White, Irish, and one other thing

Filed under: Writing |

I often ask the question during my book talks: What does “undocumented” look like? Of course most people conjure up an image pretty readily: dark-skinned, work boots, a certain set of features associated with Mexico and Guatemala. I ask this question because I don’t fit that mold, and yet I was undocumented. It is my hope that if I shake people’s perceptions a bit, they may look at things with fresh eyes.

Also, there’s this: I know that my white skin has made my life easier, and shielded me from some of the more overt prejudices against the undocumented. This has caused for me an uneasy mix of relief and guilt. I want to make it better for others who didn’t enjoy that totally arbitrary luxury.

Perhaps that’s why, on this St. Patrick’s Day, I was particularly fascinated by this story about the Irish undocumented in the US. No one will listen to a lilting brogue and say, “Go back where you came from,” (not anymore, although there was once strong anti-Irish sentiment in the U.S., as hard as that is to believe now). But their stories help underscore the random nature of this tendency to exclude.

It’s a short and excellent read. What does undocumented look like? Read on and see a different face: click here

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