Albinism in Cameroon

In honour of the International Albinism Awareness Day, on June 13th, we want to share one of Lekeaka Mabel’s blog posts. Lekeaka Mabel wrote three blog posts, which are all part of her master’s thesis called “Albinism in Cameroon: How persons living with albinism experience social exclusion in Cameroon”. Her other blog posts and the rest of her thesis can be found here.

Albinism in Cameroon written by Lekeaka Mabel

 

When White Looking is viewed as a curse.

Whiteness is the centre of the world[1]. Although Cameroon is a black-dominated country, proximity to white gives one more advantages. For example in some tribes like the Bamileke in the western province, fairer (whiter) women fetch a higher bride price than darker women. Skin lightening products are very popular as people constantly seek fairer skin tone so as to attract the advantages associated with being white. However, there exist some groups of Cameroonians who were born “white”. One would think that they would be hailed as kings and queens and showered with love and admiration. On the contrary, they are shunned, despised and even hunted. Herein lies the contradiction that is the life of people with albinism in Cameroon.

 

Albinism is a word derived from the Latin albus, meaning white. It’s a genetically inherited condition where a shortage of melanin pigment affects the eyes, hair and skin[2]. This condition affects the body’s production of melanin, reducing or eliminating pigmentation in the skin, eyes, and hair. This melanin deficiency causes complex visual impairment, altering retinal development and nerve connections to the eye[3]. It also weakens natural defenses against sun damage, placing people with albinism at heightened risk of skin cancer, especially in hot countries. The difference in skin creates adaptation and socialisation problems, with many myths and misconceptions surrounding PWA that have spread over the years within many African communities.

 

In Cameroon likewise other African countries, people living with albinism are given stereotype names, subjected to stigma and prejudice because there are prevailing myths and superstitious beliefs about them not being humans.

 

Testimony by my friend Melissa Longla……..VOICES OF ALBINOS 2 – YouTube[4]

[5]

Melissa Longla in her interview on YouTube says human relations as an albino have been pretty difficult…….

“People make fun of your person. Some think you’re a curse or product of adultery and all sorts of negative things you can think of. Children chant derogatory songs while you walk past the streets and people wouldn’t eat food touched by you…. You have to survive amidst all these,” she explains.

 

One incident which particularly hurt Melissa was back in secondary school when her classmate refused to eat just because she was the one who shared the food at the refectory. “This really weighed down on me,” she laments.

 

“Another incidence was when a boy in my class (form 1) cried all day because he was made to share a desk with me!” Apart from these, Melissa says she has been severally turned down by job officers because employers think people like her cannot fully deliver at work.

 

The life of people living with Albinism in Cameroon is entrapped with difficulties. In all aspects of social, economic and cultural life, children with albinism in Cameroon remain highly marginalized, stigmatized and excluded by virtue of their condition. They remain vulnerable to violence and remain fearful. Despite all these difficulties, violence against children, girls and women with albinism in Cameroon is very much underreported.

[6]

Parents especially mothers of people living with albinism face stigma from the family as well as on a community level. Many women have been sent out of their marriages because their husbands could not understand why two black people could give birth to white skin baby.

 

The plight of albinism is one that needs to be brought to the lime. People with Albinism must not suffer just because they were born different in the same way black people argue that it is unfair for the world to treat them as inferior because they were born black. Being a person with albinism is not a crime and criminalising them is criminal.

 

Share the word, share the awareness and share the love.

 


 

[1] See Alemanji, A.A (2016). (2016). Is there such a thing…? A study of antiracism education in Finland. University of Helsinki.

[2] See Benyah, F. (2017). Equally  Able, Differently Looking: Discrimination and Physical Violence against Persons with Albinism in Ghana. Journal for the Study of Religion 30,1(2017)161-188

[3] See Benyah, F. (2017). Equally  Able, Differently Looking: Discrimination and Physical Violence against Persons with Albinism in Ghana. Journal for the Study of Religion 30,1(2017)161-188

[4] VOICES OF ALBINOS 2 – YouTube

[5] Picture of Melissa and I

[6] The conversation. https://theconversation.com/being-black-in-a-white-skin-students-with-albinism-battle-prejudice-78368

 

The End of the First Edition of the Monthly Reading List

We have now completed the first edition of the Social Exclusion’s monthly reading list. We have compiled a list of nine books which all include anti-racist rhetorics, discusses justice and equality and overall critical analyses of our society. Many of the books happen to be academic, but some are also written in a more playful way, which makes them also attractive to a younger audience and people who are not familiar with academic writing.

 

We have strived to make the list as inclusive as possible, but there are still plenty more books we would love to feature. So without further ado, we are announcing that we are continuing with the monthly reading list next September! This list will include even more books that target Racial Justice, Racial Equity and Antiracism in one way or another. Additionally, we would like for our audience to participate in the making of this list, in other words, if you do have a book, which you would like to share and that targets antiracism, feel free to send in your suggestion via email to @ socialex@abo.fi/ aminkeng.atabong@abo.fi. Let’s collectively build this initiative!

 

Hope the current Monthly Reading List will make for some great reflective readings this summer!

6,765 Summer Reading Illustrations & Clip Art - iStock

Restful summer to everyone!

 

Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery

Sisters of the Yam : Black Women and Self-Recovery book cover

The last book on our list will be a book from the recently passed author, feminist and social activist, bell hooks. Her book Sisters of the Yam continues to discuss the black womanhood experience and she explores the emotional health of Black women and how it is constantly being affected by sexism and racism. In her book, bell hooks highlight the link between self-recovery and political resistance and how aspects such as joy and healing are a vital need in the struggle for equality.

