The Privilege of the Passport

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I was really moved by Ana M. Lara’s piece “Uncovering Mirrors”, and a part that really resonated with me was when she spoke about the power that her U.S. passport gave her. I have traveled to and from Mexico for most summers of my life, and I was made aware of the privilege that came with my American passport at a young age. Other factors such as my fair complexion and the occasional accompaniment of my White father on these trips would make going through airport security even less stressful, but I think that the deep blue hue and U.S. emblem on my passport has helped me in all of my travels more than any phenotype I possess.

But my U.S. passport was not always an easy thing for my mother to maneuver in her travels with me, and especially when I was a toddler my mother would be questioned about whether or not she was actually my mother. So, while I have rarely been stopped and questioned because of my passport, it has been a much more difficult endeavor for my mother, and despite her joint citizenship, she is still heavily scrutinized every time she crosses the border.

My U.S. passport also allowed me to cross borders like a hot knife through butter when I found myself in Europe last year.¬†Of course, border control in the European Union is much less strict than that of the U.S., but of course only in relation to the right bodies passing through–think of the xenophobia directed at refugees and those coming from the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe and how their experiences crossing Western European borders must be nothing short of harrowing.

Even this past winter, I crossed the Mexican border in a completely new way. I was visiting San Diego, the city of my birth, with my family. We decided to drive across the Mexican border into Rosarito in order to eat authentic tacos al pastor and watch the sun set on the beach over the Pacific ocean. On the way back to San Diego, crossing the Mexican border was a lengthy and annoying process. But as soon as we reached the check point, we were free to drive straight on to In-N-Out before heading home. As I looked in the rear-view mirror at the Mexican landscape behind me, I saw so many black and brown bodies frozen on the other side of the border. Citizenship is a privilege I had never felt so tangibly connected to until that crossing, and it makes me wonder what I could do with this passport in order to share this privilege with others.

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