By Owei Lakemfa
MARCUS Garvey was a Jamaican who left school at 14, established the Universal Negro Improvement Association, UNIA, at 27 and moved the association to Harlem, New York, two years later.
His messages about the dignity of the Black person, their empowerment, charity work, and his slogans of ‘Africa, Unite!’ and ‘Back to Africa’ caught like wildfire in a dry harmattan.
He sought to relocate many African Americans to Liberia. The UNIA had a large Black Star shipping line which was partly to ship willing African Americans back to Africa. Due to large financial obligations and managerial incompetence, the company collapsed.
The White establishment used this as an excuse to charge Garvey with “mail fraud” arising from the sale of the company’s shares. It manipulated the judicial system to imprison Garvey, and use the conviction as the basis to deport him on December 1, 1927.
He was 40. The deportation destroyed the UNIA, set Black struggles across the world back by decades. As for Garvey, the deportation negatively impacted on him; he moved from Jamaica to London where he died in 1940 at 53.
Reviews of his trial exonerated him. One of them was the 1987 United States Congressional Hearings which affirmed that Garvey was innocent but that in the America of his day, he was guilty as charged. But the Congress held that despite its findings, it had no legal basis to exonerate a dead man.
The Garvey story was not just about the negative effects of deportation on human beings, but also its use as a political tool to fight perceived enemies, whiten America and destroy principled resistance. This is what President Donald Trump is doing in America today.
A human being classified as “illegal” is not likely to be psychologically balanced. Such a label does not tell his story. People who migrate legally or illegally are propelled to do so for various reasons.
Usually, it is in search of better life, employment or in order to flee persecution or criminality. Imagine a person from Honduras, El Salvador or Guatemala trekking for weeks or months, sleeping under open skies and going through the rigours of getting to America, raising a family only to be told decades later that he is to be deported to the old country from which he had fled!
Imagine the African who raises money to travel for a better life; overcomes the dangers of the desert, the rigours of starvation and sometimes enslavement in countries like Libya, surviving the suicidal crossing of the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe, only to be deported after some years.
Deportation in a country like America has become a weapon to depopulate, and an instrument of family separation. Visualise the negative effect on the nine million American children whose undocumented parents live under the constant fear of deportation.
Imagine the overall effect on 11.3 million undocumented persons who are in danger of being deported if the security agencies obey President Trump’s marching order this month. It is true that undocumented migrants were also deported during the Obama administration, but the motives included a preference for legal migration. However, the Trump motive is primarily racist; part of an ultra-right wing campaign against people of colour. Trump himself, a grandson of German immigrants has used attacks on non-White countries to justify deportations.
The fact is that 87percent of immigrants in America are non-White. Mexico with 11.2 million migrants accounts for 25 percent, followed by China with 2.9 million or six percent, India with 2.6 million or six percent, Philippines with two million or five percent and El Salvador with 1.4 million or three percent.
Overall in 2017, South and East Asia accounted for 27 percent of immigrants in America; Mexico, 25 percent; Europe/Canada, 13 percent; the Caribbean, 10 percent; Central America, eight percent; South America, seven percent; the Middle East, four percent and Sub-Saharan Africa, four percent. Trump has consistently attacked all except Europe and Canada.
Most of his attacks are against Mexico whose migrants he profiled as criminals and rapists. Trump relentlessly attacks China for allegedly taking American jobs. For Asia and the Middle Belt, he signed an Executive Order banning people from several countries with Muslim majorities from travelling to America. He characterised African countries and Haiti as “shithole countries”, asking rather for more immigrants “from places like Norway”.
In August 2017 when there was a clash between White supremacists and human rights protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia during which the racists killed a counter- protester, Trump blamed both sides for “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence”.
When people protested that human rights campaigners cannot be accused of displaying hatred and bigotry, he responded that there are “some very fine people on both sides”. Are there really “very fine” racists?
However, Trump’s racism and using deportation as weapon against non-White people is not limited to the undocumented; he also wants the documented, including lawmakers of colour, out! For instance, he tweeted that coloured Congresswomen, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley (none of whom is an immigrant) and Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a refugee aged 12, are people “who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded that Trump’s plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America White again. ” The four Congresswomen took up the Trump challenge. Ms. Tlaib said: “Want a response to a lawless and complete failure of a president? He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached.” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told Trump: “On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you either.”
Ms. Omar told Trump that he is “stoking White nationalism because you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda”; while Ms. Pressley shared a screenshot of Mr. Trump’s tweet, saying: “This is what racism looks like. We are what democracy looks like.”
Humanity needs to stand by the victims of American deportation and the four Congresswomen. If humanity had stood up to Hitler rather than appease him as Europe is doing to Trump today, millions of Jews might not have been gassed and millions more would not have died in the senseless Second World War.