Do you ever just sit back and wonder who and what we are becoming?
When the DC metrorail crash occurred earlier this week, nine people lost their lives. When the list of the names of the dead was released, it contained the name of Ana Fernandez, a mother of six.
While the family has been "grateful for the genuine expressions of sympathy," they did not expect another effect.
Ana Fernandez's image and name have prompted hateful, harrassing calls from people demanding to know her immigration status.
My personal response was, "Does it matter?"
Have we really sunk so low that we comb through the details of tragedies, looking for things that make us feel "suspicious?"
Have brown skin and a Spanish surname become enough to arouse that suspicion and make us act in heartless, disturbingly inhuman ways? (That question is rhetorical, of course).
Ana Fernandez's family is having to balance their grief with this sudden demand to explain:
Ana's sister said the accusations aren't true.
"Right now, the whole family is in pain. She was here legally, and all her children are legal. They were born here."
They're also having to defend themselves against the stereotypes of lazy immigrants who come here to "live off" others. Fernandez's sister said:
"We all work, OK? And we're going to get through this."
And from one of her children:
"She was always working -- working two jobs. She did whatever she had to to take care of us," said Evelyn Fernandez, her oldest daughter, who is enrolled in a GED program. "She was a strong woman. She never needed anyone to help her."
For the record, I'd like to repeat that Fernandez's family reports that she did have legal status and all her children were born here.*
For the record, large numbers of people with Spanish surnames and brown skin have been in the United States for 160 years now** and in places that would become part of the United States for generations before--at some point, New Spain extended from one coast to another across the southern portion of what is now the United States.
Given that, inferring anything "suspicious" from the appearance and name of Ana Fernandez is not only desperate, it doesn't necessarily make sense.
Except, I guess, in a place fully ensconced and invested in its latest wave of nativism.
*I've gone back and forth about writing that, because what I'm trying to say is that the accusations are unfounded, but what I worry it sounds like is, "Because they've met this arbitrary citizenship standard, they have a right to grieve and be treated with respect." Her family should be allowed to grieve in peace and she should be treated with dignity in her death whatever her/their immigration status is.
**I dated that from the Mexican Cession, forgetting to reference the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819, that had the effect of bringing significant parts of New Spain (including Florida) into the U.S., as well.