This past May, 10 students were supposed to join me in Brazil for a study abroad course titled "Inequality, Race, and Gender in Brazil." The COVID-19 crisis made us change our plans. After the trip was cancelled we moved the course online and students could explore any issue related to race, gender, and inequality in Brazil. They completed various assignments, including a larger research paper reviewing the literature on a topic of their interest. After they were done with their research I asked them to write a blog post outlining the things they learned and some of the most intriguing aspects of their research. This is the third post of the series.
Before the start of this course, my understanding of Brazil came from a Eurocentric perspective. As I saw it, Brazil, being a former colonial possession of Portugal, was another building block to my understanding of Portugal’s — not Brazil — colonial empire. Brazil was thus grouped into the same category as Oman, or East Indian holdings because of the economic perspective, not due to a genuine understanding of the people or the modern day nation itself. Besides this, I knew where Brazil is on the map, I knew the primary language was Portuguese and that Brazil produced some of the best coffee ever.
I was excited to get the chance to read Brazil: A Biography since it would provide a more thorough and contextual perspective into Brazil as a nation and not just a sort of “pitstop” for colonial empire. As I read Brazil: A Biography, I came to find the institution of colonialism — an institution which encompasses trade, habitation and most importantly, slavery — would play such a role in Portuguese Brazil that even today the legacies of this institution may be found in the class and racial divisions of today.
With the current international pandemic known as COVID-19, class differences have become exceedingly obvious in societies with great wealth discrepancies. In Brazil, these discrepancies are found between the groups with more deaths/infections per capita with the least access to sanitation and adequate healthcare. While the pandemic has affected a number of countries in many significant ways, the outcome in Brazil has been particularly devastating to the urban poor living in favelas. For a comparative assessment of the disparates between those suffering in the favelas from COVID-19 and that of a previous outbreak within Brazil (the ZIKV or “Zika” epidemic of 2015-2016) and how the national/executive response affected the outcome of both events.
Brazil: A Biography
While reading through “Brazil: A Biography,” it became very clear that institutional colonialism instilled within Brazil a clear hierarchy based on gender, race and class. Historically, a colonial elite (usually European or of descent) established themselves as the benefactors of production within Brazilian society, while the vast majority of Afro-Brazilians were brought as slaves to work these predominately agricultural estates. While slavery has been gone from Brazil legally speaking for sometime now, a majority Afro-Brazilians still live in poverty and have limited access to adequate healthcare or even clean public facilities for washing or sanitation (Bryant, 2020). Since Jair Bolsonaro is the current executive office holder in Brazil, I wanted to compare his own approach to the COVID-19 pandemic to that of former president Dilma Rousseff’s handling of the Zika epidemic.
In my readings, I found that the government under former president Rousseff first caught wind of the virus after a number of alerts escalated from the local level notified national health authorities of an outbreak (Lowe, Barcellos, Brasil, Cruz, Honório, Kuper, Carvalho, 2018.). While the virus had been noticed from December 2014 onwards, the significant national presence was then confirmed as an epidemic of ZIKV. Health authorities diligently worked to curtail the spread of the virus all the while making sure those most vulnerable were educated on the virus itself and a number of ways to mitigate spread.
COVID-19, however, was a different thing altogether. The world itself was taken aback when in early March a number of countries began full-scale shutdowns to curtail the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), Brazil continued to stall on national level efforts to lockdown. Regional governments and mayors of large metropolitan areas closed down and were effectively left to their own devices. Furthermore, as apart of a larger political effort to deflect, downplay or outright ignore the virus, some international leaders (including Bolsonaro) have taken a more aggressive stance against health authorities, dismissing masks and ridiculing social distancing guidelines. Bolsonaro is even quoted to have said, “So what?” when asked to comment on the toll COVID-19 has taken on the poor in Brazil (Bruna Prado, 2020).
“So what?” The words of someone truly naïve to the struggles of their fellow citizens and the responsibility they’d rather deflect. I began to think back to the history of colonial Brazil and how often the colonial establishment, what with the viceroys, royal envoys, slavers, &c., all seemed indifferent to the situation of the vast majority of those they called ‘subjects.’ Bolsonaro’s dismissal of the pandemic and the lives it has claimed reflected something about his character (or a lack thereof), which plays into the rest of my assessment. A number of literary sources — newspapers and a few journal articles specifically — put Bolsonaro to the coals as they judge him for his inaction.
In the city of Sao Paulo, there’s a favela called “Paraisopolis,” which itself is home to a large number of Afro-Brazilians. For context, the area is roughly equal to that of the Manhattan area, New York. The favela has seen unprecedented losses in the community as COVID-19 makes its rounds in this community which functions without running water after 8 PM, frequent power outages and cramped housing (Alice Bryant, 2020). In those conditions, forget about social distancing; medical and national health authorities ought to have gone in and done their part to relocate or monitor parts of the population to trace spread and cordon off areas with larger spikes in infection. Eventually the ommunity pooled together some money and hired their own doctors and medical resources to care for the sick. It had gotten so out of control and so many medical resources were being diverted every-which-way, this community had to buy their aid since the executive authority had condemned the governors, mayors, councils and by extent everyone else to their fates.
The favelas were ripe for spread. The most vulnerable included the elderly but a significant amount of women, children and middle aged men seemed to also fall victim in the viruses’ course. One simply couldn’t practice social distancing. The news articles made it abundantly clear that despite the repeated calls to social distance and wash hands, it wasn’t possible in some of these favelas. The poor would suffer because the national government butted out of the response to COVID. Unlike the Zika virus where the national government took unilateral action to identify hot zones and attempt to move resources into vulnerable areas, the months of May and June seemed like a confusing mess. People were dying and the world watched Brazil’s numbers (and the US’s numbers) steadily surpass that of other nations. While there are differences between the severity of Zika and COVID, one couldn’t help but notice the differences between the two administration’s responses to these outbreaks. Rousseff’s government moved to send resources out, managed meetings with regional authorities and put information out for the public while Bolsonaro dismissed his pandemic as a “cold.”
I wanted to understand more about Brazil. My strength is more in the historical background of these nations but to my shame, it was only the relative relationship it had to Portugal which took up my understanding. Nothing could’ve let us see COVID hit the world on the nose, although the varied outcomes of nations responding to the virus certainly allowed people to notice the class discrepancies as it became apparent the poor suffered far more. But another trend became apparent — demographic minorities tended to be more vulnerable to the virus than white counterparts. Poor of African descent were going to bear the brunt of the virus because of the failures of executive ministers to care about the people since they were of a different class.
Citations and Recommended Readings:
Lowe, R.; Barcellos, C.; Brasil, P.; Cruz, O.G.; Honório, N.A.; Kuper, H.; Carvalho, M.S. “The Zika Virus Epidemic in Brazil: From Discovery to Future Implications.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 96. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15010096 .
Monta, Monica, Anne W. Rimoin, and Steffanie A. Strathdee. 2020. “The Coronavirus 2019-ncov epidemic: Is Hindsight 20/20?” The Lancet 20 (100289). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100289 .
Zhao, Shi, Salihu S. Musa, Hao Fu, Daihai He, and Jing Qin. 2019. “Simple Framework for Real-Time Forecast in a Data-Limited Situation: The Zika Virus (ZIKV) Outbreaks in Brazil from 2015 to 2016 as an Example.” Parasites & Vectors 12 (1): N.PAG. doi:10.1186/s13071-019-3602-9 .
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. 2016. “2015 Outbreak of Zika virus disease declared as Public Health Emergency of international Concern: Justification, Consequences, and the public health perspective.” J Res Med Sci. vol. 21 55. 29. DOI: 10.4103/1735-1995. 187277.
Axelrod, Tal. 2020. “Brazilian Medical Officials Warn of Hospital Overload as Coronavirus Cases Mount.” The Hill, 25 April, 2020. https://thehill.com/policy/international/americas/494643-brazilian-medical-officials-warn-of-hospital-overload-as .
Bryant, Alice. 2020. “Brazil Neighborhood Hires Own Medical Team to Fight Coronavirus.” Learning English (VOA), 11 April 2020. https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/brazil-neighborhood-hires-own-doctors-to-fight-coronavirus/5363714.html .
