“Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” ~ Gregory J. Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart
Having spent spring break with eleven other members of the Georgetown community immersing ourselves in the harsh realities of immigration at the Arizona-Mexico border, I am overwhelmed by a newfound sense of allyship. A calling to proudly stand at the margins. There are no words to adequately describe what the experience of Magis: KBI meant to me, or the ways in which it transformed my sense of gratitude and humanity. As I continue to reflect upon the lessons I learned and the people I met, I am left grappling with the concept of allyship and how it can manifest itself in my own life and the larger Georgetown community.
Although my day-to-day reality is nothing like those of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, there is nothing separating my humanity from that of the man recently released from detention, never able to see his family again. My existence is not more valuable or more important than the undocumented high school senior dreaming to go to college. In fact, the barriers we are taught to recognize are arbitrary social constructs. What side of a man-made line you are born on does not dictate your dignity. Throughout the week I came face-to-face with my own privilege as a white woman attending a prestigious institution, whose worth and dignity are affirmed daily by my ability to live without fear of deportation. I have a driver’s license. I have a US passport. I do not live my life afraid to unveil a piece of my identity. These are realities that I will never experience, but that doesn’t mean I can’t care.
Allyship does not mean asserting yourself at the front of a movement. At Georgetown, students place an unhealthy amount of pressure on themselves and each other to be leaders. To be the bold voices leading the charge for change. Herein lies the problem: allyship requires listening. It demands that we let our hearts be broken by the realities of those around us and that, in turn, we use that pain and frustration to ask, what can I do? How can I help? The fight for undocumented hoyas is not new, nor does it need my insights from my week long immersion. What I just learned and saw first hand is the daily experience of students you pass in Leo’s, in the halls of the ICC or Lau. They have insights. They know what to do. They are already raising their voices as a community, undocumented and unafraid.
Ultimately, allyship means having a social awareness which impels to action. It means moving ourselves closer to those whose realities are unlike our own. It means recognizing the unconditional dignity of every individual and seeing each other without arbitrary barriers. It means interacting with members of our community from a place of empathy and grace. It’s putting ourselves at the back of a movement, not at the front. Quite simply, it means people loving people.
To take action at Georgetown and by an ally for undocumented Hoyas, attend the series of educational programs and activities during UNDOCUWEEK from April 16-20 to raise awareness of undocumented realities in our community and nationwide. Consider writing an op-ed in your local hometown newspaper and raise awareness amongst your peers and families!