MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2018
Runaway Slaves at the Mason-Dixon line and current Immigrants in Tijuana
I’m trying very hard to guard my heart and the floodgate of emotions and sensitivities that are pouring out as I watch our brothers and sisters huddled together at the United States border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. Listening to many news anchors, I am shocked to hear a vitriol of hatred and disguised bias emanating from a “so-called” concern about our nation’s laws. Someone on the news argued, “They don’t care about our laws. They are sitting on a wall that we have to maintain.” And it suddenly occurred to me that the man talking, is not speaking for me. Nor is he speaking for hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, millions and hundreds of millions of other Americans. He is articulating a historical narrative that is precisely the same as the one white slave owners and slave “hunters” spoke when racing after my ancestors who were escaping from the subjugation and slavery.
While it may be difficult to take in, half of America did not believe those from the African Diaspora who were brought to the United States as slaves, had a right to independence and freedom. This half of America was angry and outraged that my ancestors would dare seek to escape slavery in the south and make their way to freedom, guided by the North Star. This half of America believed the runaway slaves were breaking the laws of the land. They were interrupting the culture of the nation. They were tearing the very fabric of the country apart. All these responses were from half of America. Now, all the people who felt this way and shared such views are dead. But in 2018, we see their seed (not necessarily biological, rather ideological and mental) firmly entrenched in positions of power and sharing the same views. This time, their target happens to be brown-skinned immigrants who have made their journey to the border wall of our nation. Some have traveled as far as 3,000 miles. No doubt, many of them traveling by night may have followed that same northern star that led my ancestors to freedom in northern states and Canada.
My heart is filled to the brim with emotions. Because in my mind’s eye, what I see in Tijuana today are those Negro slaves who escaped the inhumane and brutal injustices of a society that supported slavery, and a land that produced laws to support the evil ways of man’s inhumanity to man. I see my ancestors there; men and women leaving a land and area that has denied their humanity, denigrated their personhood, subjugated their value and demeaned the very fact that they are amazingly, fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. I see boys and girls who have been led by loving parents towards the promise of a better life and the hope for a better future. I see older people who have left behind painful memories in hopes of finding brighter days.
I am convinced that a great many Americans have lost connection with their own souls. But I am also convinced that many Americans were never connected to their souls in the first place. To view such suffering and the promise of hope all at the same time, and to turn one’s back and argue about “laws”, is just like supporting slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation. So then, it appears that we may need a new Underground Railroad. We need some conductors on the line who are willing to do for today’s suffering and disenfranchised people trying to enter the “land of hope and promise”, what was done for my ancestors prior to 1863. There are laws. And then there are unjust laws. To hell with unjust laws. There is another half of America. Not former slave owners, but former slaves. Not former slave catchers, but former Underground Railroad conductors. Not those whose hatred for anything other than themselves would keep human beings from beginning new lives, but those whose hearts are open to a God who says, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears and opens the door, I will come in and fellowship.” Dammit, open the door.