Ionova, Ana. 2020. “Brazil’s Overcrowded Favelas [are] Ripe for Spread of Coronavirus.” Al Jazeera, 9 April 2020. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/brazil-overcrowded-favelas-ripe-spread-coronavirus-200409113555680.html .
Philips, Tom. 2020. “Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says Coronavirus Crisis is a Media Trick.” The Guardian, 23 March, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/brazils-jair-bolsonaro-says-coronavirus-crisis-is-a-media-trick .
Prado, Bruna. 2020. “COVID-19 in Brazil: “So what?” The Lancet 395, no. 10235. DOI: https://doi.org/10/1016/S0140-6736(20)31095-3.
About the author: Nevin Vincent is currently a junior studying political science and history at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University. He's particularly taken with international affairs and foreign domestic politics, all the while balancing his historical understandings of nations with these same ongoing processes. He's a forest firefighter from Palmer, Alaska, and enjoys flying, skiing, hiking, fishing, hunting and fighting fire in both the forest and in residential areas. He has some serious aspirations for globe-trotting, anywhere from Brazil to the Central Asian steppes
This month 10 students were supposed to join me in Brazil for a study abroad course titled "Inequality, Race, and Gender in Brazil." The COVID-19 crisis made us change our plans. After the trip was cancelled we moved the course online and students could explore any issue related to race, gender, and inequality in Brazil. They completed various assignments, including a larger research paper reviewing the literature on a topic of their interest. After they were done with their research I asked them to write a blog post outlining the things they learned and some of the most intriguing aspects of their research. This is the second post of the series.
Before this class I knew very little about Brazil. Essentially, all of my knowledge stemmed from a few articles and shows that I had seen over the years. I knew that the primary language was Portuguese, the country was the largest in South America, the largest rainforests were located in the country, deforestation was a major problem, and there are some indigenous groups left in the country. This were just general facts that I knew but I had no in-depth information. I also had no knowledge about Brazil’s history other than it had been colonized by some entity from the East.
Thus, one of the most interesting facts I learned from “Brazil: A Biography” was that Brazil was colonized by the Portuguese and became the seat of the Portuguese crown. The king arrived in 1808 and the royal family did not leave Brazil until 1889 (Schwarcz, L. M., & Starling, H. M. M., p 180/353). Their reign had lasting effects that can still be seen today. The goal of the monarchy was for the country to prosper and be a powerful entity in the world. Due to this goal the Brazilian economy became a focus which led to the slave trade and racial inequality that still persists today.
Another fact I learned about Brazil that helped me form a better understanding of the country was the importance and prominence of slavery. Slavery began essentially upon the colonizers’ arrival to the country. The indigenous populations were exploited for labor and when their numbers started to decrease the importation of African slaves began (Schwarcz, L. M., & Starling, H. M. M., p 55). Slavery in Brazil, just as in other countries, created racial divisions. Even after the abolishment of slavery in 1888 individuals of African descent faced discrimination, prejudice, and inequality (Schwarcz, L. M., & Starling, H. M. M., p 335) . All of which are still issues today.
For my research, I used the information regarding inequality and race that was presented in “Brazil: A Biography” and combined it with my interest in the criminal justice system. Therefore, my research topic was on inequality within the prison system of Brazil with a small focus on race. I had previously done some research on mass incarceration within the United States and I had volunteered with ex-offenders at a center in St. Cloud. I also hope to become a criminal defense attorney so learning as much as I can about the criminal justice system in the United States and other countries will help me develop a better understanding of the systems and the individuals within them. Doing this research also allowed me to see what is working and what is not working in systems different from the United States and what could be changed or implemented here.
My research consisted of academic sources as well as multiple media sources. The academic sources helped to give me a base understanding of the criminal justice system, the structure of the prisons, and specific issues within the prison system. In Brazil there are many branches of government with a multitude of agencies and organizations within the branches. Criminal investigations are mainly handled by the Federal and Civil Police (Mendonça, A. A Brief Account., p 64). There are laws in place which regulate the actions of those working within the criminal justice system. The main law is the 1941 Code of Criminal Procedure which regulates the criminal procedure in the country (Mendonça, A. The Effective Collection., p 58).
The prisons in Brazil are not run by a single entity. Rather, each state is responsible for the organization and maintenance of their prisons (Dias, Camila., Salla, Fernando., p 398). Since each state controls their own prisons there will be differing prison structures, resources, and conditions. Fundamentally, the prison system is unequal. The incarceration policy in Brazil “disproportionately and systematically affects black, low-income youth with low levels of education,” (Criminal Justice Network, p 5). Black men and women are convicted at greater rates than whites. Even though there is no difference in the number of crimes committed between blacks and whites (Alves, J. A., p 235). This trend cannot only be seen in Brazil but in other countries such as the United States. A country where slavery was also prominent. Apart from there being inequality in the prison system there are other issues as well.
Some of these issues, that the academic articles helped form an understanding of, include a lack of state legal representation, and overcrowding. In Brazil state legal representation is in high demand since a majority of the incarcerated population cannot afford private attorneys. However, the “number of public defenders is insufficient to attend to the increasing numbers of poor black inmates,” (Alves, J. A., p 233). This is just another instance where racial inequality is present.
As for overcrowding, every prison in Brazil is over occupancy. Many prisoners are living in areas of less than a square meter per prisoner (Darke, S., p 274). Since there is overcrowding and understaffing within the prisons the prisoners are used to make up for the staffing shortages. There are prisons in which inmates are turnkeys, those that lock and unlock cells, entrance guards, and in charge of other common tasks that paid staff should be doing (Darke, S., p 276). There are many issues within the Brazilian prison systems that do, and do not relate to race. The academic articles were essential for forming a base understanding of the system as a whole and how the prisons functioned.
The media sources helped further expand upon topics that were presented in the academic articles as well as bringing new issues within the prison system to light. Another strength of the media sources was the suggestions for improvements to the system. Brazilian prisons are known for violence. As of 2019, “24 of Brazil's 26 states (and district capital) have suffered prison violence in the last decade,” (Muggah, R., Opinion: Brazil's Prison Massacres Send A Dire Message.). This violence primarily stems from overcrowding but it also stems from the criminal organizations within the prisons. These organizations are quite prevalent and the prisons are fertile grounds for the running of the organizations. In prisons, gangs can “operate relatively freely from inside, thanks to easy access to cellphones and other methods of communication,” (Waldron, T., A 'Problem From Hell': Why Brazil's Deadly Prison Riots Keep Happening).
These articles were also instrumental in my understanding of what needs to be done to improve the system and the role that the government is playing in these improvements. As one may have guessed, the government is not doing much. So far to address the overcrowding, which is the main source for issues within the system, the government is building more prisons. However, the inmate population is growing almost at a rate double to that of new prison beds (Waldron, T., A 'Problem From Hell': Why Brazil's Deadly Prison Riots Keep Happening). The government has also separated the leaders of the criminal organizations from their followers but this failed. It strengthened the organizations because it has allowed them to expand to new facilities (Mellen, R., Why Brazil has been so prone to deadly prison riots.). The improvements that need to be made are not going to be made with the current Brazilian government. Especially with a president that when campaigning pledged to crack down on violence, thus increasing prison populations, and used the familiar Brazilian refrain, “a good criminal is a dead criminal,” (Muggah, R., Toboada, C., & Tinoco, D., Q&A: Why Is Prison Violence So Bad in Brazil?).
For an improvement to occur there needs to be a reduction in the number of individuals incarcerated, an increase in access to legal representation, and new legislation. One way to reduce overcrowding is to reduce sentence length as well as resolving outstanding cases. This could be done by “incentivizing federal and state-level judges, prosecutors and public defenders to resolve outstanding cases and penalizing those who do not,” (Muggah, R., Toboada, C., & Tinoco, D., Q&A: Why Is Prison Violence So Bad in Brazil?). There would also be a decrease in the incarcerated population if certain crimes were decriminalized and there was rehabilitation instead of incarceration. With increased representation there would be more individuals available to resolve outstanding cases and reduce overcrowding. New legislation could also be implemented to reduce sentences and increase resources for prisons to improve their conditions.
