No Ban, No Wall, On Stolen Land

Activist and social justice warrior Harsha Walia recently visited OSU addressing the present struggles with border imperialism. Visiting as part of the Transform/able Identy-ies conference, Harsha urged us to examine how identities become constructed around borders. We must examine how forces and systemic violences inscribe these identities upon people; not only of negative stereotypes of terrorist and job-stealers, but also of “positive” stereotypes of taxpaying migrants and model minorities. By understanding how people become a migrant, a refugee, or an undocumented, we can better address the systemic oppression that imposes this identity and creates the asymmetry between borders. By focusing too much on the worthiness of identity and where people come from, rather than our humanity and challenging notions of identity as worthy, we lose sight of interlocking modes of power and governmentality surrounding border policy: border imperialism.

No one is born illegal.

We must examine questions of those constructed identities of immigrant and refugee and instead look at migration and displacement. Focus on the process and not the person to discover how to overcome these destructive practices. With one billion migrants and displaced people worldwide, we begin to see some congruence in the processes: asymmetries between rich and poor, global north and global south, whites and “others”. For example, we see policies of “humanitarian intervention” that actually strengthen neocolonialist practices of ‘othering’ black and brown people in Afghanistan. If the US were truly to be humanitarian in that rhetoric, we would accept more than the 500 annually admitted refugees. There are further concerns about imperialized feminism in Afghanistan that aim to ‘protect’ brown women from brown men in those places, often exacerbating women’s risk in those countries aimed at being ‘helped’. The currently proposed travel ban is particularly violent as well because it relies on a process of bombing and banning: it bans the refugees from places the US military intervention has had direct violent actions.

Similar political and economic practices are closely related to World Bank funded projects. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is one such iteration that often obscures the global context of border imperialism by focusing on national economic policy advantages, ignoring the economic fallout across the border. Under NAFTA, the privatization of land is the essence of both colonization and capitalism. Common lands in Mexico were taken away and privatized, forcing elimination of Mexican subsidies, and displacing the workers farming indigenous varieties of corn. Meanwhile, the US maintains subsidies on corn, a non-indigenous crop, further instituting the trade asymmetry with Mexico. This is one tracing of such imperialism and has created an estimated fifty-million displaced Mexican workers forced into poverty, two-million having lost their lands, all of which are forced to challenge the U.S border for work, living in a state of migration.

Ultimately, instituting border policies implicates not only the construction and maintenance of borders—the othering of other peoples—but active measures that violate those borders (like NAFTA) that create migrants and refugees to challenge and strengthen border regimes. Further policies of military intervention and gentrification systems violate people’s sense of self-determination and create displacement while border regimes expect people not to move to find better conditions and opportunity.

We must focus on the inherent worth of all people, their rights to life, dignity, and support. We must care and lift up our people, ethically organize around our people and see less separation. We must have the expansive vision of being at home on our land, to be able to have a home in our communities, our gender identities valued and recognized, our vulnerability shared, and still be valued. To see that no one is disposable.

“The world was born yearning to be a home for everyone.” –Eduardo Galeano

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