Jose Antonio Vargas: Bloggers Can Change the Conversation

BlogHer Original Post

Just hours before I spoke with Jose Antonio Vargas, he found out that Washington State was revoking his driver’s license. “This is all getting very real,” he says.

The month since Vargas announced his undocumented status in a New York Times Magazine essay has been incredibly anxious, overwhelming — and empowering — for the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Jose Antonio Vargas

Image Credit: Define American

Vargas has also started a new organization, Define American, aimed at elevating and changing the conversation about immigration. Instead of proposing Band-Aid reforms to an outdated and ineffective system of immigration policies, Vargas is going straight to the people. He tells me a story about a young white woman who approached him in Starbucks, saying his article inspired her to talk to her Irish grandfather about their own family’s coming to America story.

“The thing that I’ve been so encouraged by is that it’s been a month, and people who didn’t used to talk about immigration are now talking about immigration.”

That’s why BlogHer invited Vargas, his former high school principal and close mentor, Pat Hyland, and bloggers representing both sides of the aisle, to come hold a discussion about immigration at BlogHer '11 Conference this August in the border town of San Diego. BlogHer co-founder Lisa Stone will moderate the discussion and highlight the diverse viewpoints in the room.

Vargas and his colleagues atDefine American, see women bloggers – Republicans and Democrats – as key influencers in starting the discussion about immigration. “Women have been at the forefront of conversations online. They’re not just clustered with the people they think alike with,” Vargas says. Hundreds of people have already left comments on his blog, sharing stories about being undocumented themselves, or about their nannies or their co-workers.

As a journalist and a former Technology Editor at the Huffington Post, Vargas gets bloggers. His own journey to writing his detailed “coming out” essay reminds me of the kind of brutal introspection we all do, which pushes the limits of our own self-awareness – and leads to some of the best blogging.

“There’s something about how blogging, about being really transparent about where you’re coming from. I got to a point where I thought, ‘If I do this story, does it serve a purpose? If it does, then I’m going to go ahead and write it.’”

And that’s the kind of conversation I want to be part of.

"Coming Out" as Undocumented: The Children of Immigration; The Definition of American

Saturday, August 6

3:00-4:15PM

San Diego Convention Center, Room 11

Race and Ethnicity Section Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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