Overall, there is great inequality within the prison system of Brazil. Inequality related to race and gender. Much of this inequality stems from slavery and the social stratification that it created. The “characteristics of the past remain interwoven in the fabric of today’s society and cannot be removed by goodwill or decree,” (Schwarcz, L. M., & Starling, H. M. M, p 585). Thus, for change to occur there needs to be a restructuring and a change within broader society.
Darke, S. (2013). Inmate governance in Brazilian prisons. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 52(3), 272-284. doi:10.1111/hojo.12010
Alves, J. A. (2016). On mules and bodies: black captivities in the Brazilian racial
Criminal Justice Network. (2016, Oct 6). Human Rights and Criminal Justice in Brazil.
Darke, S. (2013). Inmate governance in Brazilian prisons. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 52(3), 272-284. doi:10.1111/hojo.12010
Dias, Camila., Salla, Fernando. (2013). Organized crime in brazilian prisons: The example of the pcc. International Journal of Criminology and Sociology,(2013). doi:10.6000/1929-4409.2013.02.37
Mellen, R. (2019, July 30). Why Brazil has been so prone to deadly prison riots. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/07/30/why-brazil-has-been-so-prone-deadly-prison-riots/
Mendonça, A. (2014). The Criminal Justice System in Brazil: A Brief Account, pg. 63–70.
Mendonça, A. (2014). The Effective Collection and Utilization of Evidence in Criminal Cases: Current Situation and Challenges in Brazil, pg. 58-62.
Muggah, R. (2019, May 28). Opinion: Brazil's Prison Massacres Send A Dire Message. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/05/28/727667809/opinion-brazils-gruesome-prison-massacres-send-a-dire-message
Muggah, R., Toboada, C., & Tinoco, D. (2019, August 2). Q&A: Why Is Prison Violence So Bad in Brazil? Retrieved from https://www.americasquarterly.org/content/qa-why-prison-violence-so-bad-brazil
Schwarcz, L. M., & Starling, H. M. M. (2018). Brazil : a biography (First American). Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Waldron, T. (2019, July 31). A 'Problem From Hell': Why Brazil's Deadly Prison Riots Keep Happening. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brazil-prison-riots-jair-bolsonaro_n_5d405762e4b0d24cde065093
About the author: My name is Dakotah Dorholt and I am a recent graduate of the College of Saint Benedict. I majored in Sociology and plan on continuing my education at Drake University Law School. I am originally from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. My favorite classes that I took during my four years were Criminology and Corrections as well as Race and Ethnic Groups in the United States. The best experience I had at St. Bens was studying abroad in Cork, Ireland.
This week 10 students were supposed to join me in Brazil for a study abroad course titled "Inequality, Race, and Gender in Brazil." The COVID-19 crisis made us change our plans. After the trip was cancelled we moved the course online and students could explore any issue related to race, gender, and inequality in Brazil. They completed various assignments, including a larger research paper reviewing the literature on a topic of their interest. After they were done with their research I asked them to write a blog post outlining the things they learned and some of the most intriguing aspects of their research. This is the first post of the series.
Throughout the various sources I read for the class “Race, Gender, and Inequality in Brazil,” microaggressions and other underlying racist ideas appeared over and over again. Brazilian white elites are responsible for the popularization of these ideas. Racism is far from unique to Brazil. Discriminating against a peron because of the color of their skin is an idea that has been around nearly as long as humans of differing skin colors came into contact with one another. Yet racism in Brazil is still unique. Unlike in the United States and South Africa, following the abolishment of slavery in Brazil, laws enforcing segregation were never implemented. This lack of segregation allowed interracial mixing to occur on a massive scale, despite it not being encouraged. Today this interracial mixing can still be seen as many Brazilians struggle to identify their race and when they are being discriminated against. Discrimination against Afro-Brazilians are frequently falsely attributed to social inequality, making it hard for Afro-Brazilians and people of other races to recognize when and where discrimination occurs in Brazil today. Anti-Afro-Brazilian ideas have trickled down from white elites of Brazil to much of the remainder of the population and can be seen through microaggressions and other underlying ideas. These microaggressions and other underlying ideas have allowed racism to continue to exist on the scale it does today.
Prior to taking this class I knew very little about Brazil. I began to read news articles and listen to podcasts to learn more about the country upon being accepted into the program. Through these early podcasts it was clear that major inequalities existed in the country and played a major role in shaping everyday life in Brazil. Social inequality is a huge issue. Upon first reading articles about it, the magnitude of Brazil’s inequality stunned me.
Pedro sent us links to a few different podcasts prior to the start of class one of which was NPR’s “Brazil in Black and White: Update.” This podcast was the first time I was really exposed to the complexity of race in Brazil. The podcast discussed programs and quotas being put in place to get more blacks in higher ranking and paying jobs. These quotas were created to attempt to make Brazil a more racially equal country. When applying for jobs applicants would be asked to indicate their race. Checking the box seemed like such a simple act, yet the more I listened to the podcast the decision to do so was far from simple and clear. Throughout the podcast the inner conflict of one man and what he experienced when trying to decide if he should check the box was followed. Pedro Attila’s struggles as he attempted to identify his race showed me how complex race was in Brazil.
Forming a Question
As I read more, it became evident that a litany of factors has contributed to race and how it’s classified in Brazil. Despite such a large percentage of Brazil having Afro-Brazilian heritage, until recently only a small percentage of the population identified as Black. Worldwide Black society movements like the Movimento Negro Unificado (MNU), or the Black Movement, have played a major role the number of those who identify as Black increasing (Guetzkow 137). MNU has gained traction particularly throughout young Afro-Brazilians who are educated as they seek to reverse the stigma associated with identifying as Black. Merely by classifying themselves as Black, Brazilians are fighting microaggressions and the idea that it is an insult for one to consider another a darker skin tone (Kay 225).
Derald Wing Sue and his co-authors of “Racial Microaggression in Every Day Life” defines a microaggression as follows, “Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, de- rogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color” (271). To be able to fight a microaggression by doing something that to me seems as simple as quantifying one’s skin color, shows how deeply these racial microaggressions run in Brazil. This is what led me to form my question I was to research for the class. I was intrigued by the many complexities of racism in Brazil, and therefore chose it as my research topic. This interest culminated in my framing of the question: why is racism not widely recognized in Brazil and what were the underlying ideas that allowed this to become the case?
Some Research Findings
Racism in Brazil can be seen and experienced differently than the in the US. In the United States following the Civil War an era of segregation followed. After 100 years of segregation the Civil Rights Movement ensued. What made the Civil Rights Movement possible was African Americans’ willingness to stand up and fight for what the rights they knew they deserved. Necessary even before that is the recognition that racism does exist. In Brazil this recognition is widely lacking. Many whites do not believe racism to exist in Brazil, but even worse many Afro-Brazilian who are being discriminated against themselves do not always believe racism exists. Getting more Afro-Brazilians to recognize the existence of racism is the key to fighting racism in Brazil. This amazed me to see how widely unrecognized racism is in Brazil. Even more amazing, or maybe interesting rather, is how this way of thinking came to be.
There a variety of factors that have led to the lack of recognition of racism in Brazil, many of which can be attributed back to the government. Inequality also is a major issue Brazil faces. Shantytowns, or favelas, are located primarily on the outskirts of major cities. Afro-Brazilians make up the majority of their inhabitants. As of 2018, 73% of the 52.5 people below the poverty line were Black (Sanchez). Afro-Brazilians make up 66% of the country’s unemployed population, but only 54% of the total population points out Nayara Batschke of the EFE agency of Madrid. At first glance this can be attributed to inequality. This apparent inequality, though, is fueled by structural racism. The elements black Brazilians are born into, combined with the factors they are subject to along the way, make leading a successful life difficult. This idea is commonly referred to as structural racism. The prominence of structural racism is not widely known, instead the government pitches the unemployment and poverty as byproduct of inequality.
