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Michael Shaw Headshot

Reading the Pictures: "My Mom Doesn't Have any Papers, (America)"

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Watching the striking exchange between a second grader and the First Lady, I'm interested in how we actually perceive this girl-without-a-name.

By drawing unavoidable focus to the fact her Mother is undocumented, this young girl does something striking; she forces us, at least for an instant, to look at her and see her.

A second later, however -- demonstrated by how the way the First Lady deflects the bombshell of a statement by converting a specific situation to a general one, drawing these second graders into an abstract relationship with the U.S. Congress -- we're able to slip back into that customary perceptual mode in which we see-her-but-we-don't-see-her, which is where one habitually resides, on a daily basis, in encountering any number of real live undocumented Latinos.

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