Resisting The Donald and the ‘dream deferred’

Christopher Marte.

Christopher Marte.

BY CHRISTOPHER MARTE | Growing up in the Lower East Side, I went to school and sat side by side with children of immigrants from all across the globe. We didn’t think about living the American Dream. We were too young to recognize the sacrifices and obstacles our parents made and overcame. We were just children of people who had been welcomed into a country that had welcomed immigrants since its founding.

But children today do not get to enjoy this same naiveté. They see the stories of their parents portrayed as alien, the travels of their families called illegal, and they listen to a president who wants to force their parents back to the dangers they fled in their countries of origin.

My parents followed in the footsteps of millions who came before them when they arrived in Lower Manhattan, looking to live the American Dream. But today that well-worn trail has been severed with a roadblock. It is inhumane to judge somebody based on where they are from, and it defies the core values of our country. And this is why I do not believe this barricade of bigotry is insurmountable.

New York has always been the starting line. It was the starting line for our country as the nation’s first capital. It was the starting line for the Dutch before there even was a nation. Since then, the Irish workers, the Jewish families, the Chinese storeowners and countless other immigrant groups have created one of the most cherished and beautiful corners of our city in Lower Manhattan.

This neighborhood should not fade away as a vestigial limb of our national body. Rather, as anyone who has walked the streets of Chinatown, or visited a bodega in the Lower East Side, or stood in awe of the towers in the Financial District can tell you, this community is a beacon of openness in a country that is increasingly closed off.

But if you listen to our president, he has told us that these open borders, these immigrant communities are toxic to our nation. He has rejected the truth we know: the truth that without immigrants, there is no nation. He has told us there is a difference between us and them, between citizens and immigrants, legals and illegals. But just in the past few weeks since the inauguration, we are proving him wrong. We marched in the streets as an entire gender’s rights were threatened. We chanted in the park as an entire religion was called dangerous. And we rallied at the airport as our borders were closed off to entire countries.

I stand with my fellow New Yorkers in supporting our rights to organize at the airport, in the park, in the streets and in the courtroom. I stand with my fellow New Yorkers in remembrance of the immigrants who built our district, our city and our country. And I stand in acknowledgment of the millions that continue to do so.

In these times of uncertainty, we can turn to the struggles of our forefathers. The words of the poet Langston Hughes remind us of the “dream deferred,” the exclusionary and contradictory nature of the American Dream in the 1950s. We will not regress to this narrow-minded vision of what it means to be American. We will maintain our energy, our perseverance, our resistance.

We cannot let 200 years of progress be cut down in a few weeks or months. This battle may last four years and we need to hold ourselves accountable — staying alert, informed and ready to protect the values and principles of this land that we call home.

Marte is a Democratic candidate for City Council in Lower Manhattan’s First District

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