 

bell hooks, was a beloved author, respected feminist and social activist who recently passed away at the age of 69. She was a pathbreaking Black Woman and will be remembered through her writings and doings.

Welcome the ‘Stranger’

Written by Tinka Harvard

‘Our traditions says thirty-six times you shall welcome the stranger.’

—Danny Schild, founder of Canadians Helping
Asylum Seekers in Israel (CHAI)

The nation of Israel, created in response to the Jewish people’s history as refugees, is currently trying to ‘stem the tide’ of non-Jewish asylum seekers. In response to an influx of migration of refugees travelling from Sudan through Egypt into Israel, the country has built a wall along the border separating them from Egypt. Although the nation was founded as a refuge for Jews fleeing persecution in light of the Holocaust, the nation is overwhelmed by non-Jewish asylum seekers. Officials, including former and present prime ministers, want to have non-Jewish refugees return to their own countries or a third country. As several Israelis endeavor to separate themselves from non-Jewish asylum seekers, this practice leaves the refugees vulnerable to social exclusion, along with its consequences.[i]

Social exclusion happens over time. It is not an individual occurrence. It is incremental and multifaceted. Social exclusion in a particular instance can create disconnects in many other ways. That exclusion then expands for both individuals as well as groups and communities.[ii] It also affects opportunities regarding education, employment, housing conditions, and mental and physical health. This is a social exclusion that is multidimensional and relational.[iii]

Ironically, religion can also play a role in social exclusion. As one example, some orthodox Jewish communities in Israel separate themselves from all other communities. One reason for this is that orthodox families do not want their children to attend school with non-orthodox children or to play with them. These divisions often involve no personal connections or meeting points outside of one’s own community. Non–orthodox Jewish people cannot live, work, or attend school in orthodox Jewish communities, creating an exclusion of ‘the other.’[iv]

Also, religious guidelines of separation can lead to the violation of social rights and equality, which illustrates how one’s religious beliefs can impede the civil rights of another and break, or at least create tension with, societal laws.[v] While attempting to resolve injustices resulting from religious practices and other inequalities within a nation, questions arise as to how best to attempt to eradicate inequalities in light of numerous social and political considerations that exist both within and without differing ethnic and religious communities.[vi]

Diversity, as it relates to religion, is counter to Israel’s goals.[vii] Presently, in the case of non-Jewish asylum seekers, social exclusion entails likely expulsion from Israel. It also includes socially excluding the refugees while they live in Israel, creating economic instability for them and forcing them to attend separate schools and live apart from the dominant society in segregated housing. Israel’s treatment of non-Jewish asylum seekers has disturbed many Jewish people nationally and internationally, including the former Canadian ambassador to Israel.[viii]

 

‘Jews have been persecuted people their whole existence, while Israel was never perfect, the Israel I grew up with was going to be the land of Jewish people with Jewish people’s values, which were to recognize what we suffered through and ensure that other people didn’t go through that.’

—Jon Allen, former Canadian Ambassador to Israel[ix]

Israel’s goal to have the non-Jewish migrants return to their own countries or to a third country is being met with resistance by faith-based organizations, including Jewish and Christian and private individuals and groups, both secular and nonsecular. These groups and individuals are against separation, social exclusion, social injustice, and its effects. They sponsor asylum seekers to resettle them in third countries. The desire is for the asylum seekers to be able to live safe and free from social injustice and exclusion so that they can live and experience deep equality in their daily lives.[x]

 

Resources for Helping to Welcome Migrants and Asylum Seekers

Upon hearing of a crisis somewhere in the world, have you ever wondered how best to inform yourself, get involved, and help? Many reputable organizations can serve as an entry point.

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) is an organization that represents asylum seekers in Israel. In July 2017, the organization sent a petition to the Israeli High Court asking the state to grant visas to Sudanese asylum seekers. This was due to the state not processing the asylum seekers’ claims requests for refugee status for years. The reason the court granted the requests for visas is believed to be due to persistent pressure from HIAS. The Israeli interior ministry complied with the court ruling granting temporary residence status to more than two thousand asylum seekers in 2022. Even with the optimistic ruling, all remains precarious for many asylum seekers. What the future holds for them in the long-term remains uncertain, and questions endure. HIAS is committed to standing with asylum seekers for the long haul.[xi]

‘This is great news for our clients, who have been in Israel without basic rights for over a decade.’

—Nimrod Avigal, deputy director and head of legal aid at HIAS Israel[xii]

In Canada, the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program serves as a model for helping to provide physical and emotional safety and security for migrants and asylum seekers. Through this program, ordinary citizens can join or form groups to sponsor refugees abroad. The work of social justice and diminishing social exclusion can seem immense. Still, with the help of programs like PSR, anyone can make an extraordinary impact on the lives of refugees.[xiii]

Outside of Canada and Israel, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as United Nations Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees around the world. The UNHCR is an excellent starting point to get involved.[xiv] Because in the end, “an immigrant is just someone who used to be somewhere else”.[xv]

 

References

[i].     Dina Kraft and Sara Miller Llana. ‘Denied Asylum in Israel, Eritreans Are Welcomed by Canadian Jews.’ The Christian Science Monitor, 21 January 2022. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2022/0121/Denied-asylum-in-Israel-Eritreans-are-welcomed-by-Canadian-Jews.

[ii].    Hilary Silver. ‘The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of an Evolving Concept.’ London: Chronic Poverty Research Center, 1 October 2007, p. i. https://ssrn.com/abstract=1087789 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1087789.