Inequality is just one of the many ways racism is disguised in Brazil. The government does not recognize Blacks to exist in Brazil in places other those have undeniable black heritage. In doing so White Elites and others in charge have created the underlying idea that a person should consider themselves Pardo or Mixed, as opposed to Black. Which has led to the small fraction of Afro-Brazilians identifying themselves as Black. Over time those in charge have downplayed the importance of Blacks by disguising their contributions to society. This is often done by attributing them to someone who is white or considering the Afro-Brazilian who created them to be lighter in skin color than they actually are. Thus, creating the underlying idea that one should identify themselves as of lighter skin color than they are in actuality.
Brazil – a Biography
From the book “Brazil, a Biography” some of the underlying ideas that have allowed racism to exist on the scale it does today were clear to me. In particular the actions of the country’s leaders and the reactions of the civilians stood out. The military and their imposing dictatorship were in power for 21 years in Brazil. Awful methods of brutality were used by the dictatorship in order prevent strikes or uprisings of any sorts. Not only were all strikes prevented for 10 years during their rule, but any recent progress of issues such as racial and gender equality was completely erased. After the dictatorship was removed from power they were never punished for their actions. The lack of punishment was justified by saying, “. . they believed they acted in the best interest of Brazil” (541). To me this shows a normalization has been created surrounding the treatment of people. People were treated poorly and we wish it would not have happened, but oh well seems to be their attitude. This same attitude can be seen during President Médici’s time at the helm of Brazil. During Médici’s time in charge the country experienced its worst period of political violence in history. Due to the economic success of the country during this period Médici received very little criticism, but rather was praised with applause mixed with very little criticism. The underlying idea here is that social justice issues are on the back burner, only to receive attention when everything else ahead of it on the priority chain is alright. This underlying issue is why today racial equality progress is so delicate. One administration can increase representation of Afro-Brazilians, but upon a new administration taking over any funds and representation can be erased in the blink of an eye.
From my research I have been able to see just how complex the issue of racism is in Brazil. Underlying ideas and microaggressions have been formed by years of racist actions of the government. Inequality is an issue in Brazil, but by combatting racial inequality the country will thus be combatting some inequality in the process. More Afro-Brazilians identifying themselves as Black is a major step forward for the country and gives them hope going forward for a more racially equal. By identifying as Black and recognizing racist actions Afro-Brazilians are taking the major steps towards fighting the underlying microaggressions and underlying ideas that allow racist to continue to exist on the scale it does today.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my research on racism in Brazil and feel I have gained a better sense of empathy as a result of doing it. Additionally, this has caused me to search for my own microaggressions and underlying ideas to my being. I am greatly disappointed the current situation does not allow us to go to Brazil. The chance to discuss this with Brazilians and experience the country for myself is something I was really looking forward to. Yet, the research I have done has created a hunger in me and a desire to get to Brazil someday and further my research and have the opportunity to learn from those who have experienced this firsthand.
Five Favorite Sources from my Research:
Lamont, M., Silva, G., Welburn, J., Guetzkow, J., Mizrachi, N., Herzog, H., & Reis, E. (2016). Getting Respect: Responding to Stigma and Discrimination in the United States, Brazil, and Israel. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctv346qr9 (especially chapters 3 and 4).
Kay, K., Mitchell-Walthour, G., & White, I. K. (2015). Framing race and class in Brazil: Afro-Brazilian support for racial versus class policy. Politics, Groups, and Identities, 3(2), 222-238. (Link Here)
Romero, S., Barnes, T. (2015). Despair, and Grim Acceptance, Over Killings by Brazil’s Police. New York Times (May 21). (Link Here)
You Don't Have to Yell Podcast (2020). Episode 28: Race and Politics in Brazil and the United States, a Comparison. (Link Here)
Reis, J. (2005). Batuque: African Drumming and Dance between Repression and Concession, Bahia, 1808-1855. Bulletin of Latin American Research, 24(2), 201-214. Retrieved May 13, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/27733744
Batschke, Nayara. "Afro-Brazilian Movement Aims to Combat Racism in Country's Business
World: BRAZIL RACISM -Feature-." EFE News Service, 25 May 2019.
Guetzkow, Joshua, Hanna Herzog, Michéle Lamont, Nissim Mizrachi, Elisa Reis,
Graziella Moraes Silva, Jessica S. Welburn. “Brazil.” Getting Respect, Princeton University Press, 2016, pp. 134-169.
Kay, Kristine, Gladys Mictchell-Walthour, and Isamil K. White. “Framing race and class in
Brazil: Afro-Brazilian support for racial versus class policy.” Politics, Groups, and Identities, 07 Apr 2015, pp 222-238.
Sanchez, Carlos Meneses. "Widespread Racism Against Black Population Persists in Brazil:
BRAZIL RACISM."EFE News Service, 20 Dec 2019.
Sue, Derald Wing, Christina M. Capodilupo, Gina C. Torino, Jennifer M. Bucceri, Aisha M. B.
Holder, Kevin L. Nadal, and Marta Esquilin. “Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life.” Teachers College, Columbia University. The American Psychologist.
Warner, Gregory and Lulu Garcia-Navarro. “Brazil in Black and White: Update.” Rough
About the Author: Maddie Schmitz is a junior at the College of St. Benedict. Originally from St. Martin, Minnesota, she is majoring in Physics with a minor in Math. Through the three opportunities Maddie has had to travel abroad, she has had the chance to talk with people from different countries of different backgrounds. Through these interactions she has gained a sense of empathy and perspective. As a result of her studies of Racism in Brazil she has enjoyed continuing to grow her sense of empathy and gaining an understanding of what drives racism.
Losing my religion
The students in my Political Science Senior Seminar conducted a survey to investigate the beliefs and attitudes of Luther College students. Below are the results they wanted to share about religiosity on campus.
Analysis of Data
In order to see how Luther has affected its students’ religiosity, NORP asked the students at Luther to take a survey that would classify their previous and current religious identity. In total, 222 Luther students responded to our survey. Each student was asked how religious they believe they were before they started at Luther and how religious they believe they are now, as well as what religious group they belong to before Luther and what religious group do they currently belong. Whether it was before their time at Luther or currently, most students responded that they practiced either Protestantism, Catholicism, or no religion at all.
Number of Participants
The biggest changes were in the “Moderately Religious Category”, which formerly comprised over a third of incoming Luther students but now is less than a quarter of Luther students. Additionally, there has been an overall 5% increase in students who are unsure of their religious intensity before coming to Luther, and an overall 10% increase in students who identify as “Somewhat Religious”. Technically, less students identify with having no religious intensity.
This chart demonstrates the percentages of ‘trends’, or the number of students whose religiosity increased, decreased, stayed the same, or has become unsure. According to these results, about one fourth of student’s religious intensity has decreased since coming to Luther, while only around one tenth of students’ religious intensity has increased. However, over half of students have experienced no change in their religious intensity, meaning that Luther is (technically) more likely to NOT affect your religious intensity.
While Luther has an ambiguous impact on religious affiliation (while there is a correlation that half of Luther Students will alter their religious intensity), there is an undeniable trend of Luther moving students away from affiliating themselves with a religion. There has been a definitive jump of affiliating oneself with NO religious tradition, and a decrease in students who align themselves with Protestantism and Catholicism. There is very little representation of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish students. In fact, of the two Jewish students coming into Luther, only one has maintained that part of their identity. However, zero students were Buddhist before coming into Luther, with two currently affiliating themselves with the religion (one a Pureland Buddhist, and the other a Christian Buddhist). The sole Hindu respondent has maintained their affiliation.
Among other things, we were able to conclude that only 9% of students at Luther are very religious while 25% of students reported that they have experienced a loss in religious beliefs and practices since coming to Luther. According to Luther’s Mission Statement, Luther College is a college of the church. However, according to our findings, it appears as though it is more likely for a student to be less religious or not religious at all after attending Luther College. As an ELCA affiliated school, do you feel that Luther should be taking more steps to provide more religious structure in Luther’s academics? Feel free to tell us what you think about the survey or this question in the comments below. As always, thank you to those that participated in this survey! If you would like to know more about this survey or other surveys we have constructed throughout the semester please attend our seminar presentation this Thursday (November 16th) in Valders 262 at 5:30pm.
