There was a television series called The Africans during the 1990s and I remember its host Ali Mazrui gave one of the Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lectures here in Barbados during that decade. During the series, he made a statement about apartheid in South Africa which has remained with me to this day. He said that as apartheid in South Africa was being dismantled, there would be a rise in global apartheid. In that statement was a warning that people of colour should be careful that as they celebrated the destruction of institutionalized discrimination in the apartheid system, there would be a fight against discrimination on a global scale.
We have seen over the past decade a growing resentment and discrimination against refugees who are predominantly black or brown people. Stories in the print and electronic media gave an indication of the horrors which Africans endured as they trekked across the Sahara Desert into countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, boarding less than seaworthy vessels in an attempt to enter Europe.
The resulting reaction by Europe’s far right towards refugees is instructive as it resulted in the rise of xenophobia by the far right. The increased xenophobia was evidenced by the rise in nationalism in that continent; from the monkey chants facing black professional football players, to the attack on the European experiment in integration, which succeeded in separating Britain from Europe by the vote for BREXIT, the exit of Britain from the European Union. Boris Johnson was just selected leader of Britain’s Conservative Party, and as a result, Prime Minister. Mr Johnson, one of the architects of BREXIT, vowed to take Britain out of the European Union.
In North America, the United States has also been dealing with a refugee crisis of its own. People have been fleeing violence in their own countries in Central America for several years. The Obama administration was very aggressive in removing illegal immigrants, most of whom may have been economic migrants, from within its borders. The matter of illegal immigration has been an ongoing problem in the United States for several years; a matter which the US Congress has failed to deal with over some time. The result of this set of unfortunate circumstances is that immigration has been used as a wedge issue in midterm and forthcoming 2020 general elections. The matter has now metastasized to become a litmus test on who will be toughest on immigration and may very well determine who will be President-elect in 2020.
Similar to Europe, the US has moved further to the right since the Obama presidency. The current president, during his campaign before the 2016 election, stated unequivocally that the eleven million illegal immigrants would be expelled when he assumed office. Since coming to office, he has imposed the Muslim ban, made immigration to the US more challenging, wants to reduce the number of refugees entering the US, employed a child separation policy where children have been separated from their parents, made it far more difficult for refugees to claim refugee status in the US, incarcerated illegal immigrants in larger numbers in detention facilities far longer than legally permissible and refused to provide proper sanitary supplies, food and water to the incarcerated.
The US has known for some time that the population dynamics have been changing in that country since the 1980s. Indeed, there was an article in Time Magazine during that period titled The Browning of America. The United States is now a multiracial democracy, a fact that makes some of Caucasian lineage very uncomfortable. The election of Barack Obama was a wake-up call to that segment of the US population that sees itself in a privileged position.
The United States has had serious race and ethnic issues throughout its history. If one examines how the US was created, one would understand why this is the case. It was created because of the right of the Crown in England to tax its subjects in its American colonies without them being represented in the Crown’s parliament. This was a country which compromised on slavery to ensure that the southern slave holding colonies join its northern neighbours in the war for independence. This led to the bloody Civil war between the United States and its Southern states, the Confederate States of America.
The inability of the US to creatively and successfully deal with the race issue over the years is the reason it has never achieved true greatness. The treatment of the weak, the disadvantaged and its poor reflects how a country sees itself. What we see in the US is this privileged group reasserting its power over who will benefit from the fat of the land.
Recently, there was an interesting article in Time magazine titled Republicans Want a White Republic. They’ll Destroy America to Get It. This writer suggests that the republicans are not interested in a multi-racial democracy that lives up to its “creed” as defined by Dr Martin Luther King. The Republicans do not see a future for white people in such a society since white people will lose their privileges; they will be no different from anyone else. As a result, the base of the party now appears to be composed of white working-class people who worked in industries decimated by the great recession and automation. Their hope is that Trump, the great white hope, and the Republican Party will restore their prosperity.
Edward Hunte, an attorney-at-law, is the holder of an MBA with concentrations in Economics & Finance. He was also an economist with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs; email: [email protected]