[iii].   Marie Macey and Alan Carling. Ethnic, Racial and Religious Inequalities: The Perils of Subjectivity. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, p. 38.

[iv].   Pew Research Center. ‘Israel’s Religiously Divided Society.’ Youtube, 16 October 2016 (video). https://youtu.be/vCH0uecc4dY.

[v].    Adam Liptak. ‘In Narrow Decision, Supreme Court Sides with Baker Who Turned Away Gay Couple.’ The New York Times, 4 June 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/04/us/politics/supreme-court-sides-with-baker-who-turned-away-gay-couple.html.

[vi].   Macey and Carling, p. 37.

[vii].  Kraft and Miller Llana.

[viii]. Ibid.

[ix].   Ibid.

[x].    Ibid.

[xi].   Sharon Samber. ‘Finally Some Good News for Sudanese Asylum Seekers in Israel,’ HIAS Blog, 13 January 2022. https://www.hias.org/blog/finally-some-good-news-sudanese-asylum-seekers-israel.

[xii].  Ibid.

[xiii]. Government of Canada, Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/help-outside-canada/private-sponsorship-program.html.

[xiv]. United Nations High Commission for Refugees. https://www.unhcr.org.

[xv].  Russell Brand. Messiah Complex. Epix, 2013 (video). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joyrLi0Rjck.

A Renewed Call For Language Policy Reforms For International Students

 

We, the undersigned students of Åbo Akademi University and the Social Exclusion Master’s Program, write to renew the call to reform the university’s English language entrance policy for master’s degree program, MDP, applicants. In 2021, students from the Race, Racism and Antiracism course of the Social Exclusion MA program first opened this discussion, citing the negatively discriminatory effects of current testing policies against English speaking members of formerly colonized nations and the need to challenge the coloniality of language and knowledge-producing institutions in Finland.

 

The university accepts several tests as evidence of language proficiency. Accepted testing formats, however, have been found to be dubious indicators of actual language proficiency, and additionally do not present a single, equitable standard for all applicants across the provided options. They are equally if not more indicative of factors from financial status and, significantly, anxiety during testing procedures, as well as applicants having access to testing at all. Standards of acceptability vary from test to test, but so do procedures and difficulty, depending on familiarity with specific dialects according to the test and its country of origin, and individual testing protocols over general proficiency. Being solely reliant on these testing procedures, therefore, discriminates against people who share these conditions while those who are not subject to them experience no similar risk.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted issues of access to testing as additional barriers for prospective international students. Applicants from some countries had testing options limited or else completely removed. This means that even while general applications were being accepted for ÅAU, the English testing policy alone was and remains capable of obstructing otherwise qualified applicants from applying on academic merit alone.

 

In addition to the problems with the faults of proficiency testing in practice, the expiration of test results means that those who have already overcome the individual burdens they pose must often do so again. We question the value of proficiency proven by a test if it is expected to be invalid after two years. Individuals who have already proven their capability in English according to the demands of accepted tests should not be made to do so again, as they may already be in professional or academic positions which confirm their capability because of those results. Having an expiry date for language proficiency cannot be limited only to some students. It has to be applied to all students at ÅA and not just those studying in English, but also those studying in other languages including Swedish and Finnish.

 

The university is now in the process of producing a new Equality and Diversity Plan, reaffirming its commitment to provide an environment, “that is accessible to everyone and without discrimination, racism, and sexism where staff and students with a variety of backgrounds and tasks are treated equally and can safely participate in all activities” (ÅAU Gender Equality, Equal Treatment and Accessibility as an Educational Institution 2022-2024). We believe that these commitments should be made to those in the earliest stages of contact with the university and its institutions, and we present arguments against the current policy and for the consideration of alternatives already being explored within the university today.

 

As with the previous year’s call, we suggest the university expands current exceptions to the English Language testing requirement for MDP applicants to include countries that were formerly colonies, and where English is a commonly spoken language. To ensure that academic standards are met, we advocate for an interview alternative to also be provided, such as those employed by the MDP in Social Exclusion, and MA/MTh and the MDP in Teaching and Learning to applicants who meet other requirements. Interview options allow those who know best about the individual programs being applied to, directly gauge applicants’ suitability and capacity to perform within their academic settings. A movement toward this option would combat the problems exemplified within existing testing procedures and help Åbo Akademi University in combating discrimination and inequality within Finnish academia.

 

Sincerely,

Adelina Appel, Godfred Gyimah, Maryam Lashgarian, Oghenetega Oke, and Sandis Sitton

 

 

For Reference and Further Information:

 

Having an expiry date for language proficiency cannot be limited only to some students. It has to be applied to all students at ÅA and not just those studying in English but also those studying in other languages including Swedish and Finnish. bo Akademi University: English Language Requirements. Available from: https://www.abo.fi/en/study/apply/language-requirements/

Åbo Akademi University’s Plan for Gender Equality, Equal Treatment and Accessibility as an Employer 2022-2024 (proposal). Available from: https://abofi.sharepoint.com/sites/intra-en-about-us/SitePages/Gender-Equality-Plan-and-Plan-for-Equal-Treatment.aspx

Cotton, F. and Conrow, F., 1998. An investigation of the predictive validity of IELTS amongst a group of international students studying at the University of Tasmania. IELTS research reports, 1(4), pp.72-115.

Feast, V., 2002. The impact of IELTS scores on performance at university. International Education Journal, 3(4), pp.70-85.

