Tag Archives: Policy

Diaspora and Apartheid: Study Abroad Research

“If we can prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing something of comparable moral importance, then we ought, morally to do it.”

-Peter Singer[1]

(http://todayinlaborhistory.wordpress.com/tag/apartheid/)
(http://todayinlaborhistory.wordpress.com/tag/apartheid/)

 

This summer I will be participating in the JSIS/Hellenic Studies program hosted by the University of Washington in partnership with Harvard University in Greece, which is a research project that will analyze how apartheid and diaspora have and continue to impact the people in the Baltic region.

Apartheid:

Any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.

Diaspora:

Any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland, especially involuntarily, as Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

People may choose to migrate of their own accord for many reasons, such as, migrating for survival or to improve their life chances, and in other situations people may be forced to migrate by an individual, group, institution or regime that has more coercive power than their victims. Regardless of our feelings about the morality of legal and illegal migration, and whether migrants should be allowed access into other states, the fact remains that our planet is stratified in a hierarchical system of inequalities wherein certain citizens of different countries (and even between citizens within a given country, such as those with caste systems) have different levels of access to opportunities and life-chances. And if it is the case that we have the “right” to seek the improvement of our lives, then their choice to migrate is justified by that right. How much more so is there a need to uphold this right when people mass-migrate to avoid a national catastrophe, such as famine or genocide because without such a right, then these people would be doomed to tragic deaths? In regard to the latter situation of forced migration of many people, which is most often associated with diaspora, violates the “right to improve one’s life” because the imposed migration supersedes the individual’s choice not to migrate and to improve their lives in the way they see fit.

However, in either case, one of individual choice (whether legal or not), or one of forced migration, the citizens and/or the governments of the host nations may or not welcome the migrants. In such cases where migrants are not welcomed, the potential for forced segregation, or apartheid, becomes much more likely and with the prevalence of language barriers it is even more difficult for the migrants to seek protection and reparation for the harms done to them. Harm in this context is being defined as making something or someone worse off than before the act was carried out. Recently, the New York Times published an article titled, “Africans, Battered and Broke, Surge to Europe’s Door,” about the migration of Africans into Spain, many of who were fired upon by the border control while attempting cross the border, the remainder were living in shelters for immigrants or in immigration centers waiting to learn of their fates.[2] This report reveals two phenomena; first, that there is a difference between countries and some are more desirable than others to live in; second, that states attempt to control who migrates and when with borders are protected by military forces against foreigners; third, that if and when people do make it across the borders of protected countries that they are segregated and mal-treated; and fourth, that this is still a prevalent and troubling issue for many people.

The issues that migration, especially, when it involves diaspora and apartheid, reveal violations of human rights, listed in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR). Within the UNDHR, are such rights as the “right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state” (Article 13), the “right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution” (Article 14), the “right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3), and the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services” (Article 25).[3] The importance of the legal status of a migrant is undermined by the violations of their rights, which assume precedence. We have a moral obligation “not to harm” others, and I am sure that you will agree with me that being forced to leave your home by one power and then being forcefully segregated by another power in terms of nationality, country of origin, religion or race is a worse harm than their being in the county of another illegally.

Even if it can be shown that illegal immigration is somehow a harm to the citizens of the host-nation, say by appealing to an over-taxation of a nation’s resources, or even a violation of a citizen’s right to the “freedom of association,” two wrongs do not make a right, and that would not justify the harmful treatment that migrants are receiving. Responding to the former claim, Charles Beitz, in the article, Justice and International Relations, argues that the possession of resources is “morally arbitrarily,” and as such no one individual has a moral claim to any particular resource that is morally justifiable.[4] This only becomes important because of the concepts of scarcity and resource distribution, wherein there is a limited amount of resources and those resources are spread around the planet in an unequal distribution between the nations. What this means for people is that in the dependent on the places that they live, they have different levels of access to resources and thus, access to different resources that are positively correlated with life-chances. Responding to the second claim, Joseph Carens in, Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders, suggests that:

Citizenship in Western liberal democracies is the modern equivalent of feudal privilege – an inherited status that greatly enhances one’s life chances. Like feudal birthright privileges, restrictive citizenship is hard to justify when one thinks about it closely.[5]

In other words, this “right to freedom of association” is used as a means to sustain the hierarchical status quo of inequalities based on the morally arbitrary possession of resources. Both objections fail to establish the fact that illegal immigrants cause more harm and also fail a justification to project harm onto migrants, regardless of their legal status.

