Teach-In: La Jornada Por La Justicia

Teach-In: La Jornada Por La Justicia

Plenary II: Latinx Theological Narratives y la Construcción del poder político

What Does Poder Político Look Like in Lo Cotidiano?

My Eight-Minute Contribution

Neomi De Anda, Ph.D.

ACHTUS/University of Dayton

October 12, 2019

Thank you to the Hope Border Institute for your ongoing partnership and inspiration. Ilka, Diego, Edith, Hannah, Dylan, and Marisa, son mis heroes. Thank you to the planning committee for the many hours you have put into make these days together happen. Thank you to all of the local people who open their arms regularly and repeatedly to groups visiting and wanting to know more about the reality of border life. I am an insider/outsider to El Paso. My parents moved me out of here when I was four years old. We moved back when I was thirteen. I spent multiple summers here in the years between. El Paso is the land of my family. Seventeen aunts and uncles as well as over fifty cousins live in this area. I first learned to decorate cakes at Burgess High School, near Cielo Vista mall when I was only five years old. Mi tía Mona took me with her to summer school every day. Her son is now my godson, David. Even as an outsider/insider, El Paso has always been home for me. This time in El Paso is so special to me.

Tia Mona, Tio Galo, and David met Mom and I at the Olive Garden at Cielo Vista mall when I arrived from the airport on Wednesday. Mom drove me by the ofrenda/memorial/altar for the shooting victims and survivors on the ride between the airport and the restaurant. Being home, seeing la Estrella and the mountains, feeling the warmth of the dry dessert air on a sunny day, and witnessing all of the care at the memorial through what LatinoXa theologians call popular religions all embraced me enough to begin to shed tears for a scar which had been open and healed repeatedly throughout my life. Like so many of us in the USA who have been relegated to be less than human – the scar was open on a dreadful day in May when the KKK legally marched in the city of Dayton. The scab had barely begun to form again when it was torn open on August 3, 2019 by a massacre caused by hatred and gun violence based in White Supremacy. The scab has not even begun to form on this wound, but these first few salty tears began to cleanse it. So, thank you to all of you because this event has provided me with a time for an extended visit to hug loved ones, something I had not been able to do after the horrific and terrorizing events of August 3rd.

Logics of domination known as White supremacy, male supremacy, economic supremacy, military supremacy, heterosexist supremacy, land ownership supremacy and supremacy over creation cannot and must not be torn apart when we analyze and work toward change in our social systems. As a theologian who strongly follows in the wisdom of liberation theologians, I believe it is not just the Gospel call but also the force of the Spirit that we work toward social change with a view toward better relationships – un poquito de justicia – every day. Change in our social systems takes many forms when we interweave these logics of domination.

I agree with Ibram Kendi that policy change must be highly important to our work. Then we will create enduring social systemic justice. But, I think we also need to attend to the many places where policy has great limits. We need to attend to the relationships of domination which occur in daily living. How do we treat one another with the utmost care which fully recognizes that Imago Dei - us being created in the image and likeness of a Trinitarian God who is always in overflowing connection? I am purposefully not calling that love because we humans do both wonderful and hurtful things out of love. I am calling it care for the fragility of life. How do we work to create both policies and daily social relationships which hold the care for the fragility of life as their central guide? I pose these questions for us to think through together. I do not have solutions. I will offer a few guideposts for us to ponder these questions a little more:

1. Be more vulnerable with one another – we live with a government and societal culture in the USA which believes force, weaponization, and militarization is a positive answer for attending to social ills. As just one small example, in “Living Undocumented” (I highly recommend this Netflix series and was not paid for that advertisement), an attorney is pushed to the ground by a very muscular ICE agent when she is simply trying to do her job in representing her client. The shove caused a break in her foot and lacerations on her leg. This shoving force by the ICE agent was unnecessary. Later in the documentary, the same lawyer ponders what type of violence those seeking asylum must endure if an ICE agent is willing to use that much force toward an attorney on camera.

Making ourselves more vulnerable to one another with the logic of care for the fragility of life undermines the need for force, weaponization, and militarization. I am a fighter and was taught never to start a physical fight but also not to let myself be beat up. So, my default is actually to fight back with more force. But, as I study the non-violent ways of the Farm Worker and Civil Right movements, while rethinking about the violence inherent in their own systems, I think vulnerability including attending to systems which deweaponize, demilitarize and decriminalize include some ways to move forward.

2. Work toward better relationships every day. “Un poquito de justicia” Mujerista theology calls it. We work toward just a little better relationships every day. We celebrate when we see these small changes. Is it possible for us to choose any component of the logics of domination I named or which you know and I have not named to be a focus for each day to build better relationships? Could we make sure we carry a water bottle instead of using plastic water bottles and Styrofoam cups? Could we carry our own reusable dish set and an extra for someone else for every reunion and fiesta, so we limit the waste? Could we hear just one story a day for a week about someone who has suffered an injustice and think about how that calls for change in my own behaviors?

3. Follow the Catholic teaching of the preferential option - I believe that the Catholic teaching of the preferential option means that those most affected, afflicted, marginalized, and oppressed by social systems understand what is broken about the systems and how to improve them as well as struggle within these systems daily to sustain and even times grow new life. So, I have turned much more to individuals, their stories, and particularities to learn about how to address social systems. Of course that is far more complex than spending an afternoon with someone and thinking I can speak on their behalf or change systems in ways that would improve their flourishing.

4. Be gentle - The mass shootings that happened within hours of each other between two of my homes exacerbated the trauma I felt from systemic violence. I have cried with multiple people since I arrived in El Paso. This city has been ground zero for testing for many government projects. It has received hundreds of thousands of people seeking better lives each year. People have responded with direct aid and given so much at a long-term level. But, we are all living through traumas from systemic violence daily. We are all implicated. We are also all affected. We never know who may be dealing with this trauma to the point of breaking.

5. Dream and share those dreams. Imagine other worlds and work with one another, so we may heal each other toward the existence of these other worlds. So, I share with you today one of my dreams. I imagine a world where we all hold one another with the most care for the extreme fragility of life. I dream of new and different possibilities because my heart has been broken and because my being has scars and still very open wounds. I dream with others toward other possible worlds, a tool taught to me by the indigenous people of Chiapas and their theology, because my heart has been broken by early and unjust death, by an immigration system which keeps people scared when they have risked so much just for a better life, by a government that finds the best solution to be weaponization as a basic right at many levels, and by so much more.

The words esperar and esperanza are very similar and give a way to think about how we keep ourselves moving forward. Esperar is to wait. Esperanza is to have hope. I share my dreams con esperanza of healing. I have hope, but I also know THAT for which we hope does not come right away. There is little instant gratification in the hope of dismantling logics of dominations. We know the process is slow, steady, and requires much patience as we move together.

To learn more about these annual teach-ins offered through the Hope Border Institute visit https://www.hopeborder.org/.