Galletta, A. (2013). Mastering the semi-structured interview and beyond: From re-search design to analysis and publication (Vol. 18). New York University Press.

Hunter, J. (2022, March 9). Changes to the IELTS, TOEFL and Duolingo tests under covid-19. The Student. Retrieved April 10, 2022, from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/advice/changes-ielts-toefl-and-duolingo-tests-under-covid-19

Neumann, H., Padden, N. and McDonough, K., 2019. Beyond English language proficiency scores: Understanding the academic performance of international undergraduate students during the first year of study. Higher Education Research & Development, 38(2), pp.324-338.

Read, J., 2022. Test Review: The International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Language Testing, p.02655322221086211.

Salehi, M. and Marefat, F., 2014. The Effects of Foreign Language Anxiety and Test Anxiety on Foreign Language Test Performance. Theory & Practice in Language Studies, 4(5).

Sawir, E., Marginson, S. Forbes-Mewett, H., Nyland, C. & Ramia, G. (2012). International Student Security and English Language Proficiency. Journal of Studies in International, 16(5), 434-454.

Solano-Flore, G. & Li, M. (2008). Examining the Dependability of Academic Achievement Measures for English Language Learners. Assessment for Effective intervention, 33(3), 135-144.

The University of Cambridge (2022). The format of interviews for 2023 entry is currently under review. Please check back for further details in due course. Retrieved from: https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/applying/interviews/why-do-we-interview

Zheng, Y. and Cheng, L., 2018. How does anxiety influence language performance? From the perspectives of foreign language classroom anxiety and cognitive test anxiety. Language Testing in Asia, 8(1), pp.1-19.

Project Hourglass

Written by Tinka Harvard

A worker at a construction site along Israel’s 150-mile long fence on the Egyptian Sinai border was completed in 2013. (Photo credit: Ahmad Gharabli)[I]

 

Hourglass (a literal translation of the Hebrew ‘שְׁעוֹן הַחוֹל,’ or ‘sand clock’) is the name of the project that refers to a fence built by Israel along its border with Egypt to decrease the influx of asylum seekers from Sudan and Darfur.[i] Migrants are often individuals and communities fleeing conflict and fragility in their home countries and seeking refuge and safety from violence or economic poverty.[ii]

Fragility and conflict create a continuum of reasons people leave their country of origin, voluntarily or involuntarily, including national or international war, unstable government, environmental disasters, economic instability, and terror.[iii] Fragile states contributed 18 million migrants and 8 million refugees in 2000.[iv] By mid-2020, the global refugee population had reached 26.3 million.[v]

 

When people are able to migrate, where do they go?

About half of the world’s migrants travel to high-income countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Seeking refuge in Israel provides safety from extreme violence and an opportunity for economic betterment. It can also be a bridge to eventually entering Europe, which provides even more prospects for safety and freedom from poverty.[vi]

 

What is the conflict and fragility about
for migrants travelling to Israel?

Migrants and refugees from Sudan, in particular, migrate or flee because of government destabilization and economic collapse, which are results of the on-and-off civil wars since 1955. This has forced millions of Sudanese to leave the country, often crossing into Israel by land via Egypt to seek asylum. They are forcibly displaced by war and other factors, including the civil war between the predominantly Muslim north and the rebels from the south, where people are mostly Christian or follow traditional African religions.[vii]

Since social exclusion is a process that ‘at any one time, people are situated on a multidimensional continuum,’ being excluded socially in one instance often creates a disconnect in many other ways. That exclusion then expands for both individuals as well as groups and communities.[viii]

Religion can bring people together, but, ironically, it is often used to keep them separated. This separation by religion—or positioning of one religion over another—has been used by Western cultures to gain control of people.[ix] To aid in this control, Western Christianity was not eliminated but rather absorbed by the state, reducing ecclesiastical power, all while creating a myth that the Western religion of Christianity was a ‘better’ religion. This meant that ‘non-Western’ religions were ‘othered’ and deemed inferior. This created a separation of people as well, not only in faith traditions, which translated to non-Western people being considered ‘violent, subrational, sub modern,’ and even sexist.[x]

 

How do we begin to eliminate the borders between us?

As myths have been propagated about Western Christianity being superior to other religions—which demonized, othered, and divided people and nations—it begs the question: What existed before the myths that one religion or group of people was better than the other religions or groups? What existed before borders were created? What existed before the West created its own separations? Guidance from Elie Wiesel, writing in The Gates of the Forest, may lend a helping hand in pointing toward answers to these questions. In this novel, he writes about the importance of telling our stories when we are trying to find our way back together again, sans separation and borders between each of us:

Then it fell to Rabbi Israel of Rizhyn

To overcome misfortune.

Sitting in his armchair, his head in his hands,

He spoke to God: ‘I am unable to light the fire

And I do not know the prayer;

I cannot even find the place in the forest.

All I can do is to tell the story,

And this must be sufficient.’

And it was sufficient.[xi]

Theologian John Swinton wants to foster inclusion and eliminate social exclusion and its devastating consequences. In a podcast interview of Swinton by host Sarah Kife, he calls for lifting the voices that have been repressed and stigmatized as we flesh out ways for us all to be fully human in the marvel of diversity.[xii]

Swinton encourages us all to be present and to listen to one another on this journey of being fully human. As the host, Kife reminds us, ‘we need each other to remember who we are, especially in times of crises, and how to find one’s voice in a world that can stigmatize and oppress people simply for being “different.”’[xiii] Swinton’s and Kife’s ideas go a long way toward the inclusion of ‘the stranger’ and help to counter Israel’s current stance of classifying non-Jewish asylum seekers as ‘infiltrators, posing a danger to the Jewish character of Israel.’[xiv]

 

There Is Hope for the Future and an Invitation to Get Involved

‘Closed borders are one of the world’s greatest moral failings, but the opening of borders is the world’s greatest economic opportunity.’

