On The Southern Border

Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Credit: Adrees Latif/Reuters

There are asylum seekers fleeing violence, dying trying to get to our border. And they’re dying trying to cross our border to claim asylum, and they’re dying when they do successfully cross and are placed in camps along our southern border. Camps that concentrate and confine these immigrant populations, including a large and growing number of children, in harsh conditions. They’ve come to us fleeing intolerable conditions, many of them farmers, many of them families and/or unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and other Central American countries. Many of them are children. In 2012, apprehended immigrants at the U.S.’s southern border were composed of about 10% children or families with children. Currently that number is north of 60%.

As the U.S. dramatically cuts down on the cap of the number of asylum seekers admitted per year and creates policies that make the process itself less humane and more difficult to navigate, global displacement is at record highs according to the UN Refugee Agency. 70.8 million people have been displaced from their home. Asylum claims in the United States have jumped dramatically over the last two years despite the anti-refugee rhetoric from various quarters of the country. Most of them are coming to us because there is economic and political instability in their countries of origin. There are also ongoing severe droughts in many areas. These cause food shortages and many related insecurities that contribute to the political and economic instability in the region. And, when there is economic instability and unrest, there is a rise in the rates of violence. So, these people did the only thing they could do: risk everything, their own lives, everything they’ve known, everything familiar to them, and sought out safety and asylum—a better life.

While the agricultural situation isn’t the only reason for this rise in migration to our southern border, it certianly plays an important role. The rain isn’t falling. Amazing how something so seemingly simple can cause such dramatic change. Something we take for granted suddenly just… stops. In the early part of the 20th century our own country experienced profound, massive droughts, a farming crisis, and an ensuing mass migration of the desperate, poor, and scared towards somewhere else, anywhere else, where hope still resides. And now these farmers are compelled by the same exigency. They fled the dry fields and then gang violence. They came to us to ask us for help. It makes me think of Emma Lazarus’s words inscribed at the base of the “Mother of Exiles,” and how those words still embody a vision of America that has circulated far and wide around the world:

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Credit: John Moore/Getty Images

And these asylum-seekers have looked to us and said, “I am suffering a tremendous amount of pain. All seems lost. I worry for my children. I am indeed tired and poor. And I was hoping you could help.”

They look to us, hard as it must be, and say, “I believe that the USA will protect those that have no protection, that yearn to breathe free. That you’ll shield those with no cover, those with no home, and I was hoping you could help.”

And when they look to us, with sadness, and say, "I am scared for my family. We don't know what to do, so we came to your light, to your door," I can’t help but think of Lazarus, of the history of human rights in this country, and about that fundamental commitment to help those in need because humans are valuable intrinsically and that value cannot be taken or given away. It is inalienable.

American history, for all of its blights and sins, has always found in its own national foundation a profound and universal belief in humanity. Attempting to live up to those ideals, to hold ourselves and the government to account, unevenly and imperfectly as we have, is more or less the history of social progress in this country. And, because we believe it, collectively, because it’s at the heart of our national ideals, they’ve come to us. Families. Mothers with their children.

And increasingly, tragically, just children. Walking, heading north, seeking help buoyed only by their own skinny legs and the strength of a distant mother’s love. Risking starvation, sexual abuse, murder, and other forms of violence, because this was the only way out they could see: the only glimmer of light in a storm-darkened sky.

We have been silent witnesses of evil deeds: we have been drenched by many storms; we have learnt the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and even made us cynical. Are we still of any use?
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It can sometimes feel like few of us believe in anything other than the exigency of our own day-to-day life. The pressing and unrelenting tasks, pressures, and obligations of our work-a-day existence can feel like far more than can be done in a given 24 hours, let alone worrying about the refugees at the southern border. And they’re often far away from us, and what can we do anyway? How much does this really effect me? And, of course, this brings to mind the philosophical problem of empathy at a removal from the actual scenes of these conditions. The children and family are somewhere else. These aren’t people I know. If a child was suffering right in front of me, I would help. But these are just news stories. That is, abstractions. Or, in Singer’s formulation, while we recognize the morality of preventing bad things from happening to people without “sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance,” i.e., when weighing the cost of getting my clothes wet to save a drowning child, few if anyone would say the sacrifice on my part is too great. Most everyone would say I’m compelled, indeed, that it’s my responsibility to sacrifice my wet clothes to save the child’s life. But, as Singer points out, the preventable death of a child at a remove of distance, of proximity, of categorization, despite a still minor individual cost, becomes somehow easier to countenance.

