The battle for justice and dignity is always an uphill fight. The White House’s decision this past week is a painfully grim reminder about that.
So, permit me to say – in clear and unequivocal terms – what President Trump and the White House should have said. Apologies in advance for a letter that is somewhat longer than a tweet.
First, we recognize that America is your nation. Either you were born here, or grew up here, and you are choosing this nation as the land you love, or hope to love, and contribute to. Your desire to reside and contribute to a nation -- whose politics have often been unwelcoming, unkind, and lacking compassion -- constitutes the most powerful and compelling act of patriotism. Simply because you believe that the idea of America speaks to your heart and your soul more decisively than the politics of exclusion.
Secondly, an expression of gratitude for your contributions to our nation. You have worked here and are working here, contributing tax revenue, starting businesses, volunteering at churches and school, tutoring children, helping the elderly, and serving in our armed forces. You have done so with grit, determination, and resolve – all while the political and public policy odds have been stacked against you. Thank you.
Thirdly, our nation needs you, and your contributions. We need you in our workforce, continuing to contribute to our economy, bringing your ideas for innovation, helping to educate our nation’s children and care for our elderly. But beyond those practical and tangible contributions, this nation needs your spirit. Your struggle reminds us all about what a Great America really means, and that the idea and promise of America is something we should never, never give up on. Your Dreams are important to you, and you must pursue them. But your Dreams are also central to the idea of our Greatest America.
It is not easy to maintain this sense of contribution and civic belonging when laws, politics, and policies are screaming the following message in your direction: “You don’t belong here.”
All I can say to you is the following: Trust your spirit, trust your heart, trust your soul --- and believe in justice.
The civil rights struggles of African-Americans are a testimony to that spirit, serving and contributing to this nation after centuries of slavery followed by institutional racism. Take a moment to Google the contributions of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team – a group of highly decorated Japanese-Americans during World War II who bravely fought against Nazi Germany –even after their own American families were herded into internment camps and had their rights trampled upon after the attack at Pearl Harbor. The battles for women’s and LGBTQ rights are paved with fights for recognition, inclusion, and respect in the face of small-minded bigotry and discrimination.
A civil rights warrior once described the battle for social justice in four stages, and I pass it along: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then, you win.”
You are in the “fighting” stage of this journey at the moment. We have your back. Many, many people have your back. Tell us what you need. Continue to organize and fight your most glorious, peaceful, and inspiring fight. Your story will be a chapter in this nation’s great history; you are writing that chapter now through your dignity, your resolve, and your spirit.
Because then, you win.