The students in my Senior Seminar course on Media and Politics conducted poll about student engagement at Luther College. Below are the results.
Brief Analysis of Data
Last month, NORP conducted an in-person survey about the level of involvement students at Luther have with various organizations, athletics, and musical groups. In total, 282 Luther students were surveyed, with samples from each grade and gender. In order to better compile our results, we developed three categories: student organizations (Greek Life, Student Senate, SAC, etc.), athletics, and musical ensembles. Each student that was surveyed was not only asked how many organizations, sports, or music ensembles they participate in, but they were also asked which particular group they spend the most time in and how many hours of their week they devote to each group.
Means (average hours)
Female: 9.23 hours involved
Male: 10.34 hours involved
Both: 9.60 hours involved
Medians (middle number of hours when put in order from greatest to least)
Female: 7 hours
Male: 10 hours
Both: 8 hours
Modes (most common number of hours)
Female: 10 hours
Male: 2 hours
Both: 10 hours
Activities Involved In
Mean (average number of activities)
Women: 2.843 activities
Men: 2.843 activities
Both: 2.807 activities
Women: 3 activities
Men: 3 activities
Both: 3 activities
Women: 2 activities
Men 2 activities
Both: 2 activities
Breakdown of groups:
Due to students being able to write down which activities they spend the most time in, some answers fell into more than one group. In the spirit of inclusivity, we have decided to mark students as mainly involved in more than one category. This means the percentages will NOT add up to 100 percent.
Music: 104 students
Sports/Athletics: 73 students
Student orgs: 68 students
Average Hours involved in Extracurriculars
The averages are calculated with the mean of the data, which is presented below:
Average Mean based on Category:
Total Mean- 9.6 hours
Female Mean- 9.23 hours
Male Mean- 10.34 hours
Music Focused Mean- 8.48 hours
Sport/Athletic Focused Mean- 15.86 hours
Organization Focused Mean- 6.46 hours
Average Hours involved in Extracurriculars
The following data is calculated by finding the median, first quartile, and second quartile of the data:
Luther students pride themselves on their level of involvement in a variety of different student groups. We created this survey in order to find out if Luther students are as involved as they claim to be, which grade and/or gender is the most involved, and if there were changes in the levels of involvement between the freshman and senior years of college. There are a variety of ways to breakdown our findings and compare them with our sample groups to draw various conclusions about the level of involvement particular people at Luther have. For example, our findings show that more females are involved in music than males, however more males are involved in athletics compared to females.
These results represent the information collected from our survey in the Cafeteria. Keep in mind that these numbers are not the exact numbers from all students currently attending Luther. These numbers are projections based off of our sample of over 10% of students. If you have any comments about the survey results or polling method, feel free to post your comments and questions on our Facebook page. Thank you to all of those that volunteered their time to fill out our survey!
Blue Turf Poll
This year Luther College installed a blue turf on the college's football field. I saw some interesting discussions on Facebook about the blue turf, mostly by alumni. I was not sure, however, how the student population felt about it.
Brief Analysis of Data
What is Margin of Error?
Discussion and Analysis:
Follow NORP on Facebook and Twitter
By Mareda Smith
This is a movie review of "The End Of Poverty?" documentary (link to the documentary here). This was an assignment for my POLS 132 (Global Politics) class this fall, an introductory Political Science course. In this assignment students were expected to write a review of the movie while connecting to course material. In the review students must:
For more information on the documentary, please check their website: http://www.theendofpoverty.com/
When I first started to organize my ideas for this paper, I thought about all that I had learned about poverty both from the film and from other texts we read throughout the semester, and tried to think about all of the different factors contributing to global poverty in a chronological sense. Then I thought about how these factors were connected by similar motives and human tendencies. I then tried to demonstrate how these tendencies have influenced global politics throughout time- from European colonialism to present day international economic policy. This allowed me to identify the trends that have persisted throughout time, continuing to exploit and oppress vulnerable populations. One of the things I appreciated most about this film was how intentionally it not only addressed the current reality of global poverty, but confronted the selfish ideas and policies that continue to support systems that disadvantage vulnerable people and drive them further into poverty. In my writing I attempted to reflect this approach, revealing how global political processes have led to the tragedies caused by global poverty.
Review: The End of Poverty
While poverty exists in every country imaginable, it is undeniable that it is more prevalent in some countries than others. Despite its pervasiveness, poverty continues to be a bit of a taboo topic, at least within privileged Western circles. While attempting to grasp and take responsibility for the many factors which lead hundreds of millions of people to work for minimal pay, go hungry, and sleep in tiny shacks is certainly uncomfortable, continuing to ignore these factors only accentuates the problem. Philippe Diaz’s The End of Poverty sheds light on the complex history behind global poverty and how developed countries have fed poverty by employing systems which benefit themselves at the expense of others.
The End of Poverty reveals how Western society’s constant obsession with imperialism and economic growth has led to actions which have had significant consequences on other states. The film draws significant attention to colonialism and its contribution to the system of exploitation that still prevails today. From a global politics perspective, it is important to acknowledge the ways in which the lack of global governance led to the use of power for exploitation. As the film notes, the British justified the expropriation of land that didn’t belong to them through their own legal system (which, obviously, had significant bias) because there were no global standards on the issue or international legal procedures. Transnational norms, which Daniel Drezner describes as “a powerful constraint on action in world politics”, also did not prevent the British expropriation of land, but rather followed their action (Drezner 66). The resulting colonies, were then forced into total dependency on the conquering nation, producing a single good to be exported back to the “motherland”.
The effects of such locked economies can still be seen today as the poorest countries continue to struggle with a lack of export diversification. As Paul Collier emphasizes in The Bottom Billion, “the intervention that is critical for export diversification is trade policy...it is absolutely vital. Without effective temporary protection against the Asian giants, the countries of the bottom billion will not break into global markets” (Collier 183). Such trade policies, as part of a broader economic system, have been almost exclusively established by Western officials, but have had detrimental effects on countries at the lower end of the economic spectrum. The End of Poverty delves pretty deeply into the consequences of market globalization, neocolonialism and market and trade liberalism. Eric Toussaint and David Ellerman note in the film that while countries struggling with the highest levels of poverty are politically independent, they are still subjected to a sort of neocolonial international economic order that is catered to the needs of the west at the expense of the resources and labor belonging to the south. As noted in Global Studies Reader, "countries that have been most deeply impacted by globalization--the countries of the global south… found themselves increasingly squeezed by growing international debts and decreasing prices for the goods they export. They had borrowed money from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund... Now these loans were coming due and they found themselves unable to service their debts while also continuing to meet the needs of their citizens….governments had to force their citizens to bear the brunt of the costs of the debt" (Steger 64).
While Diaz’s film resonates with Drezner, Collier, and Steger’s texts in more ways that could possibly be processed in this review, perhaps the most important message that is carried throughout the four works, is how easy it is to forget about poorer countries in the midst of our frantic Western growth-obsessed mentality. It is imperative that international regulatory organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization consider the needs of “bottom billion” societies with equal reverence to their consideration of Western priorities. After a close look at these four works, it is difficult to argue that our international economic system is working for everyone as it should be.
Personally, I felt that the The End of Poverty did an admiral job of demonstrating the deep roots of the systemic forces that have contributed to global poverty. Diaz effectively traces this kind of behavior back to the beginning of colonialism, and discusses how policies have evolved through the transition away from traditional colonialism to form a sort of neocolonial system. His presentation of the dark and complex history that has led us to our present day economic policies is admiral in that it does not simply discuss the policies of IMF and World Bank, but also forces viewers to think about the often ignored realities of poverty. It challenges viewers to think about how Western efforts to maintain its growth and prosperity have contributed to this frightening reality for so many others. The part of the film that I was somewhat disappointed by was the way in which it presented possible solutions at the end. While the potential actions presented were intriguing, the film failed to empower viewers to pursue practical or reasonable action. The solutions were presented in a realistic light given their drastic nature. However, it seemed that the film would have greater impact had it also provided smaller, more realistic actions viewers could take to encourage the broader policy changes that are ultimately necessary to confront the issue of poverty.
