Who gets the privilege of becoming a citizen of the United States of America: That’s a big deal. When we talk about that in the abstract, it is easy sometimes for the discussion to take on a feeling of “us” versus “them.” And when that happens, a lot of folks forget that most of “us” used to be “them.”
This was one of the moments that got a lot of play this week from President Barack Obama’s speech about the White House’s version of Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Those lines got me thinking about The Golden School of Dance. It was your regular run-of-the-mill dance school in the small suburban town in Long Island, New York where I grew up. I took classes there, and we had the expected dance recitals at the end of the year.
I particularly loved my tap dance lessons.
My Mom often picked me up after class. Sometimes we carpooled, and it was her turn. Or sometimes she just came to pick up her daughter.
My light brown-skinned Mom was born and raised in Mexico City. She didn’t look or sound anything like the majority of the other mothers who came to pick up their kids after class at this run-of-the-mill dance school on the North Shore of Long Island. This used to embarrass me to no end. At that time in my life, I simply didn’t have anyone else in my immediate world who had a Mexican Mom like mine.
My father, a white US-born citizen, and a New Yorker through and through, blended in easily on the rare occasions that he was able to pick me up from dance class.
So I don’t ever forget that, “most of us used to be them.” I grew up in a home of “us” and “them.” And I know that I’m certainly not the only one.
Now that I’ve been married for over ten years to another one of “them,” I’m cautious.
I’m cautious, because I know that it was a history-making moment for President Barack Obama to name the “us vs them” equation out loud. But I also know that for those of us who grew up in mixed-race homes, and/or mixed-status homes, (different immigration statuses) the “us and them” dynamic doesn’t apply.
And for the thousands, the literally thousands of the “us” that are in committed relationships with the thousands, the literally thousands of the “them,” we’re working through the full psychological, emotional, economic, political and privileged weight of our blue US passports.
And we’ll continue to work through the fact that we grew up in the very country that kept and keeps our partners out. Our families separated.
Trust me kids, I understand about messaging to the masses. I get that the White House is gunning to get this reform through with the least amount possible of mess and fuss.
I’m just thinking about my dance recitals. My parents sitting next to each other as I tap dance onstage.
And I’m wondering who in that audience the White House is now tap dancing for.