An American protest

A sign posted outside of Taqueria La Parrilla regarding their choice to close on the “A Day Without Immigrants” boycott was defaced with racist symbols and phrases. Since, it has circulated social media and several news sites garnering mixed reception. Photo by the Athens Banner Herald.

Although there were largely positive responses to the “A Day Without Immigrants” boycott, the hateful responses to the protest were extremely disconcerting.

On Feb. 16, the halls of Clarke Central High School were noticeably emptier. There were gaping holes in my classes where people with faces the same as mine usually sat.

They were participating in the “A Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a protest aimed to show President Donald Trump the impact immigrants have as a regularly functioning part of the country.

Although I did not participate due to preexisting plans and a large workload, I stood by my fellow immigrants and was deeply affected by their absences because I realized the significance of the protest. I regretted not taking part.

While at school, I only heard positive things about the boycott, from my first period teacher expressing pride in my absent classmates to a casual “that’s cool” from my non-immigrant friends.

My peers at school were not the only ones who participated. Local businesses like Taqueria La Parrilla in Watkinsville closed for the day as a response to the boycott, and explained closure in a note to customers outside the door.

The next day I found out that people had written hateful messages on the note La Parrilla’s management left, including a swastika and the enthusiastic proclamation, “Build that wall!”

I was at first disheartened, then absolutely enraged.

This was a peaceful protest. The only goal was to show those who might not realize what the country is like without immigrants the sheer weight of their contributions.

A reaction filled with hateful comments such as these made it evident that not only do some members of our community underestimate the value of these contributions, they completely and utterly reject the idea immigrants have the audacity to stand up for their rights.

Messages like, “You just got your last peso from my family,” suggest that immigrant workers are so detached from American culture that they don’t even use the same currency.

This country is founded on immigrants. Our society is the way it is due to immigrants’ countless contributions, dating back hundreds of years. The irony in these hateful comments lies in the failure to realize that.

Our community is no place to make people from different backgrounds feel unwelcome.
To make immigrants feel as if their contributions have no value because they are standing up for what they believe in discourages freedom of expression from a population for whom it is crucial, now more than ever, to take a stand for their rights.

That sounds pretty un-American to me.

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