I think of my own daughter in times like this. She’s about as old as the young boy who drowned recently, arm around his dead father, while trying to cross a river into the U.S. to seek asylum as the mother/wife looked on. I think about my daughter, and my wife, and myself. I work backwards mentally. What would have brought me so far, to risk so much? I look at the sacrifices these mothers, fathers, and children are making, and I ask myself how desperate the situation would need to be for me to do the same. And if I was in a desperate situation like that, how far would I walk? How much would I risk to give my daughter a better tomorrow? My life, certainly. The hardest question is, how desperate would the circumstances have to become where I would have to ask my daughter to potentially sacrifice her own life: innocent, unknowing, and scared.

How desperate would things need to be that I would look at her, and know that she may die because of what I’m going to ask her to do, what we’re going to try to do, and say, “This is the only way. This is the only hope. We need help, and they will help us. I am sorry this has to happen, and I hope, with all desperation, that we make it. But we have to do this, honey, I’ve tried to think of any other way, and there isn’t one. So I need you to be strong, and I need you to be focused, and I need you to trust me, and if you lose faith in me, I need you to trust them. They will help us. And I need you to start walking. And if I don’t make it, I hope you and mom do. And if mom and me don’t make it, I hope you do. And if you don’t make it, I’m so sorry, I did everything I could do.”

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.
— Maya Angelou

When I was a child, I was picked on a lot. In one of those instances, when I was in junior high, there was a pack of about five boys that had made clear they were going to beat me up. And, after school, they stalked me on my walk home, finally catching me as I tried to sneak through yards, jump fences. Running, hiding, evading. I did everything I could do to avoid being caught, but, I was young and small. They were older and bigger than me. When they caught me, I thought they might kill me, I didn't know. You don’t really know what will happen when you’re that old in that sort of a situation. You’re just scared, alone, and unsure.

After they caught me, they threw me around in someone’s yard. Every time I would stand up, they would shove me, trip me, knock me to the ground. When I was on the ground, they would spit on me and kick me. As I was going through this, after being knocked down for the fifth or sixth time, I remember this moment when a minivan pulled up. Everyone looked to the car, and we all felt differently about it, I’m sure. But, I think we were all thinking the same thing: an adult is here. The boys no doubt thought they were about to get in trouble, and I thought I was going to be saved.

The back door of the minivan slid open, a boy jumped out and came running over to help kick me, and, as I watched between the legs of the now-laughing boys, the door slid closed, and I can still remember the sound of the minivan being put into gear. The sound of the tires crunching on the sand and debris in the road as they drove off. That little boy ran up to me like he was late for soccer practice and joined right in. This went on for maybe 20 minutes. After they’d stopped, a woman came out from her house and told everyone to leave. The boys left. And I remember the woman looked at me, and I could tell she almost said something, but then she just closed her mouth and walked back inside. The kids lazily strode down the street. And I just sat there, bloodied and snotty and tearful, and I picked up my things, put myself back together as best I could, and I walked home.

It’s hard for me to think about my mother’s face when I got home. At first I just tried not to talk about it, then I tried to lie about it, then I tried to tell a version that was less sad, less embarrassing—for me, for everyone in involved. But, finally, it all came blubbering out. And my mom’s anger, sadness, and especially her sense of betrayal when I told her makes more sense to me now. I’m sure then I thought she was sad for me (which she was) and mad at those boys (which she was). But I realize now that she also felt betrayed by knowing that two adults in our community saw a child laying on the ground, dirty and in need of care, and turned their backs.