—Alex Tabarrok[xv]

There are several ways to assist in decreasing social exclusion with the hope of eliminating it. One argument for open borders is that it is economically beneficial because new immigrants often either possess talent and skills sought after by the host country or are willing to take on work that citizens are no longer interested in doing. Open borders are also morally just since freedom of movement is a fundamental human right.[xvi] Existing efforts to help migrants and asylum seekers in different parts of the world range from a mission of love to direct action. For example, Border Angels, an organization whose motto is ‘love has no borders,’ promotes a culture of love in their activism to defend the rights of migrants and refugees.[xvii] Also, activists in Poland have used brute force to remove a barbed-wire border fence constructed by the Polish government to prevent migrants from crossing into Poland from Belarus.[xviii]

There are many ways to get involved and make a difference. Support of existing organizations and movements is one way, and many are active on social media and can be found with careful research. But new ideas to help in the efforts toward decreasing marginalization and social exclusion are needed. No act of help goes wasted. It can all be used for the good. Begin where you are.

 

References

[I].     Noga Tarnopolsky. ‘Israel Built a New Border Wall to Prevent Migrants from “Smuggling in Terror,”’ TheWorld, December 5, 2013. https://theworld.org/stories/2013-12-05/israel-built-new-border-wall-prevent-migrants-smuggling-terror.

[i].     Bina Engineering&Management Ltd. ‘Israel-Egypt Barrier Project,’ 2016. https://www.binagroup.co.il/israel-egypt-barrier-project.

[ii].    ‘Sudan-Israel Deal Fuels Migrants’ Fears,’ BBC News, 21 December 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55333131.

[iii].   Anke Hoeffler. ‘Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire? Migration from Fragile States to Fragile States.’ OECD Development Co-operation Working Papers, No. 9. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2013, p. 6. https://doi.org/10.1787/5k49dffmjpmv-en.

[iv].   Ibid, p. 4.

[v].    OECD, ILO, IOM, and UNHCR. 2020 Annual International Migration and Forced Displacement Trends and Policies Report to the G20. Paris: OECD Publishing, 2020. https://www.oecd.org/els/mig/FINAL-2020-OECD-ILO-UNHCR-IOM-G20-report.pdf.

[vi].   Hoeffler, p. 8.

[vii].  ‘Facts & Stats,’ Frontline World, undated. https://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/sudan/facts.html.

[viii]. Hilary Silver. ‘The Process of Social Exclusion: The Dynamics of an Evolving Concept.’ London: Chronic Poverty Research Center, 1 October 2007, p. i. https://ssrn.com/abstract=1087789 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1087789.

[ix].   William T. Cavanaugh. ‘The Invention of Fanaticism,’ in Faith, Rationality and the Passions, by Sarah Coakley. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2012, p. 33.

[x].    Ibid, p. 29.

[xi].   Elie Wiesel. The Gates of the Forest. New York: Schocken Books, 1996.

[xii].  ‘Sanctuary: Mental Health Ministries.’ Sarah Kift podcast, episode 1, with John Swinton, 30 January 2020. https://www.sanctuarymentalhealth.org/2020/01/29/john-swinton/.

[xiii]. Ibid.

[xiv]. Dina Kraft and Sara Miller Llana. ‘Denied Asylum in Israel, Eritreans Are Welcomed by Canadian Jews.’ The Christian Science Monitor, 21 January 2022. https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2022/0121/Denied-asylum-in-Israel-Eritreans-are-welcomed-by-Canadian-Jews.

[xv].  Alex Tabarrok. ‘The Case for Getting Rid of Borders—Completely,’ The Atlantic, 10 October 2015. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/10/get-rid-borders-completely/409501/.

[xvi]. Ibid.

[xvii].                  Border Angels website. https://www.borderangels.org/.

[xviii].                 Daniel Tilles. ‘Activists Detained in Poland for Trying to Remove Fence on Belarus Border Amid Migrant Surge,’ Notes from Poland, 30 August 2021. https://notesfrompoland.com/2021/08/30/activists-detained-in-poland-for-trying-to-remove-fence-on-belarus-border-amid-migrant-surge/.

Registration is open for Social Exclusion’s Annual Seminar: Colour still matters

“Colour still matters” is the name of this year’s Social Exclusion annual seminar. The seminar, as always, is part of the course Race, Racism and Anti-Racism and is arranged by the students in the course. This year the seminar will take place on May 24th and be hosted both on campus, in Arken and online, through Zoom. The seminar is free of charge but does require registration. Click here to register.

 

Follow Social Exclusion’s social media and the seminar’s own social media for more updates about the seminar, like who are the keynote speakers and panellists.

Focusing In: The Outcomes of Exclusionary U.S. Higher Education Policy

Written by Steve Huerta Raygoza

 

In the last blog, I discussed how research conducted in higher education in the U.S. had been co-opted to benefit corporate interests. I also discussed that the cost of education is rising in public universities and, the recently more numerous, private for-profit universities. These aspects of the privatization of higher education are crucial to understanding when analyzing how these conceptual borders are created and maintained. It is essential to, at this time, discuss one of the significant events that led to this shift in the purpose of higher education. In the late Twentieth Century, the World Bank set the worldwide plan for higher education. It issued a report that said there needs to shift from the “basic needs approach” to one that called for universal primary education, the progressive privatization of secondary and higher education.[1, 2] This shift continues today as the World Bank continues to push for the expansion of Public-Private Partnerships in Ghana and Nepal[3]. To understand the goals for this shift, we need to continue building on the analytical framework from the previous blog.

