Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Heart of a Badass Story

If you have not yet heard the story of the teacher that refused to answer the citizenship question at a checkpoint recently, then please take a moment and do a Google search for Shane Parmely.  
 Shane was recently stopped at a border patrol checkpoint in New Mexico many miles from the US/Mexico border with her children in the car. Shane refused to answer the border patrol's question whether or not she was a US citizen. She was detained at the checkpoint for over an hour and finally allowed to leave without answering the question. You can view the videos taken during the time period by clicking on the links at the end.
It amazes me how much controversy this this act has stirred. Some question why Shane felt she had a right to question authority (We always have the right to do so - the day we give up that right is the day that we lose humanity.) Some people make comments about the fact that she would not have done that if she was not a white woman with privilege. This is most likely true - a fact that Shane is fully aware of herself.

Shane is a Badass Teacher from California and a teacher in the San Diego Unified School District. I first met her at NEA RA. I marched by her side, with her kids in the streets of DC when a march started to speak out against police brutality. Shane is the very definition (as are many, many of you) of a Badass Teacher. 

So many outlets were covering this story as it occurred - we did not need to repeat what was already being told. 

But what many do not know is Shane's own reflections on the events. To me, this is the heart of the story. So we are sharing them below.

Melissa Tomlinson - Assistant Executive Director, Badass Teachers Association

l've finally somewhat wrapped my brain around all of this and think this mostly sums things up right now.
Main reasons I refused:
1) In addition to the checkpoints themselves, there are dozens of cameras set up on both sides of the narrow lane you are funneled into before the checkpoint that take your picture from multiple heights and angles to ensure that they can record the faces of everyone in the car. There is even a speed bump set up so that when you slow for it, a camera with a flash photographs your car. I have everyone in my car cover their faces when we drive through this gauntlet. Obviously the government is using facial recognition software and collecting the info recorded at these checkpoints in the databases they use while illegally spying on all of us. This means that the government is monitoring and tracking the US population when it travels within our own borders and that we absolutely do not have the ability to freely move about the country.
2) I refused to answer the citizenship question at a checkpoint east of El Paso last year, and when I pulled my phone out to record the interaction the officer waved me through. When I shared that experience on Facebook, my friends in the CTA Hispanic Caucus were shocked that I had been so "brave" because they have endured a lifetime of harassment at these inspection stations. They have had to standby and watch their children be harassed and intimidated in a way that no parent would normally allow. My brown friends prepare their children for how to interact with Border Patrol much the same way Black families talk with their children about how to interact with police. The systematic favoring of one racial group over another by a government agency at a government location is the definition of institutional racism. I realized I was the white lady sitting at the front of the bus who saw nothing wrong with having black people sit in the back.
During the time we were detained, we were treated far better than my friends who readily said yes they are citizens and complied with all of the officers questions during their interactions. My friends were told to pull over to secondary inspection, pulled out of their cars and questioned, had their cars searched, and their children were interrogated. I was not asked to drive to secondary inspection, the officers routed traffic around me, I was not asked to leave my vehicle, my car was not searched, my children were not questioned. And one of my children kept their face covered during the first half of being detained because I have my children cover their faces when we go through these inspections sites. The only difference between me and my friends is that I'm white and they are brown. Since the videos went viral my inbox has been flooded with messages from strangers in tears telling me about their lifetime of experiences of abuse at the hands of border patrol at these checkpoints.
Critics wants to conveniently ignore the fact that I have the right to not answer. I find it extremely disturbing for the future of our democracy that during an encounter between an armed agent of the government and a citizen in which both choose to exercise their rights, people automatically praise the government official for exercising their rights while trying to punish the citizen for exercising their's. Many Americans seem happy to abdicate their own personal civil rights and liberties, and while that is their own personal choice to make, they are not allowed to abdicate my civil rights and liberties for me.
I have been accused of seeking 15 minutes of fame or planning out this interaction in order to create a viral video. While I have received many messages of support, I am also receiving messages filled with cussing and threats of violence and sexual violence, often from people who feature pictures of their children in their public profile. Many of these same people tell me that I should not be allowed around children and say I should be fired. Dealing with all of this was not what I had in mind upon returning home from traveling. And no one person can create a viral video, the public makes videos go viral.

While I am an activist and I do participate in actions, this was not planned at all which should be evidenced by the fact that I do a poor job of articulating my thinking in the first video. I shared the videos publicly so that my activist friends would be able to share the videos on their fb walls if they wanted to. I have found it absolutely astonishing that these went viral, as videos like these are not new and have been posted online for years. Again, the only difference between the previous videos and mine is that they were posted by brown people and I am a white woman.

Part 1: 

 Part 5.1:

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