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Olga SeguraAugust 18, 2017
A counter demonstrator uses a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“Your father got pulled over by I.C.E. agents,” my mother tells me as we wait on the train platform.

My stomach drops. Every day, my worry for my father, a black Dominican immigrant, grows; every day, in 2017, I am more and more afraid for his life.

As a truck driver he spends five to six days a week away from home. He sleeps, eats and, more often than not, bathes in his truck.

He drives mostly throughout the Northeast—Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts are his usual destinations. Sometimes, he will travel as far south as Virginia.

Last week, my father drove near the Canadian border in Rouses Point, N.Y. The road was small, composed of two lanes, and in the middle of it, there were over 15 I.C.E. agents, all armed with rifles. “Do you have people in the trailer of your truck?” agents asked when they pulled him over.

They searched inside his truck, even climbing on top of the trailer. All the while, they hurled questions at him: “Do you have a U.S. passport?” “How long have you been a U.S. citizen?”

Julio Segura, the writer's father
Julio Segura, the writer's father

My father tells me he is fine. As a black immigrant, he has dealt with worse. “It was just humiliating. They treated me as if I didn’t have a right to be here,” he tells me. “When the search was over, they told me I was free to go—as if my freedom was somehow up for debate.”

The same day I learn of this news, white supremacists are marching in Charlottesville.

There are white men carrying Confederate flags. There are no cloaks, no hoods as these men march through Virginia streets. They do not shield their faces. They do not shield their hate.

There are no cloaks, no hoods as these men march through Virginia streets.

There are swastikas sewn onto shirts, on armbands, painted onto signs. There are groups describing themselves as “the face of American fascism,” groups that promote racial segregation. There are white men carrying Tiki torches, chanting phrases like “Jews will not replace us!” Three of them chase, surround and assault a black man, 21-year-old DeAndre Harris, in a parking garage.

Following the events in Charlottesville, state and city leaders across the United States have called for the removal of Confederate monuments. In response, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You...can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”

It is easy for Mr. Trump to pick and choose which parts of our history he remembers. What our president forgets is that these statues and these marches by white supremacists symbolize another integral part of American history and culture: its oppression of black and brown bodies.

Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, served as an F.B.I. agent for over 16 years. During that time he went undercover with white extremist groups. “White supremacy has always been part of our governing culture,” Mr. German told the hosts of the podcast “In the Thick.” From the murders of Native Americans to the enslavement of Africans to our current mass incarceration system, the violence and oppression of people of color has been a part of our history since America’s birth.

Mr. Trump, however, affords only one group, white men, the benefit of the doubt.

Mr. German argues that despite the sensationalization of radical Islamic terrorism we see in mainstream media, white supremacist groups commit more violent crimes a year than any other extremist group in the United States. According to data from the United States Extremist Crime Database, attacks by Islamic extremists have resulted in more overall deaths, but “far-right extremists are in fact more dangerous than jihadists because they are responsible for nearly four times as many events.”

Mr. Trump, however, affords only one group, white men, the benefit of the doubt. This is what entrenched white supremacy in our country looks like. Oppression is having your existence denied daily. It is being seen as a threat by law enforcement when you peacefully assemble and protest in city streets. Oppression is when marginalized groups are beaten down daily and expected to forgive, to love those who denounce their lives and experiences. It is humiliation at the hands of agents appointed by this government to target immigrants. It is arresting and charging a black woman, 22-year-old Takiya Thompson, with a felony charge for taking part in the removal of a Confederate statue in North Carolina while Mr. Harris’ assaulters are still free.

I am tired of worrying about my father, my boyfriend, my friends. This land tells us that black and brown bodies are less than, dangerous, worthless. I am tired of listening to people try to justify ideologies promoted by individuals who want to subjugate the culture and people I know. I am tired of people demanding that black and brown citizens give them the answers, the outline for fixing America’s ingrained oppression.

I am tired of seeing my people break. I am tired of worrying, fearing for our lives.

I am tired.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Vince Killoran
6 years 9 months ago

As much as I admire efforts to make connections and broad ethical statements, this one falls short.

I can read the anger and worry in the author's words about her father's detention by ICE. Still, she leaves much out of he account, e.g., was this the first time ICE has stopped him? Is it possible that ICE really was looking for trucks with weapons, drugs, etc. How should ICE conduct such searches?

