Vallejo: Get angry, then get constructive about taking back our democracy

I am a Tejana, a Latina, and like many of us, my mom raised me to be just as opinionated and outspoken as she is. So I’ll say it: I’m angry. In Spanish we call this anger digna rabia, dignified rage, and I invite you to share it with me.

My anger is rooted in love for the hundreds of families being ripped apart under the guise of “internal homeland security enforcement” (it’s a nice euphemism but it means ICE raids and deportations). My rage is for the 25,000 families who might be kicked out of public housing if HUD’s proposed rule to prohibit mixed-status families from receiving housing assistance goes through. My love is for the thousands of kids across my state and nation who are going to bed tonight without their parents, the hundreds more ICE is going to add to that sad list nationally, and the hundreds attempting sleep in caged squalor just hours from my house.

As a Tejana, I know my deep love for this land and for all her people is shared with the millions who call our beautiful state home. And so my anger is my love for our land and for the denigration of our state’s family values. Part of the reason I’m so fired up is because I was — I am — one of those kids.

My grandmother broke the news to me after school in front of the TV. I was 12, and was well cared for after my mother’s deportation. I didn’t used to think so, but I know now I’m one of the lucky ones. And sure, I’m 35 now and planning my wedding, but there’s still a little girl with frizzy curls and mismatched socks in me, and she needed and deserved her mother as much then as she does now.

And so do the millions of kids like me across Texas and our nation who are suffering from family separation — a practice that may be in our headlines as of late but has been going on for decades because of draconian criminal justice policy that includes deportations, kids in cages, as well as the regular-schmegular (and equally horrific) type of incarceration millions of people are dealing with.

It is these atrocious state-sponsored acts of violence that drive me to practice, and invite you to share in, what I call deep democracy. Deep democracy is messy. It’s built on love, action and a willingness to figure it out together. It’s marches and donations, woven with countless unseen volunteer hours. It’s how we don’t just say “Never again,” and “Not in our name;” it’s how we live it on the day to day. We’ve seen examples of deep democracy time and again from our brothers and sisters of the African diaspora. Their freedom struggles have shown us that deep democracy can transform lives, cities, and, yes, entire nations.

And though the long road to freedom for all people is still yet a promise, I can promise you it will go unfulfilled if we don’t pave it ourselves. It is our national opportunity to unreservedly agree to another iteration of freedom struggle. No more sitting on the sidelines and wringing our hands and washing our words and emotions so they are palatable. We gotta go all in.

Today, I choose to use this love and anger to lead organizations and movements of average folks just like you and I to make change. My invitation to you is to sit in this difficulty with me, to channel these feelings and take our democracy back. As we round into the last 18 months of this president’s term, let’s make it meaningful. Let’s use this dark and frightening moment in our country to salvage what we can, and find ways to participate deeply. It’s my hope you’ll find it in you to stand with me on the right side of history, and to bring your people in too.

Go beyond your vote, beyond your post. Get your hands dirty and kick up a storm. Empty your wallet if you’re able, make eloquently rage-y phone calls to your electeds and demand protections for DACA recipients, demand an end to the kiddie cages and a reinvestment in our refugee resettlement infrastructure instead. If you do nothing else, demand we defund ICE and undo the criminalization of migration to help us end this dark national nightmare. And show up to the polls and primaries and make your demands there too.

In doing so, know that you’re helping me keep my family safely together. Let it come from anger if you like, and let that anger guide you and your family to find ways — big and small — to live with me and mine in a deep democracy every day. Just don’t forget to do it from a place a love. Because as Dr. Cornel West reminds us, justice is what love looks like in public.

— Kandace Vallejo is founder and executive director of Youth Rise Texas.

Today's Bible verse

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

— Psalm 42:11

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