And I think of all that now, because I think about the families, especially the children, trying to get to us so we can help them, only to be held in government facilities in inhumane conditions. Putting aside the conditions that cause these displacements, the metering policies, the asylum caps, and the political rhetoric, once asylum seekers or anyone else is within our custody, under our protection, providing humane conditions is the least we can do. And I’m not trying to say that doesn’t “cost” us something. Indeed, we may get our clothes wet, or worse. And it may not seem “fair” to us that we are under this obligation to help, that we have these ideals that mean we take care of those who reach us regardless of how they get here, why they’ve come. Principles like valuing all human life, principles that require us to do the right thing despite it not seeming “fair” can induce knee-jerk reactions that don’t speak with the voice of our better angels. Because they’re far away, they’re not “us,” they’re an abstraction, it’s easy to focus on the broad features of immigration policy or the asylum process instead of the individual human lives being affected. Indeed, small children are being locked up without adequate food, supervision, medical care, or things as basic as soap, toothpaste, or a clean diaper. Little kids are taking care of littler kids. And much of this is justified by sometimes implied and sometimes overt reference to the fact that the way they got here isn’t “fair,” isn’t through legitimate avenues. Nevertheless, when our own Justice Department goes to the Ninth Circuit Court and is asked, “[the] common understanding [is] that if you don’t have a toothbrush, you don’t have soap, you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary. Wouldn’t everybody agree to that? Do you agree to that?” the response from our Justice Department attorney seemed a lot more like going back inside and closing the door on a child in need than it did justice.

We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer
— Dietrich Boenhoffer

Sarah B. Fabian, representing the DOJ before the Ninth Circuit, replied, after dissembling, that, no, in fact, “those things aren’t required.” She notes that children aren’t intended to be held in these facilities for the long term, so in such short-term cases, diapers, toothpaste, soap, and blankets are not required. But, as the judges point out, this is not the case. Children have been held for extremely long periods of time in these facilities, and, in one reported instance, hadn’t had a clean diaper in two weeks. The conditions are bad, “appalling” according to the UN, according to independent journalists, and according to the Trump administration’s own Department of Homeland Security. So while Fabian may be arguing an interpretation of the terms of the agreement that was being examined during this court case, it doesn’t apply to the actual conditions being experienced. After being further questioned by the judges on the baseline definition for “safe and sanitary,” Fabian concludes her argumentation by stating unequivocally that “safe and sanitary” doesn’t have “independent meaning” and is, therefore, unenforceable. And all I can hear is the slow crunching of sand crushed between rubber tires and asphalt as that van rolled away.

We have to treat people who come to us for help better. There is a crisis at the southern border, that is unquestionable. And refugee crises are occurring all over the world. Estimates about the effects of enduring climate change on human displacement is staggering and heart breaking and indicates this will continue to get worse, not better. We need to pull our attention and resources into sorting out this situation, but we need to remember not to give up on our fellow human beings, inside our borders and beyond. This is a moral outrage, but the outrage is not loud enough, and it’s not being wedded to a clear moral outrage at actions done by a government that is itself anchored to the moral framework from which it derives its authority and very existence. We’re better than this based on our own self-description. Human rights are something deeply entrenched in American identity, and recognizing the responsibility that comes along with that critical belief is fundamental to understanding the ideals to and for which Lazarus penned her poem. And no one said doing the right thing will always be easy, that it will cost nothing. If being good, doing right, was always reflective of self-interest, it wouldn’t require sacrifice. But that’s rarely how these thing work. Nevertheless, if we’re all created equal, if we believe in human rights, if we want to be a beacon of hope for the world, then when people sacrifice everything they have to come to us, carried only by the hope of our aid and the fear of watching their family die, we need to meet them there and honor our obligation. They’ve done the hard work of getting to us, so we need to do the hard work of figuring out how we can help them. And while we’re trying to figure that out, we need to treat them like human beings. Human beings that have suffered and came to us running. They need to endure less suffering, less fear, less violence when they get here. That’s not too much to ask. It’s never too much to ask that we not turn our backs on children, on suffering people desperate and in need.

Most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
— Hannah Arendt

So, what can you do? Educate yourself on the topic. Regardless of political orientation, I think anyone who looks into the effect of our policies on conditions for vulnerable children will recognize that something needs to change. Talk to people about it. Help educate others. And really talk to other people about it. Listen to them, but focus on the moral dimensions of treating children this way when they are asking for our help and not only the broad, abstract features of “policy,” “immigration,” “migrants,” and/or “refugees.” Contact your local reps, congress, your mayor, and/or your governor and voice your concerns. Vote your conscience, identify candidates in your region that support these inhumane conditions for families and children and seek a better candidate. Donate to an organization that is on the ground doing work to fix these conditions. The ACLU, Immigrant Justice Corps, and Immigrant Families Together are “coordinating services at a national level” according to this NYT article, which also has a list of local organizations and other suggestions for things you can do to help.

"Just a Kid”: On Race, Youth, and Forgiveness.

The now infamous image of two cultural symbols interacting and spreading media reactions like wildfire.

