An Open Letter to Senator Tim Scott

Dear Senator Scott,

I watched your political commercials during the recent campaign, talking about how far you had come as a sharecropper’s son to the U.S. Senate.  I’m sure you did your family proud.  But did you know that in the Union states during the War of the Rebellion (that’s what they called it), there was a lot of support for sending your ancestors back to Africa? Even President Lincoln thought for some time that blacks and whites could not peacefully co-exist after all that history, and perhaps returning them to their continent of origin would help to keep the peace. But most of them had been born on this continent, and many of their forebears as well, so returning to Africa was not exactly going home.

Going home? They spoke English. They had accustomed themselves to different religions and food and history. Some of their descendants adopted the words of the song Blue Boat Home, “I was born upon the water,” because the middle passage shaped them as a distinctive people with a new homeland not of their choosing but in which they could make a home. They built a distinctive but rich culture within the American land of diversity, and many of them, like you, were able to thrive and prosper despite all the obstacles that faced them.

Today the U.S. Senate is facing a similar dilemma.  Today’s immigrants, especially Dreamers, may not have cone across the water, or be brought here as captives, but they did leave behind a homeland, a culture, a language, a history  to start over.  And some of them didn’t even make that choice, because they arrived as children.  They grew up in America, but like your African ancestors even after the end of slavery, they faced and still face obstacles in seeking the American dream. Dreamers, mostly Hispanic, are the ones brought here as children, who never knew a homeland in Mexico or Central American of the Caribbean or Venezuela. They went to school with our children but had far fewer rights and faced the threat of deportation.  Yet they filled important gaps in our labor force, learned English, worked hard, enriched us with their cultural heritage while embracing ours.

So as you contemplate pending legislation that would provide protection from deportation for the Dreamers, wrap them in the warm blanket of your own cultural heritage and give them the kind of opportunity you as a born citizen have always had.

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