Free Wine Can’t Cover The Scent of Bullshit

Red wine

I went to an event last night sponsored by FWD.us, Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project of the moment.

Talk a walk through the event with me, shall we?

1. Right at the door, as soon as I walked in, I was asked to show identification. At an event that is supposedly pro-immigration reform. This event was touted as a Happy Hour, thus the I.D. check.

The space was donated, sure. But in all of Oakland, FWD.us couldn’t find anywhere else that could donate space and simply allow people to walk in?

Does having an event with free wine and beer, an action that triggers the mandatory I.D. check, does that best serve the communities most directly affected by the present immigration laws in the U.S.? 

2. FWD.us is having a DREAMER Hackathon right now, in the Silicon Valley here in California. After the mandatory I.D. check, I signed in and was asked if I wanted to write a message of support for the DREAMers participating in the hackathon. 

I’ve defended and praised DREAMers publicly on multiple occasions. If you follow my blog, you know this.

But really? The only option this evening at the was to write a message of support to the DREAMers participating in the Hackathon in the Silicon Valley of California?

Hey, I have an idea – how about asking the people who came to the event, community members of Oakland, how about asking the community members to write down what they feel are the biggest issues that Oakland’s facing when it comes to immigrants in this city?

In other words, Community Organizing 101.

Ah, but that would mean FWD.us would truly have to care what happens in Oakland, right?

Sigh.

Let’s continue, shall we? Because we’re still at the front door, putting our I.D. away.

3. Drinks in hand, a D.J. spinning tunes in the corner.

A FWD.us staff member came over. After introductions and chit chat, the staff person gave the equivalent of a Home Shopping Network commercial about FWD.us, but didn’t ask me how I felt or thought about immigration reform in this country.

Over the course of the FWD.us commerical, this staff member specifically pointed out a DREAMer at the event, identified the DREAMer by name and for all intents and purposes outed them as undocumented.

Now, if you are undocumented and unafraid, I will always support and fight for your right to share that fact about yourself.

But you get to decide when and where and how and with who.

I shouldn’t be told about your undocumented status from anyone else at the event, especially when you’re across the room and we haven’t met.

Is this how FWD.us rolls? Publicly pimping out the undocumenteds in the house for street cred? Really?

4. Another FWD.us staff person came over. After the pleasantries, this staff person at least had the presence of mind to ask us why I was in the room.

I gave a vague answer about wanting to learn more about FWD.us and immigration reform. Sipped on the last drops of my free red wine.

The second staff person then spoke very cheerfully about the fact that they felt confident that comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) was going to pass in April of next year.

Not in piecemeal, but full-one reform. 

Yep, you read that correctly. April of 2014, Speaker John Boehner be damned. 

Lord. I wanted to buy this kid a drink, even though the beer and wine was free. 

When asked to elaborate about what would be the focus for FWD.us if the imaginary date of April of 2014 actually became about piecemeal reform and not CIR, this staff person answered that the focus for FWD.us was a) A pathway to citizenship. b) To clear the backlog. c) Secure the border.

No details were given about what the backlog specifically was and which communities were affected.

Christ, the staff person might as well have talked about getting in the back of the infamous, non-existent line that every undocumented immigrant is supposed to get on and wait.

When I asked about the citizenship path, if that was meant for everyone who was undocumented in the U.S., the staff person responded that in their personal opinion, yes, they hoped that would be the case.

Their personal opinion. Perhaps they had to jump off the FWD.us script for a minute to answer that one.

I guess in forming their personal opinion, they never listened to the undocumented community, where many people say that they don’t necessarily want to become citizens here in the U.S., but simply want to live safely out of the shadows.

And let’s not forget the third focus, the securing of the border. The staff person conspiratorially said that this element was a focus for FWD.us because the Republicans were going to need something in there to satisfy them so that the proppsed CIR could pass.

By April of 2014.

Because we all know that only the big bad Republicans play political games in Washington D.C. around immigration reform, right? Never the Democrats.

But let’s move on, like the little Comprehensive Immigration Reform Train That Could:

The staff person talked about making concessions, that compromise was key for the reform to pass. Apparently this securing the border piece was no biggie, part of how politics is done in this country. 

By the way – this little, innocuous securing-of-the-border piece? It’s the first priority on this list of objectives on the FWD.us website.

I played with my little empty plastic wine cup. Pressed my lips together in a thin, tight line. 

