Among the Caravan

Divide and Conquer

I am an American. I believe that my birth in Boston, almost two decades ago, guarantees that. I grew up both Indian and American, able to explore the intricacies of multicultural duality. The two identities are inseparable and cannot exist independent of the other.

Donald Trump has thrown these long-established axioms of my life into jeopardy. A few days ago, he tweeted his “understanding” of the Constitution — one that allows him to unilaterally repeal the 14th Amendment by executive order. The amendment among other things, safeguards for equal protection under the laws and of birthright citizenship. Given that my parents were not American citizens when I was born, my citizenship in the United States is solely contingent on the fact that I was born on U.S. soil. Provided that the Republican Congress and Supreme Court have thus far failed to protect basic constitutional rights for so many people, how long would it be until they start assenting to outright unconstitutional acts? How long would it be until they retroactively revoke people’s citizenship for the sake of preserving “real America”? These questions tear at the very heart of my existence, threatening to unseam the tenuous connection between my identity’s inherent duality. In effect, Trump’s intentions are asking people like myself to accept that, unless we are derived from “real American” stock, we are not Americans at all. And that proposition is one by which I cannot abide. Were I to dissociate my American life and upbringing from my Indian cultural background, I would be denying the fundamental truths of my world, repudiating everything I know myself to be — too Indian to be purely “American,” and certainly too American to fully Indian.

I am from Lexington, Massachusetts, where thousands of children have similar stories to mine. We are a diverse community of native-born Americans and immigrants — legal and undocumented alike. We are taught that we are Americans as well as keepers of our ancestral cultures existing in multicultural duality. Such an executive order is eerily reminiscent of another demagogue many decades ago who used the stripping of citizenship to justify oppression and state-sponsored terrorism against those deemed to be outside the nation’s populace. People say that the situation won’t get that bad, that we have systems in place that will keep such heinous acts from being repeated. But I always ask myself, do we really? We are one 5–4 Supreme Court decision away from such breaches of basic constitutional rights — denying citizenship as a pathway to even greater inhumanity.

Considering that partisan hack and “originalist” “justice” Brett Kavanaugh has been seated to ensure the rubber-stamping of the Trumpist agenda, I fear that my world and the worlds of innumerable others are under threat. It is clear that the president sees immigrants, particularly from non white-majority countries, as a threat to the whiteness of his imagined America. The accentuation of the word “caravan” within his speech at any of his unhinged rallies makes this clear. To his followers who share the same repulsive worldview, hordes of swarthy immigrants are streaming towards America, ready to stain and sully the purity of its long-guarded whiteness. Trump’s acolytes in government have agreed. Iowa congressman and white supremacist, Steve King, went as far to declare that “Culture and demographics are destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies.”

Do I count as someone else’s baby?

If the majority of America agrees with Trump’s view on immigration and birthright citizenship, then I somehow do. If that is true, then is my entire existence, predicated on the duality of my two cultural backgrounds, a lie? And if my identity is a lie, how am I supposed to navigate the white power structure determined to erase it? I am sure countless other people of multicultural backgrounds are asking themselves similar questions. But for now, the only remedy available to us is to reassert our heritages’ place in American society at the ballot box. Vote.

Among the Caravan was originally published in The Yale Herald on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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