UndocuMemes, created by members of DreamActivist.org, is a new forum from the perspective of young people engaged in the immigrant rights movement. The growing contributions voice complexity, humor, frustration, and diverse political commentary. In less than two days, it had more than 600 likes on Facebook and inspired a companion Tumblr page.
I spoke with a couple DREAM Act leaders to talk about the power of humor in such a politically precarious situation.
First, here’s Luis Serrano, who contributed one of the first memes to catch on, depicting President Obama laughing with his staff about family separation.
Tell me about the President Obama UndocuMeme (pictured above), and why there’s so much buzz about the forum.
When I saw the picture of President Obama laughing, that’s just what I thought about. Humor helps you escape all of the seriousness. That’s what humor is for, to express this crazy reality. It’s funny how you find humor about your own situation. We are politically aware about our reality and we make fun of it.
Why might some people be surprised to see memes that spark controversy and point to humor in the hardships of undocumented life?
Some people may expect us to be these polished perfect people that don’t commit any errors. We’re only human and we’re regular people. I kind of want to make people feel at ease and that it’s cool to be who you are and embrace it. I’m happy people are enjoying it and finding a humorous outlet. Also it’s a forum, we take submissions and there’s really different reaction from everyone on the different topics.
Now, Tania Unzueta, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Latin American And Latino Studies Program, and a co-founder of the Immigrant Youth Justice League. She’s currently writing a paper on undocumented humor.
The UndocuMemes humor is really varied, from criticism of allies, to people making light of their own undocumented experience. I was surprised the forum was so public.
Some of this undocumented humor is becoming more public, particularly after the failed Dream Act of 2010. There has been more space to voice our frustrations and anger. Many of the memes also illustrate that we are unapologetic about nourishing our own undocumented community.
What are your favorite memes?
I like the Secure Communities one with Napolitano, and the one with President Obama laughing. Another one that’s interesting is the dinosaur meme about whether or not to support Dream Act legislation regardless of which party is proposing it. It points to an intense conversation that the immigrant rights movement is about to have.
What else do you want to share about undocumented humor? TU: There has been a lot of creativity expressed with undocumented humor. I like the Dreamers Adrift videos http://dreamersadrift.com/. My sister and I wrote immigration policy recommendations for the end of the world.
This all speaks to how we’re human. We’re just people. We laugh about our status, but just because it’s funny, that doesn’t mean we’re not angry and frustrated. These memes stimulate conversation and expresses very clear ideas about what we’re feeling and our politics, but also that there is internal satisfaction being able to say what we think.