"I’m writing a play about the nature of truth, and how difficult it is to convey the truth when everybody is speaking a different language. For example, the word ‘terrorist’ and the word ‘freedom fighter’ are used to refer to the exact same people at the exact same time. With everyone speaking differently, truth is almost impossible to agree upon. Yet believing in the existence of truth is the only thing that keeps us from devolving into tribal warfare. Because without the existence of truth, the person who is most powerful becomes the person who is right."
“I want to get a joint law degree and a Ph.D. in the sociology of immigration to study immigration law. My interest has a lot to do with my Haitian identity: most of my family were undocumented immigrants, and it was only because of a last-minute executive order that we managed to get our papers. I was one of only 50,000 people to gain residency from the order, but a lot of my relatives remain undocumented and are still trying to figure out the system. I don’t think such an arbitrary immigration system is fair. It tears families apart and causes a lot of stress, and that’s putting it mildly.
“That’s why I do what I do. I want to combine research and policy: most of the time, immigration law and the sociology of immigration are studied in bubbles. While there’s a ton of literature on the sociology of immigration, our immigration law is a lot less sophisticated and of lower quality. It doesn’t take into account such things as assimilation and, more importantly, doesn’t at all interact with sociological studies.
“Often, a lot of nuances are completely lost. People compare immigrants to racial “groups”, not even realizing for instance that “Latino” is not a racial group. Some statistics compare all black immigrants to African Americans. The problem is that immigrants come into this country with very different degrees of social capital. Haitian immigrants, for example, are more directly comparable to Mexican immigrants in terms of social capital than they are to Jamaican and Nigerian immigrants. For some people, however, it’s just ‘Oh, black people! They’re all the same.’
“I was also involved in the ‘I, Too, Am Harvard’ campaign. It was a good campaign, but I feel we also have to talk about the larger issues. It’s not that microaggression isn’t important, I’m just more interested in the structural forces behind it: the consistent lack of funding for schools, or the way schools regularly fail students of color. When I was in high school my teachers said to me all the time, ‘You are very articulate for a black girl.’ I heard that even when I got to Harvard, which is why it was my quote in the campaign.”
“What other examples of microaggression have you encountered?”
“When I applied to Harvard, the first thing my interviewer asked me was if I knew anyone who had died during the earthquake in Haiti. My grandmother had died four days before that. I’ve never wanted to choke someone so much. Also, when I was sixteen a friend’s parent asked me if I had AIDS.
“Yet, while it’s good to talk about how such microaggessions make you feel, sometimes the larger picture gets lost. Going back to the ‘articulate for a black girl’ example, that wasn’t the real issue for me: it was simply a small fraction of a larger structural problem that bothered me much more. My high school’s majority was black and poor – that statement expressed the fact that my teachers didn’t expect you to do well despite the circumstances. Those words made me feel bad, but what made me feel terrible was that the teachers didn’t think that it was their job to help me do better.”