The following is the third installment in a four part series on young activists who are using new media to rally behind the Dream Act. It was written by Arely Zimmerman and Sangita Shreshtova from the USC Civic Paths Project. This work was funded by the MacArthur Foundation.
Coming Out/Pop Culture
The need to be active, to be connected to other
undocumented youth, and to strive collectively to make positive changes are key
motivators for all of the youth panelists. They are all extremely active online.
They create original media content. They blog. They share their stories and art
through Facebook and Twitter. They
participate in public online conferences and symposia. Yet, online visibility comes with its
own challenges and risks. As Nancy recounted, she was personally targeted in a
public campaign after a local conservative radio program called for her
deportation. Because of her role
eventually had to disconnect her phone.
But, the risks of visibility have to be counter balanced with the
benefits, she concluded. “Yes, it
is dangerous, there are risks that we face in being so publicly active, but it
is even more risky if they don’t know we exist”.
Listen to Nancy
Meza speak on this topic here:
Driven by their urgent need to draw attention
to their plight, undocumented youth put themselves at risk of deportation and
arrest not only by participating in public civil disobedience but by also
publicly ‘coming out’ via social media platforms. The coming out process, as Erick notes, is a deeply personal
one, shaped by each individual’s own journey towards self-awareness and
identification. But, this process
also has significant consequences on the movement because it is a first step in
embracing one’s undocumented legal status and becoming politically
involved. One of the common themes
in the ‘coming out’ stories of undocumented youth is asserting their belonging,
their ‘Americannes’, despite their undocumented legal status. Most Dream activism
youth were brought to the United States as young children, and the United
States is the only country they’ve ever known. It is their home. Fluent in
English, educated in the American school system, these youth defy the already
clearly inaccurate stereotypes of the ‘illegal immigrant’. Mohammad of Dreamactivist.org, an online undocumented
youth advocacy network, shared one often cited “coming out” narrative.
Watch Mohammad’s “I
am Mohammad and I am undocumented” video here:
The ‘coming out’
narratives of Dreamer youth often draw on shared cultural references. Erick, for instance, shared how he
formulated his identity from “Anime, heavy metal, and comic books”
which he says, ” framed my outlook on life”. When he came out as undocumented for the first time, he says
he was inspired by a story arc in the popular comic Spiderman. “When I mentioned my first name for the
first time- I compared it to a story arc of Spiderman- when Spiderman shares
his identity, I am also sharing my identity”. Erick, and others, have also
drawn connections to Superman as being undocumented.