Let me start this post by saying this: the Covington kids are minors. If you were on your “live in a hole and hope that when I emerge the world will be a better place” sabbatical, you may have missed the media frenzy following a group of high school students and their encounter with an Indigenous elder last week. This event has been cast and recast, seen through “left” and “right” commentary, at least three different video perspectives, and the shifting and changing opinions of those in the commentariat who have variously cast this as a distillation of all that’s wrong with America, all that’s wrong with the media, or all that’s wrong with polarized discourse. And, I suppose, in many ways it is a commentary on all of that. Certainly the picture of the Native elder, Nathan Phillips, and one of the high schoolers, Nick Sandmann, has entered into the realm of the symbolic. These are no longer human actors in much of the commentary surrounding this event, but symbols for a wide variety of ideological points of view. But, it is a man, a Native elder. And, again, they ARE kids. But this claim, neatly distilled down to the “just a kid” defense, is what I would like to talk about.

This aspect of the role of “youth” in assessing behavior is an important consideration here I think, but let me get to that in a second. With the benefit of time having elapsed and a wider sense of the story having emerged, I think it’s important for commentary on this issue not to view the incident with an uncritical gaze. The wider context of the event seems to be more complicated than only the encounter with Nathan Phillips. In fact, I won’t really be discussing that aspect much. While I think the behavior of the Covington students was both rude and disrespectful, and I think the defense of the behavior is often extremely passive-aggressive ("He wasn't doing anything but smiling, what are you talking about?"), I think it's material to note that the Black Hebrew Israelites had engaged with these students prior to the event in question. The BHI called the students, and please pardon my language here, "faggots," "incest babies," "dogs," "crackers," and told them they would one day have their organs harvested. Now, that absolutely does not justify the Covington students’ behavior, but it does give a sense of context in terms of the atmosphere of the event before Phillips walked up to the students -- which is to say, very confrontational. Nevertheless, to be sure, between the Covington school kids (who are also on video prior to the event in question harassing two girls as they walked by, so their behavior is suspect in a broader context regardless) and the BHI group (who have a long history in the DC area of violent, egregious, and confrontational rhetoric of the sort they deployed here), there are no heroes.

To be sure, between the Covington school kids and the Black Hebrew Israelites, there are no heroes.

So, to the substance of my post: just as a gut feeling, I would imagine that "they're just a kid" is supplied by parents as an excuse for the poor behavior of children across race, class, and gender, although likely not equally. Some of that undoubtedly comes down to parenting, which is an important consideration here, but one which I won't be taking up directly. The problem that arises, however, is when we consider whether or not that excuse is considered exculpatory for behavior. That does have a racial component: It is indisputable that black and brown minors are tried as adults at significantly higher rates than white minors. This racialization of carcerality is also clearly reflected in the demographics of inmate populations more broadly, which skew heavily towards people of color. This is an issue of structural inequality. Which is to say, this isn't simply a problem of the judicial system, or the law enforcement arm of the state -- though these are two of the issues within the problematic structure -- but a wider societal problem with innumerable inputs and outputs ranging from media influence and coverage to legacies of oppression and their material manifestations in the form of urban planning, discriminatory behavior and policies, and economics. And, specifically, how those multiple and interrelated factors affect the treatment and regard of racialized bodies regardless of age.

It is indisputable that black and brown minors are tried as adults at significantly higher rates than white minors.

To emphasize that broader point, we might look to the legal system's treatment of minors, however the analogy isn't perfect here because we are necessarily talking about criminal acts instead of disagreeable behavior. Nevertheless, witness the case of Cory Batey, a black Vanderbilt student who was accused of raping an unconscious woman. He was convicted when he was 19 years old and sentenced to a mandatory 15-25 year sentence. Brock Turner, the white Stanford student who was accused and convicted of a similar crime, received six months and served three, a sentence so shocking that the judge was recalled by voters shortly thereafter. While there are compelling differences between the cases, none of them seem to merit the disparate legal sentences which were applied, and we see this trend repeated over and over again in broader sentencing: in comparable cases, a black man is, on average, sentenced to a 20% longer sentence than a white man. More to the substance here is that a form of the "just a kid" defense was mobilized in defense of Brock Turner by his father, who said "This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life." This is, of course, appalling to the point of absurdity. And no such bizarre defense was attempted in Batey's case to my knowledge.