By combining scholarly discussion with impactful personal stories, Diaz presents a compelling argument for vigorously addressing global poverty. The contributions from a diverse group of economic experts and global citizens offer a broader and arguably less biased perspective on the issue and the factors contributing to it. Rather than continuing to defend the actions of the key international economic institutions, Diaz draws attention to their prioritization of Western ideals with little concern for how their policies impact developing nations. Ultimately, the film provides a necessary critical look into how international economic policy has subjected millions of people to inhumane living conditions and labor demands.
Collier, P. (2007). The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Drezner, D. W. (2011). Theories of International Politics and Zombies. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Steger, M. B. (2015). The Global Studies Reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mareda Smith is a sophomore at Luther College, hoping to pursue an individualized interdisciplinary major in peace and justice studies, with a minor in data science. She is originally from Iowa City, Iowa. Mareda enjoys learning about how social justice issues can be addressed through different policy and aid approaches. She looks forward to broadening her perspective while studying abroad during her Junior year.
By Hannah Harms
This is another post to showcase work from students who go above and beyond the assignment. In this one, an assignment for my Global Politics course (an introductory class in International Relations), Hannah Harms writes a review of "Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL," an excellent documentary produced by Al-Jazeera about the role of the United States and Iraq on the rise of the Islamic State. For the assignment I asked students to review the documentary and connect it to our textbook, Mingst and Arreguin-Toft's Essentials of International Relations. Early in the semester I also told students they could use other sources, including the Duck of Minerva blog. In her assignment, Hannah used an article from the blog to corroborate her argument. In the end, Hannah connects the documentary to the current Syrian refugee crisis. Below are Hannah's thought process and her review of the documentary.
My overall thought process began when I was comparing and contrasting perspectives from both sides of this conflict. As an American, my limited understanding of the U.S.’s occupation in Iraq was to keep its citizens safe from an unjust government. However, I realized that the perspective from the country of Iraq itself was just as crucial to understanding this conflict as the United States. I then began to sort out all of the details in a logical order that I could present them in my paper. Since the U.S. occupation in Iraq was so multifaceted and vital in the rise of ISIL, it only made sense to me to go back to the beginning of the documentary Enemy of Enemies and piece things together from there. I started out this paper by presenting the sociocultural and religious aspects of this conflict; I looked at the fundamental differences and preexisting tensions between the Sunni and Shia denominations in Islam. Explaining how those different facets of Islam were contributing to strife existing in Iraq before the American occupation was vital. Those denominations were broken down into subcategories and they were presented to explain what forms of Islam were more commonly associated with terrorist groups within the country before the U.S. occupation. The cause and effect of the U.S. occupation was then explained. This included how the war had become against anti-American and anti-Westernized sentiment, as well as why the war may have become this way from the Iraqi perspective and government involvement from within the country. Things happened on both sides during this occupation; the purpose of this paper is not to ‘blame’ one side over the other, but rather present the facts that both sides may be at fault to some degree. I incorporated the theme of accountability and humanitarianism when looking for outside, Westernized sources and these themes were tied in very strongly with the current Syria and Syrian refugee displacement and what the U.S.’s role should be in this conflict. Westernized humanitarianism along with the notion of accountability for actions help explain how the U.S. occupation in Iraq may have contributed to the Syrian civil war and consequential refugee crisis. Overall, I tried to present the facts in neutral manner, while informing this paper with my values that I believe very strongly in accountability for actions as a step towards moving forward.
Review: ‘Enemy of Enemies’
To begin, I do not understand whose fault it was objectively when looking at this conflict. That being said, I think Al Jazeera has done a fantastic job putting together this documentary, with enough time to hear both sides of the story, both from Mowaffak al Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security advisor and Ali Khedery, special adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authorityin Iraq (‘Enemy of Enemies’). When I look at this conflict, I see how multi-faceted it was, with both countries contributing to it in some way. From what I understand, there are two main religious affiliations in Iraq: the Shia and Sunni. Shi’ism and Sunnism are both forms of Islam; Shi’ism being based on the interpretation of the Qur’an that the religious leader must have a direct family lineage descended from the prophet Muhammad, whereas Sunnism does not believe in that interpretation. There are also slight nuances between the two forms that create tension and strife between both denominations in the country. In class, we learned that Iraq is composed of about 20-25% Sunni and 65-70% Shia.
In the film ‘Enemy of Enemies’ we were introduced to the history behind the internal conflict in Iraq, as well as a more objective lens of what happened once the U.S. got involved. We learned from Rubaie that there had been “rising attacks in Iraq” and that “the response of the U.S. was mainly denial” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). He explained that within the denominations of Shia and Sunni, there exist multiple subcategories. He talked about how the Ba’ ath party was affiliated with Saddam Hussein’s and Assad’s terrorist army, and the Salafist party was a conservative orthodox movement. Both of these parties were Sunni. There were also the
jihadists, or radical Islamists, who wished to see the literal interpretation of the Qua’-ran further a society that was Islamic and not Westernized. He mentioned how the Ba’athist, Salafist and jihadist groups had:
"started to rebel. The Americans had been banning Ba’athist in order to settle
political scores. The Americans were starting to debathafize…this was a fascist,
brutal, dictatorship by the socialist party. The Americans were aware this was
happening. This led to an increase in the insurgency because of military
displacement. The minority group was losing power and status along with a lack
of reconciliation and a loss of personal dignity. This is a great motivating factor
in in the Arab world. The Ba’athists then formed an alliance with the Salafist
jihadists….this became an unholy alliance between Ba’athism and Salafism.
These two groups were aligned with a temporary alliance that led to a well-
planned, executed, and highly political act with a group behind it" (Rubaie,
‘Enemy of Enemies’).
Moffawak asserted that “the U.S. invasion of Iraq led to 2 insurgencies. It wasn’t the
attacks, but the uprisings of the insurgency [from Saddam to Zakowi]” (Rubaie, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). This led the Al-Qaeda party led by Saddam Hussein becoming more prominent as the original anti-American sentiments under Saddam were “revolutionized under Zakowi…he added a sectarian element, (an anti-Shia element, so jihadists would work)” (Rubaie, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). Eventually, Zarqawi became the “poster boy of the beheadings and bombings in Iraq” (Rubaie, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). The media from the U.S. focused on the individual and picked up on terrorism. Khedery mentioned the “lack of government response from inside the country” (Khedery, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). This led to a civil war in Iraq. Al-Queda was now “fighting insurgency and secular war” (Rubaie, ‘Enemy of Enemies’).
This war threatened President Bush, who wanted to bring democracy to Iraq. So in
2007, over twenty thousand American troops went to Iraq to help put down secretarianism and keep citizens safe. Yet, during that time, Baghdadi, (Zarqawi’s replacement) put the Sunni on payroll to help put down Al-Qaeda. Now, the “U.S. was fighting beside Al-Qaeda – affiliated groups (Sunni tribes) to put down Al-Qaeda…” (‘Enemy of Enemies’).
At the end of 2007, almost one hundred thousand Iraqis had died. The Americans didn’t know who to trust, so they utilized Camp Bucca, a military detainee camp. These were prisoners that came from camp Abu Ghraib, which was an Iraqi prison in a “constant state of war” (Khedery, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). Contrary to what Americans believed Camp Bucca would do for its prisoners, by reintegrating them into society, “it was really a place where jihadists trained and taught” (Rubaie, ‘Enemy of Enemies’). The U.S. knew that radicalization was going on in Bucca. This was influenced by Abu Ghraib and prisoners, because they had been associated with Saddam and 70% were Sunnis. As Khedery said, this led to a “toxic brew of hardcore jihadists and some who had done anything and an incubator for radicalization” (‘Enemy of Enemies).
Khedery asserted that the U.S. was “taking efforts to prevent it, but what are you going to do with thirty thousand people? We can’t put them all in solitary confinement” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). To which Rubaie “does not agree…Americans are short-sighted and can’t see beyond their nose. The ISIS leaders came from Camp Bucca” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). Yet Khedery asserts that “Iraq is the people’s government and country…Why didn’t Iraq set up better facilities?” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). Rubaie countered with “we were occupied at the request of the Iraqi government” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). He then went on to say that “the Americans have changed their mind; they aren’t working with major Iraqis … they should have left by the end of 2007. .. The longer Americans stayed in the country, the more mistakes they committed” (‘Enemy of Enemies’). At the end of the film, Rubaie and Khedery both agreed that “a lot of things that happened during the occupation led to ISIS and what we have today” (‘Enemy of Enemies’).
