Last week at G.O.A.L.S, our meeting fell on a momentous day in American history: ‘A Day Without Immigrants.’ Essentially, this was a protest to simulate the effects a mass wave of immigration would produce by closing shops, stores, businesses run by immigrants and withholding from work or school. Thus, it was no surprise when our meeting was unusually smaller, but no less vibrant. Shortly, the girls began to discuss the emptiness of school that day for they had on average 6-8 students per class. The girls were saddened for missing their friends both at the club and at school which lead one of them to say “This is so unfair. It doesn’t make sense how he [Donald Trump] can single out Mexicans.” The others agreed with her and I made a note that not only is he discriminating against the Hispanic/Latino community, but a variety of marginalized groups such as women, the LGBTQ+ community, and Muslims.
She responded back with “What is a Muslim?” I asked a Muslim girl from Yemen to explain. She eloquently explained that like Christianity, it is a widespread religion to people but typically from the Middle East (though can be from all around the globe). It was not only her summation of the religion that was memorable, but what she said after: “Trump doesn’t want us here. He says we’re all terrorists and he tried to ban my immigrant family [from Yemen].” I immediately connected with this statement for my family immigrated from Iran (a country affected from the Muslim ban) in 1979 and faced xenophobic rhetoric back then during the Iran hostage crisis.
When I was in 4th grade, I vividly remember my father picking me up from school and after a crossing guard heard him speaking to me in Farsi he wasted no time in spitting out hateful words such as “That’s not how we do things [cross] in America…go back to your country.” Fast Forward to 2017 where my twelve-year-old brother was bullied for his background with words such as “terrorist” and “Isis.” I replayed this account to the girls and explained to them the damage these words have done and two Arab girls responded with “I know how he feels.”
A hijabi girl from Yemen recalled a time when she took a trip to her local mall with her large family. Walking around, she felt eyes glued to them with clear disgust and hate; she felt extremely uncomfortable and nearly left. After, she proceeded to say how the word “terrorist” no longer bothers her because she has become numb to the pain. Both Ashley and I were saddened by these recollections and so were the other members. The non-Muslim girls got only a brief glimpse into the oppression Muslims face and helped them understand the urgency in protection. This was a seamless segway into our closing topic which was the MDUSD Safe Haven Resolution. This was a plan proposed by the district to provide clear security for immigrants or first-generation Americans from ICE officials seeking their personal information. It also guarantees that the schools will provide a safe atmosphere for immigrants or first-gen Americans, shutting down slurs and anti-immigrant language. However, we also mentioned that both Ellora and I made speeches at the school board meeting (where they eventually passed one draft of the resolution). We drew on both personal experiences and accounts from members of G.O.A.L.S, speaking on their behalf. We stressed the importance of empowering our immigrant youth and protecting them at all costs to ensure their success. The girls were honored to be included in this revolutionary change and clapped ecstatically when we told them of the results.
We are a divided nation and in order to succeed we must unite which requires not solely toleration but acceptance. As Audre Lorde once said, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
Ellora speaking at the MDUSD school board meeting.
Aava Speaking at the MDUSD school board meeting