What that indicates to me is that white minors seem to be excused (or attempt to be excused) for more behavior on the basis of their youth while minors of color are more prone to be held to a higher standard -- more or less the expectations of adult behavior. This is patently unfair, not because white minors aren't held to the expectations of an adult too, but because so often brown and black youth are. And it seems to play out in the media in innumerable ways through both the characterization of what "youth" means for society as falling more in line with the experiences of a white minor vs a minor of color, and reams could be written on the subject of how we characterize “normal” youth experience and behavior. But this is also perpetuated in sometimes much more obvious ways such as the selection of photographs to represent raced youth in media coverage, all of which has received fairly robust study in both popular and academic treatment.

We should try to hold all children to the same standard which has an emphasis on the possibility for forgiveness, the need for education around the behavior, and empathy and understanding without simply absolving all responsibility.

That said, I do think that, especially for less egregious, non-criminal behavior, we should try to hold all children to the same standard which has an emphasis on the possibility for forgiveness, the need for education around the behavior, and empathy and understanding without simply absolving all responsibility. That is also likely how we should treat all humans, but the case for the particular application of this approach with youth is merited in my opinion. As a society, we don't necessarily "give a pass" to youthful behavior, however we do treat it differently, and there are compelling reasons for that. Some of them are biological: studies suggest the prefrontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that modulates and inhibits inappropriate behavior, is not fully formed until, in some cases, as late as 20 years of age. In addition to that, the brain's capacity to actualize long-term consequences is also still forming. In fact, you can draw a compelling correlation to the rise and fall of crime rates based on the size and distribution of people between the ages of 15-24; that is, the more people between those ages in a given region, the higher the rates of crime. So deviant, delinquent, inappropriate, or criminal behavior has a fairly strong correlation to youth (Elliott, Huizinga & Morse; Rowe & Tittle; Steffensmeier & Harer; Hirschi & Gottfredson; and Kanazawa & Still). Finally (but not exhaustively), as a society we understand that youth is also a time of learning, and learning requires making mistakes. We're learning behaviors, ideas, and identities. 


To wit, trying things on, taking them off, experimenting, playing with rules, and questioning fundamental principles are all natural and critical parts of youth. As such, in our more reasonable moments, society grants tremendous leniency and empathy for minors for these general reasons. And I think that is good and just. If we punish, vilify, and hold accountable youthful behaviors as we would an adult, we inhibit the free play and experimentation of youth, and we also hold them to an impossible standard. Which is to say, we apply societal disciplinary and punishment forces which have long-lasting consequences to those most vulnerable to those effects. Now, obviously what I'm arguing here is that this should be the universal standard, so the problem arises when some youth, based on racial ideology, are not seen through this lens but are instead considered pre-criminal or, in many cases, adults by virtue of their race. The trend I mentioned earlier regarding minors of color being tried as adults more frequently than white minors is obviously a disturbing and dramatically unjust application of the above sentiment. 

Nevertheless, I don't think it makes the world a more just or equitable place to match vindictiveness with vindictiveness. While it may have the feel of justice, what it ends up doing is applying a shitty standard to a larger group of people. We ought to be thinking about how we can create structural change that inhibits this sort of behavior in the first place, and this seems to be a matter of education and parenting (but I repeat myself), and we should endeavor to create a world where all youth, regardless of color, are in a space of empathy, understanding, and, when appropriate and possible, absolution for poor decisions. In the same way that the answer to the inequitable carceral state isn't to arrest more people, I don't think the answer to the lack of mercy for minors of color is to be less merciful to all minors.

Grant the Covington kids some leniency based on their youth as you would any young person who made poor choices, but don’t selectively and inequitably apply this empathetic and gentle stance only with those youth who come to us with a privileged complexion. 

So, in the final analysis, I think that treating the Covington kids’ behavior as rude and disrespectful is reasonable, and as I mentioned at the outset, this behavior was occurring prior to the event in question, but I don't think they should be vilified. I think they should be educated and, if the parties affected are able and willing, forgiven. To that end, and in this particular case, Phillips has already expressed that he has “forgiveness in his heart for those students,” which is deeply touching, admirable, and in line with what I am arguing here. So, indeed, they are "just kids," and I think it’s incredible important that everyone remember this sentiment the next time it is black or brown kids in the media crosshair. Calling attention to the fact that there is a desire by some people to consider the actions of the Covington kids in the permissive light of youth speaks with the voice of our better angels, but make no mistake: what also absolutely must be highlighted and emphasized is, while they should be given more leniency in the public eye because they are young, this is not always the universal application of this social sentiment, the racial disparity between how we treat youthful behavior is pernicious and broadly manifested, and the media is culpable in perpetuating this unequal treatment but can also be a valuable tool in correcting it. Please, grant the Covington kids some leniency based on their youth just as you would any other kids who made poor choices, but don't selectively and inequitably apply this gentle understanding only to those youth who come to us with a privileged complexion. 

