“The time is always right to do what is right.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.
“…This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college…”– Barack Obama
Many present and retired high school principals can testify to that most difficult of moments, when your juniors are in the opening stages of that joyful and exciting exercise of applying to colleges and seeking college scholarships. It is in many ways one of the most redeeming and fulfilling parts of the job. But then you get that news. I can even now envision my SSCHS senior class guidance counselor Ms. Cammarata coming to my office, closing the door and saying: “Mr. Johnson, we need to talk.” That opening phraseology was never a good sign, and bad news was surely about to follow. “One of your favorite babies”; she would continue; “is (and/or the parents are) not in the country legally”. Because we had such a large Caribbean, Caribbean-American student population; in the majority of cases the student(s) in question were African-Caribbean, and not Latino, Asian, etc. (An important point missed by a lot of folks!)
She used the words “favorite babies”; because in every case these were some of my most academically high performing, best behaved, kind, warm and respectful students. They were ironically model US teenage citizens. These were the students we knew we could get some high quality college admissions acceptances and adequate financial scholarship support.
The good news was that Ms. Cammarata and I could always put our heads together and get some free legal assistance for the family, and I could call in for some assistance favors from elected officials. We had a 100% success rate (although it was not always easy), of getting these very deserving young people into college and on the path to citizenship.
And I think back on those days with pride and joy for the education profession that champions children over politics. I guess that is why I was so upset by many of the DACA comments made by (more than a few) Black Americans.
I am seeing some very painful DACA comments on social media. I really hope none of these ‘posters’ are professional educators; because our standard ethical pedagogical responsibility is to educate all students regardless of their residency/citizenship status. Perhaps I am getting too old; but I remember the concept of African-Americans being the soul and conscience of America. Nothing can justify supporting the racist, bigoted and cruel actions of Trump, Sessions, et al. Structural, systemic and institutionalized educational and economic racism are the cause of pervasively high Black unemployment rates; not these young DACA folks. And when did the criteria for taking the right, just and moral position rest on who did, or did not support us on a particular issue? Many of us would have gone for personal wealth and not service a long time ago if that was the criteria! To borrow from the elders of my Brooklyn youth, when I too was a 1st generation Caribbean-American Dreamer: “If you lay down with racist dogs you will get up infected with racist fleas!” And one of my mother’s favorites that has haunted me all of my life: “There is no right way to do wrong!”