Haitian Lives Matter: Immigration is a Black issue

OPINION: As a Haitian-Cuban woman, Blue Telusma writes that it's important to raise awareness in Haiti and all those in the diaspora

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During the last election cycle, whenever I would talk to people about why we needed to band together against Donald Trump, there would always be those people who quoted the infamous line that they were “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative” as a reason for leaning in his direction.

And when I would point out how morally corrupt Trump was and cite his blatant racism and xenophobia, many of my Black associates, – even the ones who were pretty progressive – would visibly check out or push back when I mentioned immigration.

“No disrespect to the Mexicans or whatever, but the Black community is going through enough,” they’d say. “We need to worry about our own problems.”

And this mindset always made me cringe internally.

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The irony of people saying this while speaking to a Black immigrant was never lost on me. And for months I struggled with how to explain to my Black American-born friends that firstly, even if it was only Mexican people being mistreated at the border — that’s still disgusting and worthy of our outrage. Secondly, that actually isn’t the case because a large number of people being abused by the immigration system are Black AF.

Now a full year later, after Trump has finally been dragged out of the Oval Office, it appears my point has been made on a grand scale, but what it’s taken for everyone to finally acknowledge immigration as a “Black issue” is the lives of thousands of my countrymen.

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20: U.S. Border Patrol agents interact with Haitian immigrants on the bank of the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas on September 20, 2021 as seen from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

As most people reading this now know, droves of Haitians have been turned away at the border this year due to a Trump-era policy knows as Title 42.

As a Haitian-Cuban woman who has spent more time this week sobbing about what’s happening at the border than I would like to admit, it’s been rough for me these past few days to not drown in a sea of despair and simply feel defeated.

But the beauty of this platform is that I have the ability to educate you guys on this topic so that you can not only be more well-armed to discuss this with your communities, but also perhaps find ways to help directly on the ground.

What is Title 42?

First things first, we have to understand a thing before we can take steps to address or dismantle it. So for those of you who aren’t super savvy about politics or who have never even heard of this policy, here’s a very simplified breakdown:

Last year while Trump was mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and costing millions of American lives in the process, his administration came up with a policy called Title 42. Title 42 basically states that immigration authorities can expel migrants crossing the border on sight – without being humane or giving them a chance to apply for asylum – simply by citing that it is due to concerns about spreading COVID-19.

Yes, yes y’all, the same president who pretended the coronavirus didn’t even exist at first, and who later encouraged people not to wear masks, somehow found the audacity to then turn around and suddenly admit COVID-19 was real…. as long as it could be used as a way to turn away Black and Brown immigrants fighting for their lives.

This now means that same blatantly racist immigration department that once made me take an AIDS test in high school (even though I was a virgin at the time with no history of drug use or reckless behavior) just because “You’re Haitian and we need to make sure you don’t have AIDS” – now has an official public health order from the CDC allowing them to be even more racist when they see Black faces attempting to flee to safety.

If you found yourself wondering why those men on horseback felt so comfortable whipping men, women, and children in those horrific pictures we’ve seen from Texas, now you know why. They knew they had the law on their side; Trump-era laws that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris swore they would repeal but still haven’t.

All over social media, I’ve seen memes from people who say they feel like “clowns” for ever voting for Biden given how horribly things are going at the border right now. And while I share their rage, I still find that leap in logic to be dangerous.

Be clear, as bad as things are being handled now, they would have been ten times worse if Trump and his white nationalist cronies were still officially seated at the table. We had to choose between the lesser of two evils. We made the right choice.

It serves no one for us to chip away at the democratic process by pretending like that election wasn’t important.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the COVID-19 response and vaccination program as Vice President Kamala Harris listens in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

So now what?

I’m not gonna mince words, Joe, Kamala, and a lot of other people who we put our faith in last November owe us answers and a solution to this problem, and they owe it to us ASAP.

But in the meantime, there are things we can still do to help from where we are.

Promote visibility

First off, PLEASE post about what’s going on at the border the same way we should all be posting when anything happens to people in the diaspora. Whether it’s Black Lives Matter, End Sars, SOS Cuba, or any of the other causes and hashtags, it costs nothing to take sixty seconds to spread awareness on your feed and bring visibility to the plight of those in our extended communities.

I know “Hashtag Activism” often gets a bad rap for being performative, and yes, on its own it’s often not enough. But it has proven to be a very impactful first step to even getting these issues on people’s radars.

Also, given how public sentiment has now become a currency of its own for elected officials to get re-elected, the heat that comes from these online visibility campaigns actually do push politicians to do the right thing, even if it’s just to save face.

Check on your Haitian friends and colleagues

This one is more personal but just as impactful.

I can’t tell you how much it means to me when my friends check on me whenever something devastating happens in Haiti or Cuba. I come from two island nations that are going through a lot right now. I would be lying if I said it didn’t have an impact on me, even from the safety of my home in Los Angeles.

As Sunny Hostin so beautifully shared this week on The View, those of us with Haitian family members ache when we see those images of our people being dragged and whipped like something from an old slave film. And knowing our American friends and family are open to holding space for us, or at the very least simply acknowledge that pain, really does make a difference.

It’s the same level of compassion I enthusiastically extended to my Asian friends when their community was being attacked and to all the other overlapping and intersecting minority groups I come into contact with.

Don’t underestimate the value of just letting people know you care.

Donate with discernment

We all know that in times like these resources and cold hard cash can go a very long way.

But as we saw years ago when the Red Cross raised over half a billion of dollars for Haitian earthquake relief and only built like six houses with that money while lining the pockets of God knows who – not everyone who says they’re gonna help actually follows through.

So if you find yourself in the position to help out monetarily, I implore you to do some research about who you are giving money to and are clear about how much of that will actually get to those who need it.

I know it may be a pain to take that extra step and it’s a damn shame that we live in a world where people are so shameless about profiting off of tragedy, but unfortunately, that’s where we are right now.

One organization I’ve recently heard good things about is Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR), which was co-founded in 1992 by Ninaj Raoul to respond to the human needs of Haitian refugees and immigrants in the U.S., fleeing persecution.

You can check out a video about her work over the last thirty years here that was done by News 1 when she was highlighted in August as their “New Yorker of the Week”.

The beauty of Raoul and those like her is that they remind us what a big difference one person who actually cares really can make even in times like these. And honestly, sometimes even I need that reminder.

Blue Telusma thegrio.com

Blue Telusma is a Senior Writer and Executive Producer at theGrio, whose viral think pieces have been featured on CNN, HuffPost, Buzzfeed, USA Today, BET, and several other national news outlets. Her work mainly focuses on dissecting pop culture, promoting emotional intelligence, and fostering activism through the arts.

Follow writer Blue Telusma on Instagram or Twitter.

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