My name is Rostislav 'Slava' Rar. I am a nonprofit immigration attorney, an incredibly proud fiancé, and a Russian immigrant.
I am also a straight white male working every day to challenge my own racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia that undergird systemic inequity, economic injustice, and generational trauma. In so doing, I stand here, acknowledging my own privilege not as entitlement—but as a call to action.
My family moved to the United States from Novosibirsk in Siberia (Russia) when I was 9 years old. I didn't speak a word of English and from the time I arrived my family and I were carried by the current of systems that didn't understand us and didn't want to understand us for who we were.
Whether it was being placed in a class for people with developmental disabilities because of my language barrier; or my father's decade long struggle to get himself and his family a green card despite it requiring him to hold jobs he was unhappy with; or my mother's inability to find work because she didn't have a work visa. Our systems are not and were never kind to immigrants such as my family.
But we're the lucky ones...
It breaks my heart when I think of the 12 millions undocumented immigrants who must live in the shadows of our society never even getting the opportunities to become citizens that my family got no matter how long they try.
It breaks my heart when people have to trek across the desert to a promise land that doesn't even want them, risking their lives and the lives of their children and families in the process.
And it breaks my heart even more when people like me, who became citizens of this country, pull up the ladder behind us.
My call to action is this - forget the ladder; let's build an elevator! Not just for immigrants, but for all. Let's for once truly commit ourselves to equity, kindness and compassion which we all have within us.
Let's make our systems reflect these values!
I hope you join us.