Learning Again to Listen

It is tempting at points to think I have some wisdom to offer. That I have learned from my experience with migrants and should be teaching others.

It is humbling to realize that there are still many times when I must just listen and learn. Such as this past week, when I was at a hearing with the US Human Rights Network as part of the UN review of compliance with the Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For hours I heard from people who had suffered a range of abuses at the hands of the police, Border Patrol, and immigration agents. I heard abuses that made my heart break. I had nothing to say, no perspectives to offer, no real role. I was just there to listen and witness their testimony. It was their time to speak, not mine.

And then on a day tour as a part of the event, I heard from organizations in southern Arizona and Nogales working to support individuals, mostly migrants, and defend their rights. Some of the organizations I was already familiar with, others were new to me. I heard of inspirational work. I heard of truly grassroots action that is already bearing fruit. I also heard rhetoric and calls to action that occasionally made me uncomfortable in my pragmatic understanding of how systems work. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if I agreed.

But that was ok. It was ok to listen and not be sure what to do. It was ok to appreciate yet not always agree.

One of the errors of many policy makers and non-profits and many people concentrated in Washington, DC is to arrive with a plan. Arrive and tell people what they should do and how they should do it. It is tempting for me to do the same here in Arizona. But others, like the founders of Casa Chirilagua, arrive with listening ears. They listen to what their neighbors need and what their neighbors are trying to do. And from there reflect on what could be done. They reflect on where they might fit in the puzzle.

That is the challenge at the moment to living in Tucson. Humbly recognizing that I do not yet have a place to speak. That I am just a Georgetown grad who knows little about the years of struggle for justice in this town. But that someday I hope to have a role in it.

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2 Responses to Learning Again to Listen

  1. jabberwock14 says:

    Thank you for keeping this blog. I discovered it several months ago and find your words to be very insightful. I have been researching refugee groups from a historical standpoint since 2009 and sometimes get overwhelmed with all of the information and desperate stories I hear. I think addressing the feeling of helplessness is important because it can feel so big and not knowing what to do can make you feel disillusioned. Simply creating a dialogue and putting it out there is a wonderful role to play right now, so thanks.

    • Thank you for your kind words and your thoughts from your own experience. That helplessness often gets to me and unfortunately also sometimes numbs me, which is why I try the best I can to be present in the moment, live, and listen.

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