“your racist friend” – they might be giants (1990)


Unless you’re off the grid and have completely disconnected from any Internet or telecommunications signals, then you have seen the images and video coming from Texas where immigrant children are ripped away from their parents and kept in centers that resemble prisons.  The news media have diligently covered this and the topic has been all over social media.  It is a deeply troubling human rights issue that has unified and motivated people to take action by protesting in the streets and contacting their representation in Congress.

The country has been through so much over the last few years, but I believe we are officially at the turning point in the existential crisis we are currently experiencing as a nation and a democracy.  The systemic practice of tearing families apart, detaining children, and even losing hundreds of immigrant children whose fates will range from being trafficked or murdered seemed so unreal in the past.  I know those things have happened before the Trump presidency, but the recent efforts of this administration to put his racist agenda in full gear is disturbing and could signal the end of our country’s moral standing as we have traditionally known.

My heart has been breaking over this.  I get a visceral feeling deep in my gut every time I see photographs or videos from these detainment centers.  Very young children are separated from their parents and are essentially imprisoned.  And the fate of these children is uncertain.  Some have been sent to foster families around the country.  Many continue to stay in these centers with no knowledge of their parents’ well-being. And, worst of all, many have just disappeared.  I know the pain I feel cannot match the pain experienced by these immigrant families.

I am happy to see that this issue has sparked such unrest in the nation and that people are demanding action in justice.  This past weekend, a nationwide protest called March for Families was conducted in communities across the country.  I was unable to participate, but I loved seeing the photos of people in my own community stand up against this human rights abuse.  Politicians are vocalizing sentiments from their constituents denouncing ICE and Trump’s racist immigrant agenda.  It is powerful and I am proud of what people can accomplish.

However, these positive efforts haven’t been met without resistance.  Trump and his administration have made hypocritical policy statements regarding their actions.  They continue to cite the reasoning behind their agenda being a law passed by the Democrats in the 1990s.  In reality, no such law exists.  And when met with that, Trump’s administrations continues to deflect by saying it is the Democrats fault why immigration reform hasn’t passed despite the fact that it is the GOP that currently serves as the majority in both the House and Senate.  Recently, Trump has made his true intentions known by saying he’ll quit separating families if he can get funding for the border wall along Mexico.  None of these actions separating immigrant families were random.  It is a carefully crafted and strategic policy designed to manipulate the country into furthering Trump’s authoritarian visions.

This is an ongoing issue and it continues to get worse.  In a move that shocked many, First Lady Melania Trump was seen wearing a jacket with the phrase “I DON’T REALLY CARE, DO U?” painted on her back as she boarded a plane to visit one of the detainment centers.  The spin team in the White House has rationalized this by saying the First Lady didn’t wear the jacket when visiting the children and that we shouldn’t be focusing on her wardrobe because it is sexist to do so.  They have also said the writing on the jacket didn’t hide any veiled messaging about the Trump administration’s policy.  They are right in that it wasn’t veiled because it spelled out exactly what their policy is.

As I mentioned, we are experiencing a very troubling existential crisis.  One that could change America into an authoritarian nation.  The current immigrant issue is the turning point.  How this turns out will determine the nation’s trajectory.  And the people have a choice in the role they play.  Do they want to live in a democracy or do they want to live under an authoritarian regime?

This is the time to speak up and speak out against those while justify the separation and detainment of immigrant children.  This is not the time to compromise.  I don’t really believe most people in this country want to see children ripped away from their families and essentially imprisoned.  Most of the people in this country have good hearts.  Sure, there is a minority that does enjoy those images, but I’m not speaking to them.  I’m speaking to the people who stuck on the wrong side of this issue because they are committed to party platforms.  I’m speaking to the people who, in response to any questioning about the detainment of these children, will say things like “Obama did the same thing” or “I don’t want completely open borders.”  Those are misguided and misinformed pieces of rhetoric amplified by the Trump administration to get his support base to back his immigration policy.  I don’t believe these people want to see children treated this way, but this goes back to the heart of the issue; separating immigrant families and detaining children is immoral.  That is what we must speak to and we cannot compromise on that message.

Since this is a blog where I connect songs with whatever social, political, or personal topic is on my mind, I sometimes have to really think and do some research on what song to spotlight that supplements my messages.  In some pieces, I start with a song and write a piece around it.  In other pieces, I write a piece and find a song to fit the narrative.  This is an example of the latter and I am quite pleased with what I found.

I don’t know many songs by They Might Be Giants.  I can honestly only count on one hand how many songs of theirs that I do know.  So, as a result, I was unaware of their song “Your Racist Friend” until very recently.

Appearing on They Might Be Giants’ 1990 studio album Flood, “Your Racist Friend” perfectly represents that kind of attitude we should have when encountering someone spewing racism and bigotry.  In the song, the singer is at a party with his friend.  His friend’s friend is there and saying some racist things.  The singer is fed up with being there and let’s his friend know that he feels like a hypocrite just standing there and being polite.  The singer’s friend is bored by politics, but he’s still complicit in the issue.  The singer let’s his friend know that he can’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding.  His friend cannot stand on the sidelines and has to choose what path he is going to take.  Does he support the singer and denounce his racist friend or does continue to be complicit or even echo his friend’s racism.  There is no room for compromise in the song just as there is no compromise in real life on this issue.

I strongly believe things will get better.  In fact, I know thing will get better.  I also know that things will get a lot worse before they get better, but they will get better.  Standing up and speaking out against an issue doesn’t have to be some grand thing.  Not everyone can do everything all the time.  Some can do more than others, but they are started from somewhere.  It all started with just by saying something and then everything else comes after that.  If we all just say something about this immigrant children, we can make things better.