I’ve been think a lot about trauma and the experience of Latino youth. What spoke to me most recently was the video of this young girl, Fatima, crying because the U.S. government took her father away from her. It’s clear by their story that her dad is an immense part of her life, a supporter, motivator, protector, provider—everything a good dad is. And now he’s been ripped from her. For what purpose?
I read this story and thought of countless of others that I’ve read of Latino children who live in constant fear and anxiety of this happening to their families. Who hear their parents being called illegal or criminals. Who may feel shame in their parents’ accents or fear that they haven’t assimilated and how that may make them targets. Imagine going to school and trying to learn under that kind of pressure. And make no mistake, this attack on the Latino communities are purposeful. This type of dehumanizing tactics are meant to keep us down and to prevent us from succeeding. Not just to stop us from succeeding, but to beat us into submission.
I know children are resilient and Fatima shows this when she details her plan to finish school, go to college and then become an immigration attorney. But this burden is too much for a 13 year old and it’s our great shame that we weren’t able to stop this from happening. When we read stories like these and hear of other attacks aimed at our youth, we have to act.
The main thing is to remind our community that they are important. That they matter and we are willing to protect them. That means standing up against bad policies that are harming your community and youth of color. How do your local schools participate in the school to prison pipeline? How is the quality of education for students of color as a whole? As community members, and maybe even alumni of the school districts, you have a voice and can participate even if you’re young and child-free. How does the criminal justice system in your area treat youth? What are ways you can step in to mediate?
You should also make yourself known. I am forever a fan of Lebron James for his latest push to encourage young Black kids to pursue professional careers. But kids can’t know what goals they can reach if they don’t see themselves in those roles. Offer to speak at school events, join mentorship programs for young Latinxs students, encourage all the kids in your family to pursue higher Ed. and show them that you did it, so they can do it too.
Finally, we have to address the trauma we experience. Trauma is deep, it’s long-lasting, and it’s inter-generational. Families who are ripped apart don’t experience the impact in a vacuum. We will all feel the sting because we will now have children and families pushed into poverty, forced to leave our communities, or stay with us while having to cope with these tremendous losses. Maybe it’s even happening in your own family. Or maybe you’re running ragged trying to fight against this. It’s so important to acknowledge when we’re not feeling right. To allow ourselves to take a break, and to most importantly, seek out help when we need it.