A project of the Center for Community Change

Can you understand the reality of her death?

Today, I am haunted by Eli’s death. I think about how it could have been me in those tomato fields that day. I am a 66 year old Haitian man, I am a U.S. citizen, and I have spent nearly 30 years working in this country. Like Eli, I have great hope in my heart that sacrificing today will bring a greater tomorrow, but also like Eli, I have limited options.

Eli is a famrworker from Haiti who spent her life working in support industries throughout Florida. Her death brings to light everything that is wrong with America’s low-wage work industries. I can’t say more about it, because the piece written by her friend says it all. I’ll let you read the post and see for yourself.

One question that comes to mind as I read the post, is what would a mainstream American reader think about this story. What would they take away?

I take away sadness, anger. I have a vision of her hands, a vision of her children, tomatoes. I harbor a deep hurt as I realize, slowly, that she is not the first nor the last, but just a nother victim in a line of thousands of death due to poor wages, poor working conditions, and little access to care.

But part of this understanding comes from the fact that I’ve opend my eyes to the lives of those who suffer around me and next to me and under me. I wonder how someone who’s been sheltered all their lives thinks about these things.

I wonder how the young man who works as a policy analyst for a Congressman I visited yesterday would process her story (see previous post about congressional visits with UFW workers). Fresh out of college, gold rings on his fingers, ready for happy hour, being forced to meet with a bunch of migrant workers talking about their problems. I wonder if he has to shut them out to get through his day. I wonder if he has to stop reading articles like the one above, in order to maintain his little cruise up the ladder of power on the Hill.

And as I dit here, I reposition the lens on myself. Do I really understand the reality of eli’s life and death? And what am I willing to give up for her?

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