The concept that more harm is being done to migrants than to the citizens becomes exceedingly more apparent when we realize what Carens says about the average migrant, that they are seeking “an ordinary life,”[6] which includes working for a living, paying taxes, caring for their families, living in homes and peacefully interacting with their neighbors. In other words, being functional and contributing members to society and becoming part of the communities in which they live. Furthermore, when these migrants are discovered, if they have been able to achieve a measure of social stability like Carens suggests, they are then ripped from the homes they have made and extradited to their countries of origin, which is arguably more disruptive and harmful than granting them citizenship. There may be moral grounds to limit the migration of people, but once they have migrated, the obligation to treat migrants with dignity and integrity takes precedence to any previous claim to the right of freedom of association.

The situation that migrants face is plagued with injustice from beginning to end, from their reasons to migrate to their treatment after they migrate. However, in order to make the types of changes in policy and social behavior that will actually make a difference in regard to diaspora and apartheid we have to have accurate data about what the issues and concerns are from all the parties concerned. This is necessary if we are to make any arguments about the harms being done and further, to suggest plans of action to mitigate those harms. That is why we are traveling to Athens, we are on a social fact finding mission to ascertain the truth about the situation and are going to make recommendations based on the evidence we gather about how to address the problems our nations face. The results of the research will be evaluated and summarized in research papers and there will be a formal presentation of that material prior to leaving Greece before the parties that can make a difference in these people’s lives.

 

To Help Me Make This Research Possible, Please Contribute to the Fund to Get Me to Athens @ http://www.gofundme.com/7wx9m0

 

 

https://renaissancethepoet.wordpress.com/education-is-key/study-abroad-in-athens-2014/

 

[1] Singer, Peter. Famine, Affluence ,and Morality, p. 231

[2] New York Times, Africans, Battered and Broke, Surge to Europe’s Door, February 28, 2014.

[3] United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. http://www.ohchr.org/en/udhr/pages/introduction.aspx

[4] Beitz, Charles. Justice and International Relations, p. 367-370.

[5] Carens, Joseph. Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders, p. 252

[6] Carens, Joseph. The Case for Amnesty (Boston Review, May/June 2009)

 

Turn the Day Into the Night: The Story Behind the Song

To construct the lyrics for the Hip Hop song, “Turn the Day Into the Night,” I combined stories from my life and the lives of four friends I grew up with. This song is a portrayal of the life we, and many others faced and continue to face today while growing up indigent in gentrifying cities. For many of us then, as it is for many of us today, the best outcome that most of us had and have to look forward to was and is prison and death. This is a phenomenon that needs to come to light in the public’s eye and be faced head on.

(Lyrics for the song are at the end of this post)

Sociologists and social scientists have identified and established with empirical evidence that our society in the United States is stratified. This stratification is socioeconomic in nature, which means that it is not purely social in nature. In accordance with Social Conflict Theory, pioneered by people such as Karl Marx and W.E.B. Du Bois, this stratification manifests a conflict between the classes as they compete for resources. The media would have us believe what Chimamanda Adichie classified as a “single story,” in her appearance on Ted Talk in July of  2009; whereby the public is presented as Adichie  says; “[s]how a people as one thing, as only one thing over, and over again, and that is what they become” (Adichie 09:29). She later later notes; “[t]he single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but they are incomplete,” that there is in fact much more than what is presented by the media (Adichie 13:15).  The single story that has been represented of young Black men in America is that we are to be feared, that we are drug dealers, and we are to blame for our own situations. Well, from the social conflict perspective this is what is called “Blaming the Victim” and has provided the justification for denying responsibility for the problems of stratification; and in other words it is “Cognitive Dissonance,” and has been the basis for a blatant reprisal against an entire class of people.

