You know that phrase, “There but for the grace of God go I?”
Its something one might say to invoke humility in the face of their own good fortune, or to express identification and unity with the struggle of another.
Yesterday the first headline I read began, ”Refugees, Visa and Green Card Holders Detained, Turned Away…”. I sat upright and my heart pounded in my chest. You see, my husband is a green card holder (he’s actually my Permanent Resident Alien Spouse, to be exact) and we are currently in what we hope will be the final stage of the process.
Until we reach that promised land of a 10-year green card, allowing supposed free movement in and out of my country, his residency and immigration status informs every aspect of our lives together. Where we go, how we work, when we visit family, and how we plan for our future. The thought that the rules we have been so diligently following would somehow and suddenly be thrown up in the air put my heart in my throat.
Then I read further, and saw the changes were affecting travelers only from Muslim countries. My heart promptly returned to my chest. My husband is from Italy.
That quick moment of relief affirms for me that what divides us is bigotry and racism, social constructs that have no tangible basis, yet have deep influence in our history, society and individual behavior. I can insist all day long that I am not biased against Muslims, but that moment of relief would be no less real. My privilege would allow me to leave it at that, accept our own good fortune and move along.
When we got married in a small town courthouse in rural GA, the clerk doing our marriage license heard F’s accent, saw his foreign birth certificate and filled in his race as “Other”. F thought this was fantastic. I thought it was sort of an Alpha-Omega moment, where our national pastime of keeping everyone neatly sorted turned a white European male into The Other. We had become completely estranged from the source material of our racist thinking. The center could not hold.
So this morning I intentionally rewind to that heart sinking feeling that came before the momentary relief. Because there but for the grace of God go we.