This whole argument reminds me of many things when looking at the Mingst textbook. I’m most reminded of human rights, particularly how states fulfill these roles as both protectors and abusers of human rights. On pages 356-361 of the textbook, we see how the book says this to explain how states like to protect human rights, (such as in the case of Bush entering Iraq to spread democracy internationally):
"Many liberal democratic states have based human rights practices on first-
generation political and civil liberties. The constitutions of the United States and
many European democracies give pride of place to freedom of speech, freedom of
religion, and due process. And those same states have taken those domestic
provisions and tried to internationalize them. That is, it had become part of their
foreign policy agenda to support similar provisions in newly emerging states and
states in transition. U.S. support for such initiatives can be seen in both Iraq and
Afghanistan, where specific human rights guarantees were written into the new
constitutions" (Mingst 357).
What I gained from both the textbook and our discussions in class was that the U.S. primarily entered Iraq on the basis of protection from an undesirable government, as well as some self-interest, and even that we see ourselves as this world police or world protector of human rights violations. Yet as Mowaffak said in the film, our country caused a lot of damage in the increase of the Al Qaeda insurgency, particularly with our running of Camp Bucca. He asserts that when our country started “deBathafizing” Iraq, that displaced the minority Sunnis, helping “incubate” an environment for terrorist cells and organizations to arise (Rubaie & Khedery, ‘Enemy of Enemies’ ). Of course, we as a country didn’t believe this at the time; we thought we were protecting Iraq from human rights abuses. When did that become our job and business, though? Is it safer for the globe if Western countries (such as the United States) promote liberalism and the democratic government as the ‘best’ form of governance, or are we interfering and creating more problems where we don’t belong?
I went onto the Duck of Minerva website to find relevance between this issue and what is going on in the rest of the world today. ISIS is extremely relevant in the media here, especially after the terrorist attacks in France, Beirut, Syria, Iran, and other countries around the globe. I found one of the first articles on this website to talk about politics, compassion and humanitarianism as it relates to the attack on Paris. To understand this context, we have to know that Syria also became a target for ISIL as they were used as base camp country, and then innocent citizens were targeted by Syria’s own government, creating a civil war and influx of refugees that are leaving today. There is worry on the American side that ISIS could be infiltrating refugees leaving Syria, making it more accessible for them to target other countries around the globe. As formerly mentioned however, is it the United State’s responsibility to protect these people and shelter them, particularly if it was some of our unintended actions that displaced them in the first place? Where is the balance between accountability, compassion, and the need to self-preserve?
The article written by Maryam Deloffre talks about how in light of the attacks on Paris, President Obama has called for “universal compassion … the emphasis on “all of humanity” and “universal values” recalls the language of humanitarianism, enshrined in the foundational documents of the United Nations (UN) including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its related covenants” (Deloffre). Deloffree then goes on to say that:
"In the aftermath of the attacks, humanitarian values have been threatened by
political posturing by the extreme right Front National party in France and by
Republican (and one Democrat) governors and presidential hopefuls in the United
States who are calling for either a suspension of Syrian refugee resettlement
programs in the United States or limiting resettlement to only Christian refugees"
Deloffre continues to bring our attention to the changes brought about by the way that humanity and humanitarianism is viewed in the West in particular. ‘Humanity’ used to encompass white, Christian, male characteristics, but now it has been more broadly defined to include all people. “Today, this universal definition of humanity informs humanitarianism and means that human beings intrinsically have ethical obligations to one another—obligations that kinship, nationality, and religion and derive solely from our shared humanity. We identify with distant strangers because we see ourselves in them…” (Deloffre). Since we see ourselves in our fellow neighbor, should we turn away Syrian refugees who are fleeing persecution in their own country? Should the U.S. fulfill its ‘humanitarian’ obligation to be accountable for its actions, both domestic and overseas? Is the United States’ role in this world to spread democratic liberalism, or is it to be ‘humanitarian’ and respond where we can, be responsible for what we can, and not try to use our power in a way that displaces others?
Deloffre argues that we as a country need to heavily consider bringing Syrian refugees in the United States, and not turning them away for fear of not preserving our “Christian” values (Deloffre). She sums up her argument in this way: “Scapegoating refugees creates divisions and disunity that recalls an outdated mode of humanitarianism dripping with racism and xenophobia (and ironically similar to the rhetoric of Daesh). This is a battle of ideas, a battle of humanitarianisms, but not a battle of the West vs. the rest because sadly, many in the West are on the wrong side” (Deloffre). I agree full heartedly. We as America need to know what our line is; where our boundaries go from overstepping and ‘saving’ (which inadvertently creates more problems) to when we need to get involved and be accountable. I think in this instance, as Deloffre has put it, letting Syrian refugees into our country is the humanitarian thing to do.
Deloffre, Maryam Z. "Playing Politics with Compassion after the Paris Attacks (and Why Humanitarianism Is in Trouble) | Duck of Minerva." Duck of Minerva. Duck of Minerva, 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.<http://duckofminerva.com/2015/11/playing-politics-
"Enemy of Enemies: The Rise of ISIL." - Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera, 26 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2015/10/enemy-
Mingst, Karen A., and Ivan M. Arreguin - Toft. "Human Rights." Essentials of International Relations. 6th Edition ed. Boston: W.W. Norton, 2015. Print.
Hannah Harms is a sophomore at Luther College majoring in Social Work with a concentration in Art. She is originally from Waverly, Iowa. Hannah enjoys learning about different perspectives and finding common ground in the patterns of human behavior presented in international relations theories. She has not studied abroad yet while at Luther, but will be studying in the Twin Cities Metro area for her Social Work class experience. She is interested in micro-level work with individuals, groups and families who have undergone trauma or crisis, and sees the benefits of using expressive means such as art to help integrate the healing process.
By Kylie Hanschman
This is the first post for my "Student Work" section. Here I post work done by my students that I feel is a shame that I am the only one who gets to read it. Some will be long, some will be short, but all will showcase some great writing, critical thinking, and research.
This post was originally an assignment for my class called International Organizations. For the assignment I asked students to bring at least four different news sources from different countries and discuss the origins of the current refugee crisis in Europe. Below you will see first Kylie's thought process for the assignment and then the assignment itself.
My overall thought process began when I started looking for news sources. I knew this topic would be very controversial, so I had to make sure my sources were credible and came from different areas around the world, as opinions differ based on location and opportunity. I first began looking at Western sources (coming mainly from the United States and Europe) and then contrasted those with the non-Western sources. When reading the articles, I would make note of discrepancies between the “cause and effect” relationship and would try to identify who was said to be at “fault” for the crisis. Obviously certain sources had their biases, but I thought they were important to include. Bias from these sources show how certain ideas can be warped depending on interests and affectedness, aiding in the overall perception of the given situation. However, I also thought it was important to include those sources from countries that aren’t directly affected by the Migrant Crisis right now, giving them some objectivity when explaining the situation. Together, by taking subjective and objective sources, non-Western and Western, I was able to synthesize all of the ideas together to create an idea that attempts to show the discrepancies and difficulties when trying to discover who is truly to blame for the Migrant Crisis.
Near Enemy vs. Far Enemy: Who is to Blame?
In recent months, the European Union has experienced an influx of migrants and refugees from North Africa and the Middle East. We refresh our newsfeeds, turn on the television, and get live updates about the ongoing predicament the European Union is currently facing, but do we fully understand the extent to which this mass movement of people is a crisis? Where are these people coming from? Why are they coming? What is the force behind their movement? It is noted, “Today, more than 19 million people have been forced to flee their home country because of war, persecution, and oppression, and every day an additional 42,500 more join them” (Taub). Without a doubt, the Western world, comprised of the European Union and the United States, would argue that these migrants, now deemed refugees, are fleeing political unrest and upheaval in their homeland. A majority of the countries outside of the Western world would argue that this is only the effect of an even greater root cause. The West has been an undeniably large force in the Middle East and in North Africa and has indeed played a role in the instability many of these non-Western nations face today. However, one could argue that blame is shared equally across the board, from the initial interference of Western beliefs and forces in the Middle East and North Africa, to the political injustices and corruption now characterizing these regions due to anarchies and authoritarian governments. Both forces have played a role in forcing millions of people to leave their homeland in search of freedom, safety, and security.
