Luther College Chips

A call to protect dignity and recognize humanity

Ana López, News Editor

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I was outside of an establishment speaking Spanish, my mother tongue, when someone said, “We’re in America, speak English!” My tongue stopped and my throat tightened. My heartbeat increased and my jaw shifted to the side and pressed against my teeth. I felt hatred from that person, but what was even worse was that I was hating back.

Since that incident, I have wrestled with the question of how to deal with the traffic of hate that seems to be an essential part of my life as a Latina living in the United States. I attended a lecture during the Nobel Peace Prize Forum that gave me an idea of how to deal with hate without hating back, and perhaps even a tool to prevent hateful speech.

In his lecture titled “Conflict Transformation and the Moral Imagination,” American Professor of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame John Paul Lederach talked about examples of leadership that have fostered relationships to solve conflict. Lederach touched on something that seemed relevant to the current rhetoric involving Latina immigrants in the U.S., especially minors protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): a call to protect dignity.

Lederach emphasized how dehumanizing the “other” is a crucial part in the cycle of creating conflict. Stripping the “other” from their dignity makes it easier to hate and harm them. I see this at play in rhetoric that is used nationally as well as on our campus. People talk about the lives of Latina immigrants in numbers. They use statistics to reduce their existence to thousands of dollars that have been “wasted.” People refer to the lives of many families using numbers and faceless generalizations. Institutions all around the country use the number of diverse students to sell an image of inclusive communities.

Despite their efforts, I still wake up every day and think of the color of my skin when I wash my face in the morning. I train my tongue to hide my accent and gain credibility. I sit in my classrooms hyper-aware that there are people who think that I do not deserve to occupy that space.

As a Latina international student, I stand in solidarity with DACA students and urge the Luther community to gather the social courage to protect the dignity of those who are reduced to numbers. There are different ways to protect dignity. One is awareness about the ways in which language plays a role in dehumanizing others. Lederach also explained that a way to protect such dignity is by creating relationships, by talking, and by making “weird friendships.” This is where Latinos and other minorities can take part too.

Let’s have the social courage to talk to one another outside of our comfortable bubbles. Let’s have the social courage to ask for safe spaces to interact and understand the humanity in others. And for those of us who have witnessed these instances, let’s have the social courage to speak up and recognize humanity. Let’s have the social courage to protect dignity

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