We Won’t Solve Tribalism Until We Abolish Countries
This is wishful thinking, but as the horror at our southern border is laid bare it made me think of our larger immigration system and the concept of immigration as a whole. As America’s independence is once again celebrated, what was as inherent in our nation’s founding as the ideas of revolution and patriotism that we espouse was this idea of discrimination.
We as a society have always recognized “good” and “bad” discrimination. This struggle is exemplified in what is referred to as America’s original sin, slavery, but is reminiscent in so many other areas as well: the Civil War, Jim Crow, Japanese and Chinese internment, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, the sterilization of minorities and differently-abled people, eugenics, the war on drugs, the war on crime, the war against terror, and many other efforts that worked to define the ideal citizen at the exclusion of others. Much of the struggle over the past two and half centuries has been over the definition of a citizen, the qualifications broadening inch by painful inch through blood, sweat, and tears. Our definitions of who could be discriminated against for what reason steadily narrowed, and the exclusion and discrimination that was and still is built into our fabric was redefined again and again.
Tribalism. Protection of the group. Killing to protect that group. As time goes by, we’ve claimed progress, but is that really the case? The group or tribe has only gotten bigger, encompassing a few more each year but still excluding just as many if not more, morphing from tribes into villages, towns, cities, city-states, kingdoms, countries, and federations. The point is that the borders are always clearly drawn.
If we follow that logic, then human progression has also been about moving away from our evolutionary routes. We’ve successfully done this in a lot of ways. Domesticating select species. Removing ourselves from the food chain. On the whole, we’re more tolerant and accepting of each other than at any other point in history. The joke goes that if you asked a black man if he wanted to time travel to any point in history, where would he go? Instead of giving you an answer, he’d politely decline, saying “No, thanks. I’m good.”
Because any dilution of power happens begrudgingly and forcefully. Few to none have honestly and willingly given it up on a macro-level. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that the immigration system is simply an extension of that fact. It’s a way to preserve the power of the group. This discrimination is even baked in to the words we use to describe it: “assimilation”, “make sure their values align with ours”, “merit-based”, “illegal aliens”, and “national security”.
The truth is that a human immigration system is in fact an oxymoron. These systems are built to dehumanize. Think of the term, “illegal alien”. It’s easy to remove oneself from that. “Illegal alien” sounds ominous, scary, not-human. That phrase sits differently than “mother” and “father”, “family”. A humane immigration system is one that doesn’t exist.
Yet even though we see pictures and daily segments on the deteriorating conditions in facilities and camps at the border, nothing changes. We are still left talking about different shades of an immigration system that’s demonstrably, fatally flawed. In all of this what we’re really talking about is a system that is only dehumanizing and discriminatory to an acceptable degree. Enough where we don’t have to think about or be bothered by it. Where only a trickle of immigrants can come in each year so as not to upset the established systems. Enough to fill out the more undesirable aspects of our workforce. Enough so that our makeup doesn’t alter in a meaningful way.
We see this in how groups support immigrants all the way up until these immigrants start getting hired for quality work. We see it in the indignation aimed at creators who change a well-known characters race in new adaptations of classic work. We see it in the vitriol our President and the Republican Party aim at the four congresswomen of color color colloquially know as “The Squad”, and most notably we see it in how Democrats, Republicans, and the media treat Congresswoman, Ilhan Omar.
She is the success story that has always been lauded as the American Dream. She represents several identities that have rarely, if ever walked the halls of power in Washington D.C. She is different than who have come before her, and she represents change on many levels, but she is American. She is a citizen, not second-rate nor lesser. She has full-blooded citizenship just like myself who was born here. No different.
Yet, what should be praised is looked at with shifty eyes and concern, exclaiming that she has overcome so much, but I don’t know if she’s a right fit for Congress. In a lot of circles it’s support up to a point of becoming uncomfortable. It’s double and triple-checking that immigrants are held to a much higher standard because they look, act, and speak different, and then offering them little if any return on the clearing of those high expectations.
It’s not recognizing the full humanity of someone simply because they don’t belong to a system that’s made up, and that’s not right.
If we truly believe in the ideals of tolerance, humanity, and equity, then what we consider as a modern-day country must be removed. The very concept is discriminatory, and so it too must be re-examined and perhaps even eliminated. It’s the natural conclusion of the fight against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and everything else. The sooner this is realized, the better.