What if the refugees were white?

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It’s a struggle but that’s why we exist

  • Sriram Ananth (sriram.writing@gmail.com)

I suppose a fair number of liberals in Europe and North America were moved to a brief tear or two upon seeing that three year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, washed up on the beach after drowning while escaping persecution. The divine feminine protects him now, from the violence, the virulence, the voyeurism.

After his picture came out, and because humanity needs to compete with pop culture memes these days, the social media feeds were awash with performed, public indignation. White folk especially were positively giddy with empathy for that brief second as they peered into their smart phones before the barista called their name out for their morning latte.

Their false empathy is useless of course because the non-sentiment fails to understand two very important points. Two points that encapsulate what this is all about.

Point number one – a little known fact for all you folks out there about refugees and which countries take in the most:

The overwhelming majority of the world’s refugees are hosted by some of poorest countries in the world.

Over 85% actually if you’re interested in these weird things called facts. Nope, the biggest hosts of refugees are not the shiny, wealthy democracies of the west, but the Jordans, Ethiopias, Lebanons, and Pakistans of the world. Not that those are stellar nation-states with great human rights records, but I’m not talking about governments here. I’m merely stating a very real fact that across the globe the poor are the ones who are hosting other poor people running away from violence.

Those are the stats, year after year, from the UNHCR – conveniently ignored by the people of the Western nations. Not surprising considering moral entitlement and manifest destiny are two sides of the same coin. Westerners, in Europe, North America, and anywhere else in the world – wherever we may find ourselves on the spectrum of empathy (or astounding lack thereof) when it comes to the ongoing humanitarian crisis with our Syrian kith and kin – we must be clear on a very important truth:

The countries of the West don’t do shit.

But they certainly act like they do.

(And there’s a long history of that behavior.)

These are the same colonial countries who benefit, yes benefit, from the ongoing sectarian violence in the Middle East. The Middle East burns because the Western world constantly shoots it’s veins up with black goop coming out of the sands.

(Anyone else notice that the price of gas in Western countries always tends to be a fair bit lower than the rest of the world? Also, all those shiny streets and spanking economies? Yeah, that comes from centuries of colonialism that also result in fallouts like large influxes of refugees.)

So not only does the West do precious little while pretending to do a lot, it actually owes those running away from the persecution and violence created by the geopolitical structures of Western imperialism. It owes them big.

But the majority of the West doesn’t want to share in their ill-gotten gains. Privileged communities rarely do.

Which brings me to my second point.

Just ask yourself this very simple question.

What if the refugees were white?

I don’t need to hear the answer. I know it already. In fact I’m just going to go ahead and make my second point without waiting for the eventual disappointment that your answer (no matter what it is) will bring.

Cos, make no mistake, my friend:

Refugees across the world are treated like human garbage for one very simple reason – they are not white.

Now let me see you shed a fucking tear for that.

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#JeSuisCharlie? How about #JeSuisAgainstImperialistGenocide?

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Let’s state one thing outright: everyone on this earth has the right to say, write, draw, and/or otherwise culturally represent whatever the hell they damn well please without the fear of getting gunned down by fanatics…even the clearly racist, Islamophobic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo intended to consistently hurt Muslim sentiments and demonize Muslims as a whole.

And I’m not saying that just to cover my ass. I actually fucking believe it, and will defend with my life that right to real free speech, because I’ve received (likely silly and completely facile) death threats from Hindu fascists for my book. This, despite it probably being read by a hundred people with luck…goes to show just how insecure they are more than anything else, I guess.

The right to free speech is inviolable – genuine free speech that is; that which resists historical structures of oppression and exploitation that silence the voices of the oppressed and the exploited. Political satire is precious, no matter how offensive. Society always benefits from real satire that speaks truth to power and sticks a middle finger to authoritarianism, no matter how raunchy or disrespectful. And to be sure, it looks like Charlie Hebdo did that with mockeries of political leaders, religious authorities, and other elitists. That kind of satire always takes courage.

Of course, they also spent vast amounts of space mocking and demonizing an already oppressed minority (but curiously enough fired a staffer for writing an anti-semitic column a while back…I suppose even political satirists are subject to imperialist double standards). That kind of satire requires nothing more than the basest sense of humanity and volumes of cowardice.

They certainly didn’t deserve to be killed for it. No one does.