The connection to Charlottesville is fuzzy. By & large, I agree with her assessment of President Trump. In terms of last weekend's events, however, do the local police--who took a "hands off" approach to the street fighting (and this was fighting from both sides) bear some of the responsibility? The despicable act by the white supremacist was a tragedy. And it was a crime: I'm glad he was apprehended and is charged with murder. I am grateful for the hard-fought ability we have as citizens to engage in free speech to expose their hate.

Finally, If the Durham statue destruction was meant to be an act of civic disobedience then the perpetrators should take the punishment meted out for their acts. I would be more sympathetic to their statue-toppling if, after exhausting all legal measures to remove it, they took this action. I write this as a well left-of-center citizen who is deeply committed to community organizing: their action was an unproductive exercise in ego renewal (and the WWP's grandiose support for world revolution and defense of North Korea's "people's republic").

Guillermo Galdamez
6 years 9 months ago

Hi Vince,
To succinctly answer your question on how should ICE conduct searches: With respect for the dignity of human life.

More often than not, it seems like many officers default to portraying roughness when carrying out their duties. Interactions with law-enforcement agents end up feeling demeaning to immigrants, people of color and other minorities. This being said, I don't mean that they should somehow rescind some of their responsibilities or sacrifice safety for the sake of being 'nice'. Their job is difficult and important, and I think we are all thankful to them for keeping us safe. But enforcing the law and treating people with dignity are not mutually exclusive. No child of God should be treated as a threat because of the way they look, or the conditions they were born into - and as Catholics we are called to recognize the image of God in all our brothers and sisters.

Vince Killoran
6 years 9 months ago

I agree with everything you write. My question is more focused, i.e, could you point out "best practices," model countries? My argument is that it is time to get very specific. More logos, less pathos.

Richard Bell
6 years 9 months ago

I first read this as an essay and tried to draft a response. I could not find a place to begin.
Then I read this as a cry of pain and found my bearings. I pity Ms Segura and pray that God will give her and her loved ones his peace.

Randal Agostini
6 years 9 months ago

These are inadequate connections to associate this administration or the President with recent acts of violence. He has been very balanced in his remarks, but the left are not satisfied, which is an understatement considering their behavior since the election. When is someone from the left going to come forward to defend the President for how he wants to change the politics so that all will have an equal chance to bite the apple.
The last time ICE and trucks were associated with one another was when a trailer was found to be carrying dead and dying illegal immigrants. To assume that ICE is motivated by something sinister is wrong. They are trying to carry out the law for the benefit of all American citizens and are not even performing to the level of the last administration, who were not held responsible for anything.
The innocent often have to suffer during the execution of the law, but as citizens they also have recourse under the law. It is time to put things in their proper and truthful perspective.

DeKarlos Blackmon
6 years 9 months ago

We must STOP pitting people against people, speaking in terms of the left versus the right, and recognize that Jesus came for all of us. I would imagine if one does not look like me, he/she would not understand what I go through when I am pulled over by law enforcement officers. I do not think that ICE is motivated by something sinister, and I don't think that a comparison to any previous administration is warranted. I don't think the Lord is going to gauge my actions and my response to others by how they act or fail to act. Rather, I think he's going to ask me whether I acted as a true Christian ought. However, to say that the President was balanced in his remarks denies the certain reality of all that was wrong in some of those remarks. GENTLE FRATERNAL CORRECTION, IN LOVE, IS SOMETIMES WARRANTED. Look, this should not be a referendum on any one person, but we need to really stop pitting people against each other. The "'us' and 'them'" does NOTHING to heal or bring about authentic encounter, enabling us to authentically express respect and dignity of each human person.

Deacon Chris Schneider
6 years 9 months ago

think of oneself as a victim enough, one becomes a victim in their mind and nothing else matters... Deepen ones relationship with Jesus and thoughts of Pride just wash away. When we view our "culture" or "color" as something that can be diminished by someone else, we have set ourselves up for a fall... Our identity and image is based upon simply being a Beloved Child of God. All else beyond that simple but profound truth will invite evil to come into our lives...

Woody Pfister
6 years 9 months ago

ICE was doing their job. C'Ville police were prevented from doing their jobs. Illegal aliens are routinely smuggled in truck trailers.A truck driver was just charged with murder for the deaths of Illegals found in trailers. Anger misplaced.

Stanley Kopacz
6 years 9 months ago

If they treated my father that way, I'd be mad as hell. I'd say the writer's anger is placed just right. Is there a "philia" word for love of authoritarianism not directed at one's own group?

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