I've been thinking a lot about May 1st. It makes me so angry it's hard to think. But I've tried. It's difficult for me to believe that there is even one person out there who doesn't understand that undocumented workers in the United States keep our economy going. And have since the beginning of our short time as a country.
In picking one subgroup, Mexicans, Latin Americans and Chicanos, I came up with these questions to raise awareness:
Have you ever drank Californian wine? Eaten at a restaurant? Thought cheffing was a glamorous profession? Considered what chemicals were used to grow your food? Noticed how clean your local eating establishment was? Been proud of someone who had beaten their personal odds and "made something of themselves" ? Eaten a burrito? Drank orange juice? Eaten at Taco Bell? Cleaned the school your children go to?
Have you ever rented an apartment or bought a house in "an up and coming neighborhood" ? Went to Mexico on vacation? Made guacamole? Enjoyed strawberry shortcake? Washed dishes for a living? Bussed tables for a living? Worked two jobs a day?
Have you ever showed up to work every day no matter what? No matter how boring and repetitive your daily tasks were?
Have you ever done your own landscaping? Cleaned your own 8 room house? 3 room house? Have you ever eaten chocolate? Artichokes? Cherries? Used vanilla extract? Have you ever worked the graveyard shift cleaning professional kitchens? Have you ever hired caterers? Tree trimmers? Bought silk flowers? Used cocaine?
Have you ever built your own house? Picked grapes in 100F weather? Grafted grape vines? Thinned orchards?
Have you ever had to learn how to read and speak three languages on the job that your whole family's life depended on?
Do you pay for your house-cleaner's health insurance? Add to their Social Security? Do you speak any Spanish? Have you ever personally advocated for any one else's rights but your own? Have you ever asked an undocumented person about their journey here? Ask them who they left behind? Where the money that person gets from working 2 jobs 7 days a week goes?
Have you ever hired someones cousin/uncle/brother-in-law without question because that person had to go "home" and didn't know when they'd be able to get back?
Name me an industry which has not been built on the backs of America's newest sub-class.
Want to do something to support the people marching for their lives, for respect, for affirmation of their grand contribution to society?
Approach all the businesses you know who rely heavily on Mexican, Latin American and Chicano work forces. Restaurants are the easiest target. So are janitorial companies. Factories.
Tell them that, in support of the National May 1st action and protest you would like to work for free so that one or all of their workers can leave to join in the protest without threat of losing their job.
Standing in the street and protesting is a privilege so many of us have we forget that the "people" we are standing there for might never be able to personally effect their own change freely and without repercussion.
Ask the local businesses you use if they are allowing their workers to leave and march on May 1st without threat of termination. Support businesses who are allowing their workers to actively protest on May 1st. Continue to support these businesses, verbally acknowledging that you are supporting them for this reason.
Vote with your dollars. Either do not spend them on May 1st or spend them where businesses are allowing their Immigrant workers to protest.
On May 1st I will be working in the kitchen of Poulet on Virginia and Shattuck avenue in Berkeley, California. We will be open with a limited menu. We are allowing all of our Latin American workers the day off to protest. We will post a sign in the window letting everyone know these facts. We will be working harder than usual but we are not going to try and pretend that we could always do it without them.
I look forward to hearing what active activism you've thought to do on May 1st. How you are going to effect change with your own awareness, your own anger.