 

Within this context, we need to understand that this new stage of globalized capitalism has distinct needs for the global labour supply, particularly those coming from higher education. It needs organic intellectuals that will strategize for the system, and it needs a vast group of people doing routine deskilled labour intended to support the development of transnational capital.[4] The overwhelming majority of the world’s population that does not pursue higher education is seen as surplus humanity. Their resources are to be extracted, and their labour is exploited to generate value for the transnational elite. This is the World Bank’s vision for education, and it is why we are observing these systems of Social Exclusion and perpetuation of conceptual borders today.

 

Crushing Debt and Credit

In the United States, the total student debt is $1,61 Trillion, accumulated from 43,4 million borrowers. In 2004, that number was a mere $345 billion.[5] That is an increase of 467% in less than two decades. This debt that 43 million people have accumulated is, perhaps, one of the most extensive methods of social control, and it works to perpetuate Social Exclusion by creating several conceptual borders. Firstly, it is essential to understand that high-impact loans disproportionately affect the poorest, sub-employed, ethnically/racially oppressed, and precarious dimensions of the working class. This massive amount of debt serves as an enormous claim on the future wages of the working class, and it also works to make sure that they have the most challenging time earning enough even to begin paying it off.

Figure from “Forbes”[6]

 

In the U.S., credit reports have become an effective mechanism of Social Exclusion. Private companies and government positions sometimes require credit checks, and some discriminate based on bad credit, particularly for those in “sensitive positions.”[7] This prevents a significant portion of the population from working in specific careers. As wages stagnate over time[8], paying off these loans becomes impossible. One of the most critical aspects of this credit system is creating these conceptual borders around homeownership. Bad credit will not allow someone to purchase a home, making it challenging to accumulate generational wealth and forcing them to rent instead. In many cases, a bad credit score can prompt a landlord to look elsewhere when looking for a tenant. To begin with, conceptual borders like bad credit that prevent someone from accumulating wealth and tuition hikes that deter people from attending college have been built to lock out this surplus labour from pursuing meaningful upward mobility.

 

Content of Education

The final aspect that I wish to look at in this blog is, perhaps, the most abstract way of understanding the existence of these conceptual borders. I think it is essential to know how the content of contemporary education serves to create those that gatekeep these borders and motivate students to develop conceptual borders for themselves. Please bear with me because this is undoubtedly a confusing statement.

 

Firstly, it is essential to discuss how particular ideologies have invaded university campuses. There has been an incredible increase in so-called criminal justice programs and the glorification of the military and security careers within the content of many social studies programs in universities. According to the American Council on Education, “62 percent of responding institutions currently provide programs and services specifically designed for military service members and veterans, up from 57 percent in 2009. Seventy-one percent reported including such programs and services in their long-term strategic plan, a notable gain from 57 percent in 2009.”[9] Ironically, the people in these programs become literal gatekeepers that enforce non-abstract and very tangible borders when they join Homeland Security, the DEA, ICE, and Border Patrol.

 

Secondly, I want to discuss the commoditized conception of education itself. Many students have developed a consumer mentality of education, believing that they are purchasing a commodity. Brad J. Porfilio, in his article “Student as a Consumer,” states that

“… Recent far-flung and aggressive capitalist development [that is] driven to secure economic and ideological control is permeating education and schooling… corporate culture, market principles, and commercial values are rapidly intruding and affecting teacher education programs.”[10]

 

Unfortunately, the idea that the pursuit of higher education is akin to purchasing a commodity is becoming increasingly common among students. Returning to Phenomenology of Exclusion, Lems writes about developing an ethnography that focuses less on asking people directly about their lives and more on understanding their human experiences by creating a phenomenology that looks at everyday aspects that make people feel unwanted or undeserving of inclusion.[11] The negative outcome for students in the US is that they forget to acknowledge a truth that has been considered in many other comparably wealthy nations; that education is a fundamental human right – not a commodity. This unfortunate reality leads people to feel they deserve a higher status because they’ve been educated and invested a lot of time and money into their studies or that they are undeserving of education simply because they cannot afford it. The latter of these two outcomes formulates the final conceptual borders. People begin internalizing this ideology and fall into accepting the fact that they are being excluded. Until we can nationalize education and make it an inalienable human right, education under globalized capitalism will only further socially exclude the broader population.

Footnotes/Resources:

  1. Puiggrós, Adriana. 1997. “World Bank Education Policy: Market Liberalism Meets Ideological Conservatism.” International Journal of Health Services 27(2):217–26.
  2. Daugela, Margarete. 2012. “Understanding the World Bank’s Education for All Policy as Neoliberal Governmentality.” Canadian Education: Governing Practices & Producing Subjects 77–100.
  3. Malouf Bous, Katie and Jason Farr. 2019. “False Promises: How Delivering Education through Private Schools and Public-Private Partnerships Risks Fueling Inequality Instead of Achieving Quality Education for All.” Oxfam International.
  4. Robinson, William I. 2016. “Global Capitalism and the Restructuring of Education: The Transnational Capitalist Class’ Quest to Suppress Critical Thinking.” Social Justice 43(3):1–24.
  5. Helhoski, Anna and Ryan lane. 2022. “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022.” NerdWallet.
  6. McCarthy, Niall. 2018. “How U.S. Education Has Become ‘a Debt Sentence’ [Infographic].” Forbes.
  7. Dye, Felicia. 2017. “Can You Get a Government Job with Bad Credit?” Houston Chronicle.
  8. Anon. 2021. “The Productivity–Pay Gap.” Economic Policy Institute.
  9. Anon. 2012. “Many colleges and Universities Ramping Up Programs for Military and Veteran Students.” American Council on Education.
  10. Porfilio, Brad J. and Tian Yu. 2006. “‘Student as Consumer’: A Critical Narrative of the Commercialization of Teacher Education.” Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies4(1):225–43.
  11. Lems, Annika. 2020. “Phenomenology of Exclusion: Capturing the Everyday Thresholds of Belonging.” Social Inclusion 8(4):116–25.

