By Gabi Morales, Guest Contributor
While in Rwanda I have been learning a lot about the 1994 genocide that took place and after much thought, I have decided to share some of my thoughts and some of my own story with you all. I realize there is much risk in sharing my story, but watching injustice and remaining silent is much worse. Will you stand with me?
THESE ARE MY REFLECTIONS AND REAL LIFE STORIES:
“We will not change history, we will change the conditions of life, we will change relationships, but history will always remain the same.” -Pastor Anastase
After visiting the genocide museums and memorials and hearing the stories of the people, my heart is heavy with grief and mourning for the many victims who lost their lives and the victims who continue to fight for their lives. My heart is heavy with so many questions, wondering how could we let this happen? Meanwhile seeing all of the steps that led up to the genocide, I saw many parallels with what is happening in my own country right now.
I am the daughter of a brown Mexican immigrant naturalized citizen and the daughter of a white United States citizen. Two opposite worlds coming together in harmony and love. My world was not always made of harmony and love, even though that’s what my parents always dreamed of. It is a constant battle of two worlds.
Right now the political climate in the United States is at a point that I daily fear for my life and the lives of those I love.
There is so much animosity and hate between so many people groups that we have forgotten what it means to be human, and we have forgotten how to be a friend. In the last couple of years, some of the closest people to me have turned their backs on me and deemed me unworthy of their love and time, simply because I am a Mexican, simply because I am the daughter of an immigrant.
Who are my people?
Sometimes what seems like the most obvious injustices, are the exact injustices that require us to raise up our voices and stand tall in solidarity. Do not remain silent, somebody needs you.
I stopped going to church. The churches that raised me into the woman I am today, host the very people that told my family that we are stealing their money and jobs. The very friends that I thought saw me for more than the color of my skin or race, started telling me to “go back to Mexico”, telling me I am not white enough for the America I was born into. My co workers yelling in their cubicles behind me, “damn illegal aliens, rapists, and criminals”. Relatives of mine who were brilliant scholars, doctors, lawyers, coming with education and so much to offer, gave up everything to come to the United States knowing they and their children still deserved a better life in the US. The government will not allow these educated individuals to use their gifts and often times have to work overtime or 3 jobs at different fast food restaurants or hotels or in the fields (jobs that are claimed to be stolen, but the same accusers won’t be seen working these jobs). They work endless hours trying to support their families and keep food on the table. The language that unites so many people and cultures, is the exact language that is getting people deported for speaking Spanish in the street. I did not fight any of the people who have turned their backs, I did not tell them how hurt and betrayed I have felt, but it pains me everyday.
I do not sleep well at night knowing that they are taking naturalized citizens papers away, my dad could be next. I do not sleep at night knowing that they are taking undocumented immigrants into detention centers. Detention centers that starve and serve food with worms in it, food so hard that it has to be hit against the table to be broken and eaten. Detention centers that stuff tens of people into “ice box” rooms, where women, children, and men shiver all night long, praying they will see the sun tomorrow. Detention centers that were meant to offer you help and options, but instead hold you prisoner for years. Detention centers that see your pain and sickness, but only give you maybe ibuprofen and take your blood pressure.
I can’t sleep at night knowing it took me two weeks to get a Rwandan visa, while my grandma who’s years of life are getting more faint, has been applying for her visa for 7 years just to see her sons and grandchildren’s faces again. I can’t sleep at night knowing that DACA students and dreamers are fighting for their education and their rights to be here even though they haven’t seen the country they were born in since infancy. I can’t sleep at night knowing that brave immigrant women will sacrifice their lives for their children, just to work multiple jobs that pay far less than minimum wage, just to be raped by their employers and threatened with deportation. I can’t sleep at night knowing that children are being separated from their families. I can’t sleep at night knowing that ICE and the police are killing immigrants and our black brothers and sisters in the street. The exact people who are meant to protect us, watching others die everyday just for false security. There are good men out there no doubt, but we are so afraid of the authorities. Sometimes the threats become so loud that we don’t remember what it’s like to have a good man stand with us. The very president elected was elected by evangelicals, a president that dehumanizes people across the globe who do not think or look the same as he. We refuse to recognize these injustices. A flag that waves its Stars and Stripes for equality and justice for all is failing us all.
Sometimes I hold back on speaking the truth and sharing my experiences because I feel no one is ready for the pain that comes with it. But then I suffer more, wondering if the pain I neglect to share, if it will be my neighbor to turn on me next?
If I am silent, will my neighbors turn on each other? I was not ready for the pain I am experiencing and I do not wish to burden another with my pain, but how do we say “never again” if we do not share in each other’s past and present pain, so that we may heal for a better tomorrow.
We have said “never again” to so many injustices and crimes against humanity, but when will we truly mean, “never again”. My heart is heavy with grief for those who have lost their lives and continue to lose their lives in the fight for humanity and equality.
I walked through these memorials, heavy that we as humans would be capable of something like the genocide, but even more terrified that, we don’t know how to stop it now. I saw the faces of my brothers and sisters in the skulls of the victims. I heard some express that they could not believe that we as humans could get to this point, but I am watching my own world cripple around me.
“Genocide does not always come in the form of millions of people dying at once. It comes in the form of any group, no matter the number, being intentionally murdered based on differences in: ethnicity, religion, gender, beliefs, etc.”
The lives from past genocides will never be forgotten, the atrocities that happened are unlike any other and so many people and countries failed to help Rwandans (Jews, Armenians, Native Americans, etc). The families and victims and survivors did not deserve the cards they were handed.
Yet, they forgive time and time again. I want so badly to create a world of forgiveness and reconciliation in my own world. Rwanda, will you please teach me your peace? Will you teach us “umuganda”(community days where Rwandans come together to support and help each other)? Will you show us how to share “imugisha”(many blessings)? Will you show us how to make “kunda” (love) last?
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