The Need for Invisibility

While talking with Elena today, our discussion about working with marginalized groups who face – or have faced – tremendous danger (ie Syrian refugees, African Americans, Muslims, undocumented immigrants from South America – all of whom are here in the Berkshires – some are friends, others family, as well as neighbors and newcomers) led me to make a correlation between my own personal need to “be invisible” when I was a child at home in order to escape being abused, and my Colombian neighbor’s need to “be invisible” in order to escape his country and get across the border.

While I no longer face the same threats I faced as a child, my neighbor still lives with the fear of getting caught. While he makes efforts within our community to “be seen” as a hard-working American-loving resident, he may fear being seen by authorities who could send him back to his country.

My nephew is African American. I worry about his safety even though he is now a young man in his twenties, living in New Hampshire – or maybe because he is a young man in his twenties, living in New Hampshire.

Recently, a black student at our local high school was threatened at a football game for kneeling during the National Anthem. His fellow teammate said he was going to “lynch” him.

To me, it’s outrageous to think anyone would say something like that in our cheery little liberal town of Great Barrington (once voted #1 Best Small Town in America).

But to the black student at Monument High School, it is not an anomaly.

In conversations with my sister-in-law and other white parents of black kids, I hear them talk about the fearful thoughts they have going through their heads when their kids are a little late getting home.

They are not the same thoughts I have when my son is late: Did he get into a car accident? Is he ok?  (But to be honest, usually I don’t worry, as I am pretty certain he is not in any danger, and that he probably has just lost track of the time and is still hanging out with his friends.)

For my sister-in-law and other mothers of bi-racial or adopted kids, it’s an entirely different story. They are wondering: Where is he? Did he get pulled over by the police? Has he been killed?

This is one aspect of visibility and invisibility that drives my research.

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