Call Them by Thier Names


Suzanne and I sat and listened to Francisco Cantu, the author of The Line Becomes A River, talk about why after four years as a Border Patrol agent, he left that position. Many times he used the word violence to describe the experience of the work on the border.

Yesterday, as I was driving, I heard a segment of an NPR story regarding the shooting of Stephan Clarke by two California police officers. The reporter commented how the crowd listening to the District Attorney, started chanting “Say his name” while she announced that the two officers would not be charged in his death.

The two incidents made me consider how this country (along with many others) has found a means to demonize, dehumanize and dismiss others. We have come to understand that “They” become nonexistent if we refuse to use their names, or if we simply create a demeaning name for them. In World War II, the Japanese became “Nips” and the Germans became “Krauts.” In Vietnam, our enemy became “Gooks.” In Iraq, those we fight are “Towel Heads” And here in this country the N-word works just fine for African-Americans and “Wetback” seems to very well describe our neighbors that come from south of our border.We don’t have to know the names of those we decide to hate. It’s far easier to refer to them as rapists, murderers, gang members, aliens – pick your other favorite acid filled word. Just make sure it gives no allowance for them actually being human or that they are some person’s son, daughter, mother or father. Never allow that they too have the capacity to love. When we become adept at creating fear, there’s no need to know names.

ABC News has stated that at least 260 men, women, and children died trying to cross the US southern border in 2018. Each one of those people had a name. Each one of those people was loved by someone. Each one of those people is dead and somewhere a family member mourns. We cannot know their names like we know the name of Stephan Clarke. But we can and we do know that they were human beings. We know that no matter their reasons for attempting to enter this country ( and yes, attempting to enter illegally in most cases) The were human beings. No matter our political leanings, we can know them as people. It does not diminish our political strength or our power, to be compassionate. We are a better people and a better country when we realize that we are far more alike as a species than we are different.

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” Jackie Robinson

Go well, David