The “White Flight” that began in American cities in the 1950’s and 60’s, when the migration of White Americans left urban areas decadent as the suburbs began to flourish. This occurred over the same time period as the great migration of Black Americans from the south and rural areas into northern cities. Resources and jobs disappeared, and the civil Rights Movement was just beginning to pick up in full swing so, at the time Black Americans were still being highly and openly discriminated against; in the social, political, educational, and economic spheres of American society. This was one of the causes of the stratification that we see today. Then in the late 80’s and early 90’s another  migration began to occur as wealthy Americans, mostly White, began to return to the cities. As this happened, the United States began to experience Gentrification as property was purchased, and driving up the property values less-wealthy Americans, usually minorities, could not afford to stay in the areas where this took place any more.

In both situations the phenomenon  of a battle for resources emerged as is suggested by classic social conflict theory. In a capitalist system where people are compelled to compete and oppress one another, this is not surprising.  According to Social-Psychological Theory, it is precisely this competition, which both creates and sustains the stereotypes that compound the issue of Blaming the Victim. And when the available resources in an area are based on the taxes collected in that area, it effect schools and school programs, after school programs, employment services, social health resources, etc.  Furthermore, all these resources suffer when the people who live in these communities are isolated economically as a result of capitalist competition.

Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World, v. 1.0.2,  Chapter 9.2 Explaining Deviance by Steven E. Barkan

Sociologists and social scientists have identified the the capitalist competition, the stereotypes with their subsequent effects that result from this competition, and the lack of resources facing minority communities as the reality of this stratification in the United States. They also suggest that the lack of resources, training and job opportunities in these communities is what leads the inhabitants of these communities to turn to what has been classified as crime—in America—as a means to survive. The crimes in question are primarily drug related in nature; drug dealing and drug using, but also robbery and assault. Drug usage has been identified to be a coping mechanism and drug dealing is dubiously, a lucrative enterprise, but not for the average person on the street dime bagging it to get by. Because of the legislation regarding drugs and society’s perception of this being the evil (Blaming the Victim), it is the symptom and not the cause which has been addressed, and is why there is so much more police in these communities. This image, the image of a young Black thug street dealing and either being harassed or arrested, has been the most prevalent image of Black people in the media, which unfortunately also includes Hip Hop—the so called Black medium—since the mid-1980’s, and has only served to indoctrinate our youth into the path of this single story and perpetuate the problem. The further ramifications are what have been termed as Racial Profiling, wherein specific groups are targeted by the police as being suspicious and often times have their constitutional rights infringed in the process of conferring guilt upon them. Thus, all of the circumstance combined has led these communities to experience a phenomenon that has been titled the “Pipeline to Prison,” which describes the tendency for youth to be funneled through school system into prisons.

Penitentiaries (prisons) are supposed to serve three primary functions; (1) the isolation of those society classifies as criminals from society, (2) the punishment of those who violate the laws, (3) a means by which the “guilty” are to repay their debt to society. However, according to the “Custodial and Non-Custodial Measures: Alternatives to Incarceration” report published in 2006, by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, “prisons not only rarely rehabilitate, but they also tend to further criminalise individuals, leading to re-offending and a cycle of release and imprisonment” (pg. 1). This is the result of a two parts of the social-psychological theory of socialization whereby, the individual is removed from the social pressures, which would naturally act to rectify such behavior and simultaneously insert that individual into an environment, which encourages further criminal behavior.

Compounding these circumstances is the privatization of the Unites States’ penitentiary system. This is a vital concern because human beings, and in this case criminals are being turned into commodities. Millions of dollars have been spent by corporations on lobbying to ensure that the laws are legislated in such a manner that people are both going to and staying in prison; to earn profit, not for rehabilitation and reparation. This situation only serves to further support the assertion that the system of capitalism is contributing to both the stratification and the oppression of an entire class of people.

