Last night, I was reading an article, lamenting the lack of student strikes in the U.S.
A line stood out to to me. According to historian Angus Johnston, “There has never been, in the last 40 years, a large scale, coordinated, national—or close to national—student strike.”
40 years is a long time, but this Monday, it could all change.
Immigrant workers build our cities. Immigrant artists shape our cultures. Immigrant students attend our universities.
Immigrants are always giving to our great nation, but what have we gotten in return? A president who built his political movement on calling us “rapists”. A former president, widely praised by those who claim to support us, but who deported more of us than any other. Policy makers, who, time after time, refuse to provide permanent protection for the 11 million undocumented people in this country.
We have given to this nation, but it has taken so much from us. In order to fight for our dignity, immigrants are planning to show just how much we contribute to our beloved American institutions. Without our labor, industries shut down. Without our presence in universities, we can no longer be ignored.
What is stopping you from supporting your fellow immigrant students on May 1st?
There are many valid answers to this question. I will try to address all claims, questions, and concerns about May 1st below:
What is the symbolic value of a strike?
In short: halting business as usual.
I’ve heard the word “complicit” a lot recently, mainly referring to Ivanka Trump’s white house antics. But it is not only wealthy elites such as Ivanka who are complicit in harmful things such as ICE raids, undignified labor, vigilante border patrol, and the other issues that plague immigrants. When we participate in American institutions, we are all complicit.
That is why we urge students to not buy, not work, and not study. We encourage you to think, especially if you are not personally affected by immigrant issues, about how things like capitalism, the university system, and your employers can be complicit in the harm caused to immigrants. Who is harvesting the food you buy in the supermarket? Are they paid fair wages? Are they treated with dignity? Are you on an even playing field with the immigrant students you attend class with, even as many of them have to worry about family members being deported?
Halt business as usual, because business as usual means a complicit support of the undignified treatment that your fellow immigrant students have been receiving from this state.
If you are an immigrant student yourself, halt business as usual because the world has not yet seen our power.
Why is it important for students (as opposed to workers) to strike?
I can tell that students are concerned that they do not leverage as much power over universities as, for example, laborers leverage over their employers. After all, workers quit and the whole operation shuts down. Students quit, and they fail class.
Students may not posses as much power as workers. But we do have quite a lot more potential than we let ourselves believe.
After the National Guard shot and killed 4 students at Kent State, over 450 campuses were shut down by striking students.
In other countries, where student strikes are a far more popular protest tactic than in the US, universities are routinely shut down in response to strikes.
We may think that administrators have the power to dictate the course of our lives, but our institutions have shown that they are often willing to acquiesce to student power.
My parents have made a sacrifice for me to attend college. I am a low-income student, a nonwhite student, an immigrant student. Am I dishonoring this sacrifice by striking?
If we were asking for a strike lasting longer than a day, then yes, you might be dishonoring a sacrifice. However, most likely you have already more than one class for a good, or even a silly reason at this point in the semester. Missing one day of class, in most circumstances, should not be an overwhelming burden.
However, there are times when class simply cannot be missed. Either you have a professor who truly will fail you, or an exam, or a variety of other obstacles. In this case, I urge you to reach out to your professor, and ask them to cancel class.
If this does not work, there are a variety of other, smaller ways to show solidarity.
Find a rally near you that takes place after classes end. Wear a special color or garment in symbolic support of your fellow immigrant students. Donate to those who have organized the strike. Spread the word to others who may be able to strike in your place.
This economic climate may tell us otherwise, but college is about more than studying hard to find a lucrative job. For many of us, college is our only network of solidarity in a hostile world. We, immigrant students, ask this favor of other students, because who else can we ask for unequivocal support other than a group of Americans that has been called “radical“, “idealistic“, “coddled“, “violent“, and “easily offended“, often in the same breath?
Do you know your plans for May 1st? Support your fellow students. Find a strike near you.