What it’s Worth

Living out of a car, and yet having the enormous compassion with those who have lost everything, motivated me 15 years ago to drive down to Louisiana and help to rebuild after both Katrina and Rita. I was part of a team of Latinos who worked cities with open sewage flooding the fields and streets, mosquitoes so dense you could not see your skin underneath them, unbearable humidity without air-conditioning, no toilets, no running water (we were hauling it in from an hour and a half away on streets with no street signs, no electricity, etc.) I was there sometimes living out of my car with my dogs, sometimes staying in black-mold covered abandoned housing, working 10 hour days to rebuild roofs, hotels, and apartments. I was among a handful of people who did show up.

It hurts so much when the same hotel, that I had brought all of the goodwill in the world to try to help, will not rent me a room today with my dogs. They have adopted a no-pet policy.  Hurts to the point of wanting to vomit. I gave comparatively so much of what I had at the time when they had nothing. It makes me question ever helping anyone again.

So I realize that many undocumented Latinos are in a similar situation. They have worked extensively to build a country that is now deporting them.

This is also a legacy of slavery. The belief that some people should work for someone and something that they will never be allowed (out of principle) to enjoy. I had the option of going to visit the estate of a freed Black who became a slaveowner in Natchez. I think not. It might make some feel better to know that the slave line crossed racial divisions. I don’t doubt that under “extreme vetting” you can get some people to cross. The psychology of mistreatment in extreme situations is not something I would rather revisit.

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