This problem is not isolated to any one particular institution in the United States, the problem is systemic and it has been interwoven intricately into how we as Americans think about our society and the people in it. Because of how deeply it is embedded within us as a people this will not be an easy or simple undertaking, but it is vitally necessary that it is addressed. The first step in rectifying this problem is acknowledging that it exists. The second step is getting informed on just what circumstances comprise the problem. Then we can have an open discussion on how to pursue a remedy to the situation and hopefully stand as a people in solidarity making the necessary changes to our society. 

 ((new information: Judged sentenced for taking bribes to send black youth to prison))

http://www.africanglobe.net/headlines/judge-sentenced-28-years-selling-black-teens-prisons/

Following are the lyrics to the song:

Verse 1

Turn the day into the night,

cuz I really can’t deal with all the light /

The soul contrite, it will ignite,will not abide

by the code of the law in a lawless sight /

When its better to rob and not to hide,

cuz a nigga wont eat when the field divide /

When they weigh the cost and see my life,

an expendable asset, feel the rise /

Inside my heart as my mamma dies,

my father cries, its no surprise /

Starved to death and they called them lives /

Eagle eye keep a watchful spy,

suppress the rise of the poor with pride /

Defending my, my right to find,

my bit of happiness inside the lines /

The sides are drawn, the fields are long, the man is strong, but the powers to be are deftly wrong, till kingdom come, and the war is won, they’ll never see what has begun, inside the minds of mortal men, still holding on /

To a world so torn, by the wars to protect what had never been owned /

Land and the water,

air and the daughter,

son to the slaughter,

thirty piece martyr,

goona get harder to earn a dollar,

so you gotta be smart… /

Free to the be thief, whens he goona reap heat, repeat history, never could of learned to read, knew he couldn’t see thee, gotta pay a fee just to be on the streets, what he learned from the enemy, guise’d as a friend to me, fronted some amphetamines, ducking from the police, genes not holy, eyes full of greed and forgotten homies, testimonies, all they wanna see are commodities, human body monopolies, prisonous atrocities, these slave policies, are of Mephistopheles…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (x3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

Verse 2

Don’t wanna see this world,

don’t wanna know whats still in store /

Let the night fully overcome,

wanna open my eyes and not be poor /

Wanna medical plan I can afford

and not to be known by my credit score /

So many doors been shut in my face,

I lost the trace, I caught a case, I’m facing time,

gotta walk the line, and keep a watchful eye,

cuz rivals ride, with shanks made out of whatever they find,

damn its hard out on the grind /

I know it seems like a fallacy,

but the tragedy is an atrocity /

Couldn’t my actions possibly,

have motives weighed collectively /

Why can’t they see my family tree,

and all the mouths that I have to feed /

I know the law like a nursery,

but now they’ve caught me dispersing these /

Tripped up rock, put a knot in my sock,

to hid from the cop while I’m on the block /

Fiends double pecking think they missed a spot,

me years from now, but no power to stop /

But I thought I had the game on lock, yet it slipped from me, like a memory, and I lost the key that kept me free, school never had a place for me, BLASPHEMY, but literacy isn’t as common as they think it be /

& The fear of such, kept me a slave unto the streets, but perception painted me, as the enemy, of this society, its propriety is a mockery, hypocracy, cuz white collar crime infects the whole economy, and aristocracy, but all they get is a slap on the wrist, cuz it kept the rich, and I get twenty five to life for payin rent, ain’t this a !!!BITCH!!! /

Might as well just dig a dicth, throw me in and steal my breath, call me NIGGER “IGNORANT”, I see how they be figurin, like prison is a Heven Sent, as to say we’re never ment, to raise the Hell up out of it, but WE RISE LIKE PHEONIX, !!!SUCK THAT!!!…

Chorus

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
Don’t want us in the STREETS
So, CAGES are soon to BE (X3)

Don’t wanna see us BE
Don’t wanna see us FREE
NO, NO, NO….
Don’t wanna see us FREE

CREDITS

 MusicaDiction,

Produced by Zubin Hensler

Written by Renaissance the Poet