disgust and repulsion gradually cooled to a slow, simmering apathy.
Learning to let go of my anger is a continual process. One of my “Yankee” friends told me, “We can’t change it while we’re in it. We have to leave first. All we can do is fore-warn others [about Alabama].” I agreed and believed it.
Slowly I realized that dwelling on my justified anger only perpetuated what I despised. So I tried to stop focusing on the intolerance I was sensing. I made a conscious decision to enjoy my time here.
When I let go of my own hatred and intolerance things started to change. A dream job “fell into my lap” and my husband found full-time work. My children are thriving in school and now I’m blessed to be a part of Becoming Visible.
Social change campaigns often use guilt, fear, pity or outrage to rally an audience around its cause. But, in my experience, it doesn’t work to use negative emotions to create positive change. I think Becoming Visible focuses on positive results (even heart-wrenching emotions and situations can have positive results) which may effectively transform Alabama House Bill 56.
I hope our campaign will build a sense of community and generate social media-fueled conversations that extend well beyond the campaign websites. While I reflect on and share my experiences and those of others, I wish to inspire people with positivity and hope.
To protect my family, I’m blogging as 13 Moons Paloma. There are thirteen moons in a year and each new moon offers an opportunity to begin anew. My favorite Native American story is “Thirteen Moons on a Turtle’s Back”. Paloma is Spanish for dove—a symbol of peace. I hope for Alabama to begin anew and rally to peacefully change its future.