Conceptual Borders: Understanding Exclusionary Processes within the U.S. Higher Education Model

Written by Steve Huerta Raygoza

Image from “Mississippi Center for Justice” [1]

Analytical Framework

When addressing topics within the Social Exclusion program, I often attempt to understand them through a historical materialist perspective [2]. Specifically, I try to understand these issues by applying an understanding of the overlying systems that have some use for the labour and resources of the people observed as being socially excluded. I want to establish an analytical framework to show my perspective better. When referring to Social Exclusion, I will be most closely tying it to the definition proposed by Andrew M. Fischer, which describes it as both the process and the outcome of “repulsion or obstruction” that leads people to experience inequality[3]. I will also be abstractly using the term border as, for this case, there are no barriers that can be touched in person or seen on a map. I certainly took some liberties while discussing borders, as many of my classmates discuss tangible borders. Instead, drawing on Anikka Lems’ article Phenomenology of Exclusion, I describe these conceptual borders as being similar to “interior frontiers” that “work to delegate who is allowed in and who is to be [excluded]” and are delegated “by unarticulated and inaccessible conventions.”[4] Additionally, using Lems’ article, I intend to explore the perspectives of the students who experience exclusion and the views of those doing the excluding; in this case, institutions such as the World Bank.

 

Introduction

I decided to write about how the U.S. University Education System manufactures intangible borders around individuals’ ability to pursue upward mobility. This blog will focus on the policies that work to create said borders, and the next blog will discuss the outcome and consequences of this border creation. To understand how modern higher education within the U.S. makes these conceptual borders, we must first develop an understanding of how this system operates. The premise for these blogs is that the contemporary US higher education model involves:

  1. The creation of public-private partnerships
  2. The destruction of subsidized education
  3. The creation of debt as a mechanism of social control
  4. The creation of a system to indoctrinate each new generation into the existing social hierarchy

 

These outcomes are maintained by the exclusionary policies that construct these conceptual borders. I will explore these crucial features over the following two blogs.

 

The Private Brain Trust of Capital

When discussing the purpose of contemporary U.S. higher education, we must understand the corporate elite’s material interest in university research and how this research is used. I believe that in a functioning society, students would conduct research funded at any given university to better the human condition. Under the U.S. model of higher education, however, the state subsidizes research done at public universities and puts the results of said research in the hands of private corporations. These public-private partnerships create private brain trusts[5] that work to benefit the interest of corporations. Pharmaceutical companies (J&J, Pfizer, Novartis)[6], energy corporations (B.P., Chevron)[7], and the military-industrial complex benefit from research completed at public universities. As such, biochemistry, engineering, and other fields of study become appendages of corporate research. Understanding this dynamic is crucial to understanding the role universities play when maintaining corporate interests; these corporate entities maintain a vested interest in making sure that these universities continue to produce research that helps boost their bottom line. However, this is not the only way capital is created through higher education.

 

The Decline of Subsidized Education

Often, when discussing education in the U.S. with my mates in the Social Exclusion program, we end up on just how expensive it is to attend college – in this context, I am fortunate enough to have been unfortunate enough. By this, I mean to say that the state of California almost entirely subsidized my bachelor’s degree because my parents fell into a low-income bracket. This was at U.C. Santa Barbara, a Public University. I make the distinction to call it public because, to the surprise of some people I have spoken to during my time in Finland, many universities in the U.S. are privately run. These private universities have seen exponential growth in their attendance over the last few years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics:

“From 2000 to 2010, enrollment in private for-profit institutions increased by 329 percent (from 403,000 to 1.7 million students). In comparison, enrollment increased by 30 percent at public institutions (from 10.5 million to 13.7 million students) and by 20 percent at private nonprofit institutions (from 2.2 million to 2.7 million students) during this period”[8]

 

What we see here is the result of the ongoing commodification of education. The most unfortunate aspect of this commodification is the massive cost of attending these universities.

 

Although many students fall into this same income bracket that I did, most students across the U.S. end up having to pay tuition, and the cost of said tuition has been steadily increasing for the last few decades. In 1980, a four-year degree at a public university cost $9,438 on average, adjusted for inflation. In 2019, that cost increased to $23,872.[9] This is undoubtedly a significant increase; however, for private for-profit universities, the average tuition increased from $15,160 in 1988 to $34,740 in 2018.[10] You might be asking how these students manage to pay for such incredibly high tuition. Well, many simply don’t. This is where we see the first conceptual border that works to exclude massive portions of the population. The incredibly high cost of attending a university makes it so that up to 18.6% of college-ready students choose not to participate because they believe it costs too much.[11] This boundary locks out the poorest portions of the population, excluding them from the opportunity to receive higher education and accumulate their wealth.

