Dear Oscar, The Undocumented have a voice

Oscar winner Natalie Portman introduced this years’ nominees in Actor in a Leading Role.
It has become standard for presenters to say a tidbit about all the nominees in both the Actor and Actress in a Leading Role categories. With the exception of the acceptance speeches, most of the show is scripted by producers.
I want to respond to the part where Natalie Portman addressed nominee Demián Bichir. Describing his role in A Better Life, a film about the undocumented experience in the U.S. she uttered, “You gave a voice to the voiceless.”

It was this statement that made me cringe. My friend Tania Unzueta recently spoke about this on a panel earlier this month for Reading Change. She said that undocumented folks have a voice, but that some people don’t want to listen. Politicians, immigration rights activist (who are documented) often want to speak on behalf of “the voiceless.”

Even in spite of organized efforts by youth-led groups all across the country of undocumented youth who are unapologetically saying they are undocumented and unafraid.

Now every time I hear someone say this about themselves or to someone else, I cringe and think, ‘Undocumented people have a voice, you just have to shut up and listen.’

Undocumented youth have been leading this “coming out” movement with videos, podcasts and stories about the undocumented coming out experience.

Bichir didn’t get the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role, but it did provide us a with a learning moment.

Here is an opportunity to listen. [Chicago] National Coming Out of the Shadows Week 2012

Watch Undocumented & Awkward


One Comment Add yours

  1. Jorge says:

    Great post.

    I know tons of people who didn’t appreciate her comment. However, your post does wonders to highlight that those who are undocumented definitely have a voice, are visible, and are proud people who have as many goals, dreams, and aspirations (if not more) as every other American. It’s our duty as advocates to encourage others to listen and to become aware of the issues at hand before making statements like Portman’s.

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