But what I see happening with this whole #JeSuisCharlie stuff and the slavish ways in which vast swathes of the Western world have jumped onto this bandwagon is nothing more than the blatant hypocrisy of Western imperialism and colonial brutality.

For starters, let’s check out this so-called unity rally attended by over 40 heads of state. Included in this megalomaniacal bunch is Mr. Netanyahu. You know, the same terrorist who implemented the very recent massacre of over 2000 Palestinians in Gaza, around 500 of whom were children.

No #JeSuisGaza unity rally with 40 heads of state ever materialized, did it? Indeed, I think most of those leaders were tumbling over each other to support Israel’s genocidal endeavors.

Over 2000 Palestinians massacred by Israel just a few months back…that’s approximately 125 times the number of people killed by the fanatics in Paris last week.

Not to mention the nearly 100,000 Palestinians that have been killed by Israel ever since the founding of that ethno-fascist state. That’s approximately 6000 times the number of people killed by the fanatics in Paris last week.

For that matter there was no #JeSuisIraq unity rally with 40 heads of state when over a million Iraqis (out of a population of 30 million) were massacred due to the American invasion. Hell, some of those states gleefully tucked into that little imperialist endeavor didn’t they? (But not to worry, on your way back from work you can catch a Hollywood film valorizing a psychopathic American sniper who called Iraqis and Muslims “savages” while he butchered around 200 of them.)

A million Iraqis massacred by America…that’s approximately 65,000 times the number of people killed by the fanatics in Paris last week.

Not to mention the millions of others butchered by the American Empire in Vietnam, Phillipines, Afghanistan, Latin America and so on…

And don’t for a second think that we’ve forgotten about the approximately 20-30 million Africans butchered in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Where does that leave us…a million times the number of people killed by the fanatics in Paris last week. 1.5 million times maybe? 2 million?

And that’s just the American Empire.

Come to think of it, there weren’t any #JeSuisBritishColonialSubject or #JeSuisIndia unity rallies with a bunch of heads of state for the anywhere between 30-60 million people (yup, you read that right) massacred by the British Empire. Check out Mike Davis’ book “Late Victorian Holocausts” for more information. (Yes, holocausts – some genocides don’t get to be remembered with greater reverence just because white people got killed…we all bleed the same, even if you think your blood is purer).

30-60 million…that’s…oh forget it, at some point in time numbers are just numbers, especially when it’s dead black and brown bodies that constitute them.

And we’re barely scratching the surface of the bloody, colonial foundation upon which ALL Western societies were built on. Lying in that foundation are the millions upon millions of people killed…not by Islamic militants, not by leftist radicals, but by beautiful white colonizers and their attack dogs.

No #JeSuisCongo from Belgian society to remember the genocide of Congolese by Belgians, no #JeSuisNamibia from German society for the genocide of Namibians by Germans, no #JeSuisLatinAmerica by Spanish society to remember the genocide of indigenous communities in the Americas by the Spanish.

Come to think of it, since we’re talking about Paris here, there sure as hell weren’t any #JeSuisAlgeria or #JeSuisMorocco or #JeSuisVietnam unity rallies, among many others, by French society to remember the genocides conducted by the erstwhile French Empire now were there?

But wait…call a fucking national, nay, international day of righteous rage! Some of our beautiful people have died in Paris. Gunned down by cowardly Islamic militants. We must condemn it vociferously, trans-nationally, and with as much neo-liberal, neo-colonial angst as possible…at least whatever can be generated with nary a click of a Facebook or Twitter button.

And while we’re at it, let’s demonize some more black and brown folk.

Beautiful, white, Christians of the Western world…stand up to the terror of the black and brown hordes we have tried so hard to civilize with our economic systems and benevolent empires.

#JeSuisBeautifulWhiteChristian anyone?

Yeah, I don’t think they’d be too happy if I took on that hashtag…as Albert Memmi said, the colonizer needs for there to be a colonized.

Welcome to the age where imperialism is  sanitized by cardboard cut outs supporting speech that is free only to the wealthy and privileged, supported by a corporate media that decides which of the dead deserve unity rallies with 40 heads of state and which of the dead deserve to be demonized.

#JeSuisForTheLiberationOfAll you cowardly apologists for Western imperialism…#JeSuisYourWorstFuckingNightmareBecauseI’mFree