Rhonda Cagle


In Uncategorized on April 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm

I hate confrontation. In my past life, confrontation often left me battered and bruised – literally and figuratively. My mental health care professional and I have spent a lot of time on this issue, which has contributed greatly to her retirement account and, to a lesser extent, my sanity. But I still hate it and would rather endure a root canal sans anesthesia than willingly engage in confrontation.

So it makes complete sense that last Sunday found me gathered at the State Capitol with thousands of people protesting the passage of SB 1070. For those who have been living under a rock, this new law puts the “south” in Southwest, resurrecting Jim Crow laws and making “reasonable suspicion” code speak for racial profiling.  Think I’m overreacting? Read on.

Under this new law, my daughter will no longer be able to give her friends and schoolmates a ride home after school without being subject to arrest for transporting illegal immigrants. Many of Megan’s classmates came to this country as babies or toddlers. They are illegal in spite of the fact that this is the only country they know. Many have never been to Mexico; some don’t even speak Spanish. In this great land of opportunity, they cannot legally get a driver’s license, a job, or attend college as an in-state student. They are subject to deportation at any time. And now, they can’t even get a ride to and from school, thanks to this new law.

Neither can many of the children and families served by Kitchen on the Street. This agency that I volunteer with serves more than 300 Valley students each week, providing weekend meals to kids who would otherwise go hungry. From time to time, we also partner with a local food bank, distributing fresh food to their families. For families trying to carry small children and bags of groceries, we provide a lift home. Doing so will now get me arrested. I guess when Jesus said to feed the hungry, tend the sick, and clothe the naked, He forgot to add, “Be sure to check their papers first.”

And don’t forget the day laborers standing out in front of the local Home Depot. God forbid we would give someone the dignity of doing an honest day’s work. Under this new law it’s now illegal to hire them. Oh, and by the way, it’s also now illegal to give an undocumented resident a ride to the hospital; or, for that matter, church.

For several weeks, I’ve listened to the rhetoric on both sides. I’ve remained silent while the “experts” battled it out in the Statehouse. But I could not forget the faces of those affected by this new law – children who receive food from me each week, parents who now live in terror of being deported, young adults my daughter calls friends. I swallowed some Pepto-Bismol to calm the churning in my stomach and decided to stand up and confront this injustice.

Armed with our homemade protest signs, Megan and I arrived at the State Capitol ready to stand side-by-side with our wronged brothers and sisters. But after arriving, I quickly began praying that we wouldn’t be lynched. The mistrust was palpable. Everywhere I looked, brown eyes met my green eyes with a mixture of fear, anger, and questioning. I met their stares with a warm smile – and I held my sign where it could easily be seen.

As soon as people saw my sign, they relaxed. I had several women come to my side, give me a hug, and ask if they could have their picture taken with me. I happily agreed and put my arm around them while a husband or son snapped a photo. One woman stood and talked with me for a moment. The corners of her mouth began to tremble and her eyes pooled with tears as she thanked me for coming to support her and her family. “We are more than the color of our skin,” she said. “We just want to be treated like you are treated.” The poignancy of her words pierced my heart.

I heard her voice echoing in my head when I was asked to write a letter on behalf of one of my clients. This week the schools I represent needed me to write a letter to their parents, assuring them that schools are still a safe place for students. Many of the children are terrified that school officials will turn them or their families into the police. Families are afraid of being torn apart. Principals told me that students are afraid they will go home to find their parents gone, leaving them with nowhere to go and no one to care for them.

Confrontation makes me afraid, discrimination, more so. There are times when taking a stand is more than the right thing to do – it is the only thing to do. So, I’m standing. For my daughter’s friends who call America their home. For children who are now afraid of our police and our school officials. For parents who want nothing more than to give their children a better life. For families who wave our flag and, in spite of injustice, smile when they speak of liberty and justice for all.

  1. Rhonda, as you, I was appalled when I heard about this. I guess I’m doe-eyed about it, because I believed that this country was so much MORE than this. So much better. And it rather breaks my heart to know that with the stroke of a signature a piece of legislation can be the source of such injustice.

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