 

Because a massive portion of students cannot afford to attend higher education on their own, many choose to rely on accumulating debt. In the next blog, I will discuss this debt accumulation, the exclusionary effects, and the ultimate way that this perpetuates the existing social hierarchy.

 

Footnotes/Resources:

  1. Anon. 2021. “HB 1029 Allows Mississippi’s IHL Board to Create New Questionable Student Debt Product.” Mississippi Center for Justice.
  2. Historical Materialism – A philosophical understanding of political conflict that recognizes material needs as the primary source of friction.
  3. Fischer, Andrew M. 2011. “Reconceiving Social Exclusion.” Brooks World Poverty Institute 146:1–27.
  4. Lems, Annika. 2020. “Phenomenology of Exclusion: Capturing the Everyday Thresholds of Belonging.” Social Inclusion 8(4):116–25.
  5. Brain Trusts – Experts advisors, usually for politicians, that serve as advisors on a given subject
  6. Bagley, Constance E., and Christina Tvarnoe. 2013. “Pharmaceutical Public-Private Partnerships in the United States and Europe: Moving from the Bench to the Bedside.” Harvard Business Law Review 4:373–401.
  7. Hofferberth, Matthias. 2011. “The Binding Dynamics of Non-Binding Governance Arrangements. the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the Cases of B.P. and Chevron.” Business and Politics 13(4):1–30.
  8. Anon. 2019. “Undergraduate Enrollment.” National Center for Education Statistics.
  9. Jackson, Abby. 2015. “This Chart Shows How Quickly College Tuition Has Skyrocketed since 1980.” Business Insider.
  10. Martin, Emmie. 2017. “Here’s How Much More Expensive It Is for You to Go to College than It Was for Your Parents.” CNBC.
  11. Seltzer, Rick. 2017. Study Shows How Price Sensitive Students Are in Selecting Colleges.

So, what can be done?

Written by Elna-Annina Kanerva

 

Two main matters should be focused on: the effectiveness of integration practices – mainly through the housing policies of Helsinki city – and the exclusionary behaviour these people face when they try to break free from this kind of “circle” many feel stuck in. I think these matters should be focused on because they both seem to have a critical role in maintaining the vicious circle mentioned previously. The city’s housing practices contribute to the formation of closed communities, and the exclusionary behaviour discourages people from breaking free from them.

 

So why do we need to solve this issue and stop this development? Why is it such a bad thing?

 

It is important to remember that immigrant families living in the same neighbourhood aren’t a problem, but this systematic concentration of immigrants is harmful and a form of segregation. Having other immigrants with the same kind of background creates a feeling of safety and belonging to many, which isn’t bad. There are both negative and positive aspects to the formation of these clusters. Clustering hurts integration; in clusters, immigrants can have fewer opportunities and motivation to learn a new language, and ethnic clusters tend to get stigmatised (which is happening in Helsinki).[1] The segregation, stigmatization, and low-quality housing are shown to impact immigrants’ physical and mental well-being negatively.[2]

 

This pattern in housing policies can’t continue; however, completely separating those with immigrant roots from one another and removing their safety nets isn’t beneficial either. Concentrating on the same areas can enable minorities to maintain their language and cultural heritage and provide a feeling of security. We do not want these people to lose their sense of security.[3]

 

As a concluding answer to this question: this development needs to be stopped since it’s proven to have more negative than positive impacts; however, completely separating immigrants from one another and thereby splitting communities also isn’t a good solution.

 

A good solution could therefore be to change the housing policies of the city of Helsinki simply. The city does have dwellings elsewhere; it just needs to be more persistent in locating people with different backgrounds into a variety of different neighbourhoods. At this moment, there aren’t clear instructions by which city officials decide on where to locate people. City officials describe the logic behind the decisions as a notion of “common sense”. In this context, “common sense” could mean not locating many big families in the same building and spreading people with similar ethnic or cultural backgrounds into more expansive areas. However, trusting city officials to make arbitrary decisions on where to allocate families isn’t very sustainable, which we have seen in eastern Helsinki. Therefore, there must be clear policies and instructions on how council housing should be distributed and how allocating too many people with the same backgrounds into the same areas should be avoided. Policies such as these are likely to significantly impact the geographical division of people in need of housing.[4]

 

The avoidance of ethnic clustering can naturally help the integration process since it would force those of immigrant background to maybe form connections to the so-called native population. It could also contribute to immigrants meeting Finns who represent a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and so-called “normal” families, and therefore widen their perception of the native population. However, integration is a two-way process. It is up to the native population to make sure that immigrants don’t have to fear harassment and racism outside their communities and homes. Having to face discriminatory behavior shouldn’t be something people expect or take for granted.[5]

 

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[1] Article: Housing policy and the ethnic mix in Helsinki, Finland: perceptions of city officials and Somali immigrants (Hanna Dahlmann, Katja Vilkama)

[2] Article: Residential mobility, mental health, and community violence exposure among Somali refugees and immigrants in North America (Sarah Gillespie, Emma Cardeli, Georgios Sideridis, Osob Issa, B. Heidi Ellis)

[3] Article: Housing policy and the ethnic mix in Helsinki, Finland: perceptions of city officials and Somali immigrants (Hanna Dahlmann, Katja Vilkama)

 

[4] Article: Housing policy and the ethnic mix in Helsinki, Finland: perceptions of city officials and Somali immigrants (Hanna Dahlmann, Katja Vilkama)

[5] Article: Phenomenology of Exclusion: Capturing the Everyday Thresholds of Belonging (Annika Lems)