Losing the Voices of the Lost

Annita Lucchessi, a doctoral student at University of Lethbridge, has begun work compiling a database of Native women that have gone missing. 

It is a profoundly sad statistical reality that indigenous women report much higher rates of  sexual violence during their lives from the US Department of Justice -- a rate of 1 in 3 indigenous women versus 1 in 6, and both of those numbers are considered fairly low-ball figures by other organizations. The statistics regarding sexual violence against women are staggering at any degree. However, as the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence reports:

Of women who are raped in their lifetime: 17.9% are Caucasian, 11.9% are Latina, 18.8% are African-American, 34.1% are American Indian or Alaskan Native, and 6.8% are Asian or Pacific Islander. 24.4% are mixed race.
— https://endsexualviolencect.org/resources/get-the-facts/woc-stats/

The difference in degree is staggering. Some of my work involves recovering the languages of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Sahnish that are facing the threat of extinction; not necessarily extinction in a linguistic archival sense, but in the mobilized, regular use of the language which characterizes living language as such. This issue of language loss is one that deserves its own post, coming in the near future, but as I sat today thinking about the idea of what it means to lose our indigenous voices, I was re-reading and thinking about these stories and statistics regarding a more literal loss of voice, one which seems to intersect in so many ways with the complex factors which have led to the loss of indigenous languages. I was thinking about the ways the disappearance and violence committed against Native women seems to highlight some sort of racial/ethnic preference. About the effect of the unique status of tribal-national spaces in the form of the reservation system in the USA as a ripe and easily abused situation for "rape tourism." Of the incidence of intimate-partner violence for Native women both on- and off-reservation, and, of course, the history of colonialism and attempted genocide; the rates of drug and alcohol abuse; the poverty within Native communities. And on, and on. Ever tearfully on.

Part of what I find so tragic about these numbers is that it shows a clear and continued targeting of Native women for various forms of violence, and the trend has a long history. Lucchessi's database is the first of its kind to truly attempt to catalog indigenous women whom have gone missing on a broader, unified scale and put them into a single database. This has been a slow and tedious effort involving tirelessly submitting public records requests. As the NPR story also emphasizes, Lucchessi has documented more than 2,000 cases so far -- most of which are from the last 20 years. And, as Lucchessi notes:

“And really, it’s not just data,” she says. “That’s someone’s relative that’s collecting dust somewhere and no one is being held accountable to remember or honor the violence that was perpetrated against her.”
— https://www.npr.org/2018/07/21/627567789/doctoral-student-compiles-database-of-indigenous-women-who-ve-gone-missing

It should go without saying that this sort of work is incredibly valuable, and yet I would still emphasize that this should be considered part of the larger project of amplification and presencing of the lived experiences of Tribal nations and people because, even with figures so staggering, this sort of violence seems to often fly under the radar. Which is to say, it doesn't actually go without saying. It is often simply not said or heard. Lucchessi's work is about the recovery of voices lost, and it needs to be amplified and talked about. In a moment when the appallingly wide-spread acts of violence and sexual aggression against women are finally being shown the light of day, there should be enough allies and supporters that can help signal boost the plight of indigenous women in the Americas. There are similar difficulties in that there is no single cause to the problem(s), and, as a result, no easy answer. 

It seems to me that the problem is extremely complicated, difficult, and fraught with multiple poles of cause and effect, but the best way to approach these sorts of complexities is to seek out friends, allies, and those with an open mind who are willing to talk about it, and begin a serious and critical conversation about how we got here and how we can make it better going forward.

This issue demands much more time, space, and attention than this post has given it, but it is, without a doubt, the least we can do for the missing or damaged voices of our mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters. We must keep starting (or re-starting) the flames of the conversation and continue to stoke those flames until justice, resolution, and change can occur.