Greece is not Seattle, and it is definitely not the United States, but that goes without saying. However, I have to insert the caveat at this point because it has dumfounded this person who has never been outside of the United States before, but in reality, on the surface level—because that is all that I have been able to observe so far, Greece is not so different from being in Seattle. Now, I know that any person reading this may be like hold up, wait a minute, you are in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, you are in Europe; you are in a place that it does not rain as the normal climate and yaddi yaddi ya… I am neither talking about the geography or whether, but rather, the people and the society. There is traffic that piles up just like it does in the States, and families enjoying dinner with each other, people walking down the streets, couples, kids in the park skateboarding and all that. It is beautiful, and definitely not as different as I thought it would be.
Yet, there is something that is very different beneath the surface here that I do not feel in the United States. I cannot shake this feeling of warmth and pride, of being connected to the environment and the people in the environment. I get the sense that Athens would not be Athens without the people populating the streets, filling in the shops, walking up and down the sidewalks in groups of threes and fours. It seems that the people who are here are just as much part of this place as the land and the sea, the clouds and the sun, there is a unique spirit here that I have not felt anywhere else that I have ever been. So, while on the surface it is much more similar to Seattle than I had initially thought that it would be, it is nonetheless, very different when I feel the world and the people around me vibrating at a different, dare I say higher, rate.
I have only been her for one evening and morning and I have already fallen in love with it, it feels like coming home. I love hearing all the many languages, and seeing all the love that everyone shares, even with strangers as they pass them on the streets. I have never heard so many people working in shops, yelling out hellos to people walking on the other side of the street, or vice versa. It is like everyone knows and cherishes everyone here and I get the sense that once you become part of the community here, you never lose that status.
I expected to feel like an outsider and to be treated like a person that does not belong here. I felt like this because this is the first time that I have ever been an outsider coming in. Well, at least in the sense that I am from another country. The truth is that I have always felt like an outsider at home because I am an African American male who is from the United States. I live in Seattle, Washington, which has been identified as being one the “whitest” cities in the country, i.e., it is not very diverse. I know that people think that things like Affirmative Action, and what naught make people think that minorities are included in society and are treated fairly, but that is not so much the feel if you are one of those minorities. I have to work twice as hard to get half as far, just as a starting point; and I am super bright and really smart, and I still have to put up with it. The point is that at home I never really feel like I belong, unless I am with a group of similar people. But, here, I have not felt like that at all. Everyone that I have met has just included me into conversations and made me feel at home, made me feel as though I belong and that is a beautiful feeling to have.
I was right, this trip is going to change the way that I perceive the world. It has only been one day it my perspective has already been irrevocably altered for the better.
The deeper I reach into the conditions confronting people who are immigrating, the greater my concern grows for these issues. And it is much, much more complex than what I initially imagined.
My heart is wrenched.
It is, wrought with moral and empirical nightmares. It is a normative cluster ____! And it is driving me bonkers learning about it all. As a “privileged American” I have not had to consider the ramifications of many of these issues for my own life, so as I am becoming acquainted with the harsh reality that exists, it is both shocking and appalling. I can hear good arguments from both sides for why to and not to accept immigration because in either case people are harmed and benefited.
Hence the dilemma, that so many people have toggled with, where is it that the balance is drawn? In order for there to be a harm, then there must first be a baseline from which to measure the harm by. If this is true, as I think it is, then the problem becomes defining the point at which harm is measured from.
This I believe is the only way to make sense of the dilemma. Nonetheless, and notwithstanding the complications, thousands of people are dying while people are struggling to make up their minds about what should be done and how.
This summer, I will be living in Athens doing research on immigration by performing interviews of people, observing their behavior and interacting with them in stores, parks, buses, schools, restaurants, cafes, hotels, etc., which are many of the principal places where culture or conflict emerges.
So, for the most part this will be qualitative research. However, to place this research into the proper context I will also be analyzing the historical and economic impacts that immigration has had on the people in Greece, so it will have a qualitative aspect to it as well.
But the overall project will be qualitative in nature.
The interviews will entail asking difficult, politically sensitive and emotional charged questions that get to the heart of the immigration issues people are confronting.
My studies into the ethics of aid, assistance, and social contracts have revealed that in order to be of any assistance to people who are suffering in other countries, or in this country for that matter, it is imperative for me to understand the factors that have helped to shape and continue to influence the development of their identities and circumstances.
My background with human rights and international justice issues will be highly useful because the forced migrations and forced segregation that people are subject to are complex moral and ethical issues that are fused with politics and conceptions of justice.
By ignoring such factors, there is a potential to do more harm than good.
The ethnographic research of the project will help us to discover what the people, which includes both the migrants to and the citizens of Greece themselves believe shape their identities, the composition of the circumstances they face, what they consider just, permissible and impermissible, and what obligations they believe humans they have to one another.
Given that all of these factors contribute to the outcomes of any complex situation, especially one as sensitive as immigration during economically challenging times, it then becomes necessary to consolidate political, economic, and historical data, as well as, the qualitative data collected from individuals to correctly ascertain the development and constraints of that situation.
This is what I hope to accomplish, or at least begin while studying abroad in Greece this summer.
For more information on Immigration, Diaspora and Apartheid you can follow the link below:
(1) To get the message out in a different medium than the tradition essays and articles &
(2) to draw attention to fundraiser so that I can afford this project.
I know that you all believe in and support me and the things that I am fighting for because I am fighting for all of us and for a better tomorrow. The truth though, is that I cannot do it alone and I need you help to make this possible.
I also know how it is, sometimes money is tight and if it is, then I certainly do not want you to hurt yourself and I am not asking you to. What you could do for me though is share the link to the fundraiser with you people and ask them for their support; that would go a long way in helping me.
On the other hand, if everyone I know chips in $10, then the research would be fully funded.
I potentially have some scholarships that I will be awarded, but as of yet I have not heard anything. The only way this research may be possible is with your help.
Thanks to the several contributions thus far for my research project this summer, I am starting to pull close to the cost of the plane ticket. As you may be aware, the earlier that I can purchase the ticket the cheaper it will be and the better likelihood that there will actually be a seat when I need there to be a seat. Right now, depending on the negotiation that I can do with the airlines and booking agencies, the cost is approximately $1,500 for round-trip fare, but that will increase over time.
I need your help to get to Athens to perform my research on the impacts of immigration; #diaspora and #apartheid. So, please click the link below and give what you can:
“Citizens 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.”
~Joseph Carens (Aliens and Citizens: The Case for Open Borders, 1987, p. 252)
There is a sharp divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” and it is morally arbitrary, in that there is nothing that people do before they are born that entitles them to the life-chances that they have after they are born. Such as, education, employment, and access to fresh food and clean water.
Is it just to deny people access to these essential needs solely based on the consideration of where they were born, the caste they were born into (which is typically based on skin-color), or the class they were born into? I do not think it is just in any definition of the word.
However, that is precisely what is going on with this feudal privilege. What has essentially been created is a “city on a hill,” that is not only protected by walls, but a vast military institution that cuts down and shreds those who attempt to gain access to what we in America consider basic #needs and #rights. In effect, what this is, is #GlobalApartheid, the forced segregation of vast portions of our civilization, which is exacerbated by the treatment these people receive for attempting to improve their life-chances
These are precisely the types of issues that I will be confronting during my research this summer during my JSIS/Hellenic Studies program focused on #Diaspora and#Apartheid. Please share, and consider contributing whatever you believe that you can afford, so that together we can ensure that #HumanRights are being protected.
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 diasporahave and continue to impact the people in the Baltic region.
Any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.
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. 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). 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. 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.
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,” 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.