León Krauze from Univisión gave an impassioned keynote presentation at The Upfront Summit on the topic of “invisibility” of immigrant workers in our society. It moved people to tears, was widely Tweeted and several people asked me to share this video.
The millions of immigrant workers who silently wash dishes in restaurants, are prep cooks, pick the agriculture that feeds us, build our houses, clean our houses, watch our kids and do our gardening are vilified as criminals by those currently in power to exploit the fears of working-class white, non-Hispanic, Americans.
Our system works on under-the-table payments of below-market wages for jobs that our non-Hispanic citizens don’t want to do and in a country where people our unemployment rate is already so low that some economists are warning about inflation due to full employment. We know the immigrants are there. As a society we’re happy for the cheap labor and hard work yet they’re the first people vilified when a scapegoat is needed.
As a Jewish person I know something about this scapegoating because it is the history of my people for 2,000+ years including the Pogroms in Eastern Europe that cause my family to escape using fake passports and wind up in South America (Colombia) in search of a better life. So the current race-baiting by this administration hits me directly on both fronts. It is not sufficient for well-meaning people in the administration to stand by and allow racism to emanate from the White House in the name of getting tax cuts or lower regulations.
We have an obligation to speak up or eventually they will come for you.
Or as León said in his speech embedded below:
“Invisibility of the powerless leads to their suffering, prosecution and sometimes outcomes far more tragic
The Holocaust [was] in part was due to the tragedy of evil left unspoken for far too long.”
I’m tired of hearing people on social media speak of “virtue signaling,” a term meant to silence well-meaning people from speaking the truth about injustices done to immigrants, African Americans, the LGBTQ community or speaking up on gender inequality. Speaking up is an obligation in a democracy and of course it’s the powerful who have the loudest voice TO speak up.
It is the duty of the visible to fight invisibility.
León spoke eloquently about the efforts to make the invisible, visible.
He told the story of the young artist, Ramiro Gomez who was born in San Bernardino, near Los Angeles. His parents worked all day so he grew up with his grandmother who taught him the value of an education. He went to college to study art and design. But 10 years ago with the financial crisis he could no longer afford to study. He started living out of his car — too ashamed to tell his grandmother he couldn’t afford college. He eventually decided to become a nanny in an affluent home in LA to afford his education. He became friendly with the gardeners, cleaners, construction workers and even a butler. They all shared the same story — they felt “invisible.”
Ramiro started creating public art depicting images of the invisible in beautiful settings as a reminder of the contributions they make to our society.
He looked at Architectural Digest, Interior Design, Vogue, etc. and realized that Latinos had been deleted from the scenes where they usually were to show the after effects of their work. He decided to recreate the scenes from these beautiful design photos and he added back the immigrant Latinos who are so responsible for the privileged lives we lead. He painted in cleaners and gardeners and nannies.
Ramiro was demanding one thing — “visibility.”
So, too, does León Krauze with his work. León is a journalist with Univision and works hard to tell the stories of the unglamorous. He wants the country to be aware that the overwhelming majority of Latinos are hard-working individuals who contribute to society and in fact have lower crime rates than their non-Latino American counterparts.
Krauze said during his speech at the Upfront Summit …
“The Washington Post rightly says that “Democracy Dies in Darkness” but darkness, silence and invisibility have proven to be fertile soil for prejudice, racism and nativism.”
He told the story about a project he did for Univision that he started 5 years ago called “La Mesa” (the table) in which he sets up a plastic table and plastic chairs in a random immigrant neighborhood and he invites young people to come and tell their stories. He wants to celebrate the struggles and successes of the invisible people of America.
He told the story of three such people at our event that he called, “Three American Women.”
Each of their parents came to the United States in search of a life. They brought children and demanded one thing — education: bi-cultural, bi-national and bi-lingual. Each of the immigrants came to the United States the give their children and families a better life and they contribute humbly to our society, making it a vibrant growth engine.
If you want to understand the critical importance of demographics and immigration read the seminal book, “The Accidental Superpower.”
Cristina. From Los Angeles. Her family was from Jalisco and came to the US just to survive. Her parents grew up in poverty, working the fields.
Her parents left everything behind not to live a better life, but merely to “live a life.” They began right at the bottom. Cristina realized just how far her family had come in just one generation. She was recently graduated from Cal State, Los Angeles and works at USC.
Jessica is also from Los Angeles. She was born the daughter of a carpenter from Michiocán, Mexico.
They faced a stark choice — stay and deal with the growing threat of drug violence — or move north to build a life. Her father was deported when Jessica was a child so she had to begin working. She applied for DACA and it changed her life. She arrived in America when she was 3.
Susana also grew up in Los Angeles. She was born in Irapuato, in central Mexico. Her father grew up selling candy in the streets of nearby Leon, Guanajato and her mother worked at a factory.
They decided to emigrate in search of a better life. They arrived in the US when Susana was 6 months old. DACA allowed Susana to gain entrance into Cal State, Los Angeles. She was graduated in 2017 — the first in her family to do so. Her father, just three decades before, was selling packets of gum in the streets of Guanajuato and how had a daughter who was educated in high education and ready to build a productive, American future. She now works as a nursing assistant.
No summary of León’s speech can do it justice so please do yourself a favor and watch it. It was widely discussed at the Upfront Summit for a reason. I promise you won’t regret it.
A special shout out to my pal, Mauricio Mota, on the left below who is also an immigrant from Brazil. He is the co-founder of Wise Entertainment and co-producer of East Los High, a widely popular Hulu show that depicts many stories of young American Latinos. He suggested León to me because they were both speakers at the commencement speech at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. You certainly didn’t disappoint!