5. I took a deep breath and told this staff person that I had friends with undocumented husbands with DUIs, and a friend with an undocumented husband with a drug possession charge. I asked the staff person about how these undocumented immigrants with trickier backgrounds factor into the plans for a path to citizenship in the eyes of FWD.us

The staff person talked about those situations being, “complicated” and then compared the imagined roll out of Comprehensive Immigration Reform to the roll out of the Affordable Healthcare Act, i.e. Obamacare. 

I mean, we’ve seen how smooth that’s rollout been right?

Even the staff person realized that they gave a bad example and laughed right then and there.

But long story short? Your life journey better be as clean as the empty plastic cup I was holding for FWD.us to fight for your right to any kind of papers in this country.

6. Ah, finally – presentation time! Who spoke about and for FWD.us?

Someone who is a representative from one of the communities directly affected by immigration policies in the U.S.?

Perhaps someone who is undocumented? Perhaps someone who was directly affected by the separation of families?

No?

Um … perhaps someone who is directly suffering as a result of the aforementioned backlog?

Whoops – sorry. I was thinking all crazy there for a minute.

Instead, there was what I can only assume a U.S. citizen talking about FWD.us.

No story to share about how immigration was directly affecting their life, and/or the lives of their loved ones, and by extension, their community. 

The presentation was only in English. Because all immigrants speak only English, right?

Another staff person jumped in. No sharing about any direct personal connection either. But this staff person asked us to take out our cell phones to receive updates about FWD.us, because, “Everyone has a smartphone.”

And easy access to valid I.D.s to get into a bar in the U.S., I guess.

Oh and that outed DREAMer? Never spoke publicly at the event.

So all that was the A-game of FWD.us in Oakland last night.

I walked out onto the rainy street and breathed in the dark, damp air.

I looked back through the fogged-up window where I could see FWD.us staff people chattering away happily.

That window right then?

It felt like a thick and impenetrable wall, built out of bullshit and privilege.

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12 thoughts on “Free Wine Can’t Cover The Scent of Bullshit

    1. Hi Ellin. Thanks for your stopping by. I share your frustration as well. However, as US citizens, I feel that a night like the FWD.us event is a good reminder for us to look at where we can be better allies on the personal and public levels. Sincerely, Giselle

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  1. I’m reminded of Mia McKenzie’s recent piece about raising the bar on being an ally. It’s become a fashionable, low-risk activity–anyone who signs a change.org position can claim the title of “ally” without actually stepping out of his/her comfort zone. Although she specifically addresses anti-racist work, her ideas would definitely not have been out of place at that sorry-ass happy hour (and of course, there are a lot of instersections between anti-racist and pro-immigration reform efforts). She suggests that “currently operating in solidarity” with might be a better description of the efforts of privileged people on behalf of those they wish to help. Anyway, I’ll let her say it: http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/30/no-more-allies/ Big love.

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    1. Hello my dear Princesa! I’m also a big fan of BGD, and that post is spot on. It’s been painful to see how “fighting for immigration” has not only become fadhionable, but “profitable” as well in non-profit land. Crazy. Thanks for posting! Big hug, Giselle 🙂

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  2. Wow. What a lot of nonsense these folks are talking, and what a parade of ignorance. Trouble with the blind leading is that they assume all their followers are similarly handicapped & therefore don’t bother to cover their backsides!

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    1. Yes M, it really was such a truly painful experience – although, when it comes to last night, my call would be that it was more about a whole load of blind spots than blindness itself. Thanks for stopping by! Giselle

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  3. You are such a fantastic writer!!!!! I really can feel the frustration, mood and really visualise the moment. Thank you so much for what you do. I truly appreciate your blog and your thoughts and opinions!! Thank you

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    1. Thank you for the kind words, Karina! My feelings were so strong at that moment because I was thinking about the people who are doing the real work, risking everything, including their bodies, to stop the separation of families. It’s great to know that you are out there reading! Big Hug, Giselle

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    1. Thanks, Jon. There are people who’ve been literally laying their bodies on the line, willingly getting themselves sent to detention centers to expose the danger and hypocricy, crossing borders between countries without fear and without papers to challenge the deportation machine that this country is today. I stood there last night and thought about those activists like the DREAM9 and DREAM30 and held back my tears and my rage and my sadness. Thank you for taking the time to post! Sincerely, Giselle

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