“Have you thought about moving back to France?” I was hanging out with a childhood friend this weekend and thinking about our immigrant journeys. We were brought to the US in the early 90s from France (we were born at the same hospital in Paris.) Our families boarded flights and moved to the Bay Area with enough capital and positions at technology firms that qualified us for home and car loans. We grew up in wooden suburban tract housing and have benefitted from being white in America. We’ve lived the California Dream and continue to accrue wealth.
Many homes in the Bay Area are made of wood and plaster as an earthquake safety measure to avoid heavy building materials potentially crushing residents. Coming from Europe, these structures don’t seem durable. These structures and more importantly the land they’re built on is incredibly valuable and highly flammable. In my mind, the climate disaster and West Coast fires are an indication that change is needed. There are opportunities to advocate for change. But what is the best approach?
I often think about who has the right to this land. If our government asked us to return the land or pay reparations to the indigenous tribes of Silicon Valley (the Ohlone, Yokuts, Muwekma, and more) would we willingly do so? I’m curious about how we might collectively honor the truth in history. How we might acknowledge structures that have propped up certain communities at a cost to others? How might we do the right thing in a manner that isn’t performative and has a real impact?
Should I go back to where I came from leaving a region in crisis behind? As the globe faces climate change what is the best way to collaborate, adapt, and address this existential threat? I’m continuing to learn about the history I wasn’t taught growing up in California and am not sure how to take action quite yet.
Using my right to vote will have to do for now.