It is important to consider all possible root causes when analyzing the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. One potential root cause would be the Arab Spring. Vox Media supports this claim by stating, “The Arab Spring was perhaps the largest single spark of the ongoing, global refugee crisis” (Taub). However, it is interesting to note the other revolutions/uprising that have taken place in response/support of the Arab Spring. The Syrian crisis began after peaceful protests turned into a multi-party civil war, forcing half of the Syrian population to flee their homes. This crisis then became more serious and complicated as the Islamic State emerged and seized areas in northern and eastern Syria (“Assad Blames…”). However, the breakout of the Arab Spring revolution and the flames from the Syrian crisis didn’t bring about the grand visions of justice they had initially hoped for, but rather anarchy and corruption (Lwanga). What is even more disturbing and detrimental is that fact that certain terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS have found fertile ground in the weak and corrupted states affected by revolutions/uprisings, and now pose a threat to global security and stability. However, the Arab Spring is again, not necessarily the root cause of the crisis, but rather a response to an even greater disruption. Breitbart London notes, “The so-called Arab Spring has a lot to do with the attempt to inject the notion of supremacy of Western values into highly complex regional environments” (Edmunds). Again, the finger is pointed at the Western world, but for reasons that are more or less justifiable.
When analyzing news articles relating to the migrant crisis, it can be observed that a majority of non-Western countries publish articles placing blame on the West’s actions in the Middle East and North Africa. These sources not only come from the Middle East, but also from Sub-Sahara and southern Africa, and even from Eastern Europe/ Asia. While these articles have their bias, they are also objective in the fact that they have no potential ties to the Western world or the conflict in the Middle East/North Africa, and can therefore give an opinion with little subjectivity. For example, All Africa produced an article out of Uganda that whole-heartedly blames the United States and Europe for the current influx of migrants into the EU. They begin by stating, “What we are witnessing today… is a culmination of decades of miscalculations by Western nations”; they continue, “We are reeling from some of the effects of when one world power unquestionably wields unchecked global influence” (Lwanga). The global power that is encompassed within the Western world is one that has a superior mentality and therefore tries to influence the rest of the world with its “authority”. This article is bias in its own right as it is considered a developing nation outside of the Western sphere of power, yet objective in the fact that it has no direct ties to the migrant crisis.
While there is animosity and bias toward the Western world based on a feeling of inferiority and a greater sense of the “other”, there are also greater, more justifiable reasons that prove how the West has played a large role in the migrant crisis. Vladimir Putin has been quoted in many sources, some Western and others not, reflecting on what he believes to be the root causes of this migrant crisis in the EU. In an article by Breitbart, Putin “blamed European states for backing U.S. efforts to spread democracy, which he said were responsible for the current exodus” (Edmunds). All Africa goes on to support this claim by explicitly noting, “Globally, the United States is on an evangelical crusade to spread the U.S. version of democracy” (Lwanga). CNN also goes on to cite Putin’s claim regarding the forced spread of democracy and how it has had a greater affect on these regions, “This is imposing its standards without taking into consideration historic, religious, national, and cultural specifics of these regions” (Melvin). When political, economic and societal grievances within societies are overlooked and not taken into consideration, crisis is bound to occur.
Many sources, Western and non-Western, show that Western influence in these nations has had devastating affects on the region, which has then lead to other catastrophic events. In response to the Syrian civil war and the Arab Spring, the U.S. and other European nations provided what they call “moderate rebels” with military and equipment (“Assad Blames…”). However many non-Westerners, especially those affected by the crisis, see this as a definite root cause for many of the problems that exist in that region today, especially with the formation of many brutal terrorist organizations. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad blames the Western nations for the surge of refugees who have left his country and made their way to Europe. While he shouldn’t be the recipient of a prize for “Best President”, he may have a point. He notes, “They (Western nations) are simultaneously sympathizing with the refugees while also causing them to be in danger in the first place… If you’re so worried about them, stop supporting terrorists” (“Assad Blames…”). This is something many new sources, especially Western sources, fail to fully realize. However, Russia Insider goes to support this idea of Western blame and media under-exaggeration of the Western role when noting, “Journalists are so conditioned to framing U.S. and NATO policy in a positive light that the links don’t even really occur to them… or maybe they are simply embarrassed and trying to shift focus from their long-recorded support for various military interventions in these countries” (Ryan). Furthermore, a Syrian source, directly affected by the regional issues notes, “The West should handle the issue since it emerged out of their policies that went awry in Libya, Yemen, and Syria and a policy of sanctions and support that began in 2011” (“Information minister…”). It can be concluded that the Western world aided in the destabilization of an entire region. While potentially trying to solve the “problem” or rather the threat felt by the Arab Spring, the plan to arm militants in the region has created weakness and corruption and has thus played an extremely important role in the influx of migrants storming into the European Union.
Additionally, the role the United States has played in the current conflict and the migrant crisis is often overlooked in Western sources, but not so much in non-Western sources. Russia Insider, although containing their own bias against the United States, notes, “After the U.S.-led campaign to destabilize Syria in an effort to topple Assad, facilitating and even supporting the rise of ISIS in the region, a staggering 10 million have been displaced and European countries are the ones left to help pick up the pieces” (Ryan). Putin is has also stated, “Seeing as this is something the U.S. has created, it is emphasized that America has not suffered at all personally from the crisis, while Europe has suffered heavily” (Edmunds). Vox Media, an American source, brings this point into perspective when noting, “the United States, for its part, has largely ignored the crisis… In 2013, there were 2.5 million Syrian refugees. The United States accepted 36 of them” (Taub). While the United States has said it will accept a larger number of refugees this year, the fact is that while they have played a large part in creating the problems and instability in the region, they aren’t doing much to help solve the problem the European Union is facing today. Syrian President al-Assad refers to this “as a part of the willful blindness of the American administration” (“Assad Blames…”).
The interpretations of the migrant crisis between non-Western and Western countries are vastly different. While the non-Western countries place blame on the intervention and force the West placed within the North African and Middle Eastern regions, the Western forces place the blame on the local/regional level of the areas directly affected by the conflict and crisis. A majority of the Western sources don’t specifically acknowledge the role they’ve played in the crisis, but tend to beat around the bush of the root cause of the problem. Many of the sources describe the root causes in a very superficial, surface-level manner. For example, Reuters, a Belgium source, notes, “Many migrants make the journey because they are fleeing war, oppression, or poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa beyond” (Chee). The Council on Foreign Relations, an American non-partisan source, describes, “Political upheaval in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia is reshaping migration trends in Europe.” They continue with their ‘explanation of the problem’ by saying, “Syrians fleeing their country’s four-and-a-half-year-old civil war… Afghans looking to escape the ongoing war with Taliban rebels… and Eritreans fleeing forced labor… Deteriorating security and grinding poverty in Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, and Sudan have also contributed to the migrant influx” (Park). While these are all justifiable reasons for fleeing one’s homeland, it doesn’t necessarily dig deep enough to reveal the real source of the conflict. They generally lack to answer “why” these conflicts exist and “how” these conflicts are connected to an even greater conflict or struggle. These Western sources automatically place blame on the Middle East and North Africa, without taking into consideration any other possible causes of conflict in these regions.
While some sources explicitly place blame, some fail to attribute blame where necessary. However, there are some that are creating a sense of ambiguity of whom and what is truly responsible for the influx of migrants entering the European Union. For example, DW, a German new source is extremely vague in their recollection of causes of this crisis. They state, “The current refugee crisis is neither coincidence, nor fate, instead it is an expression of shared political failure” (Steiner). This unclear representation of the root cause leaves the public to question who is truly sharing this failure? The Western world? The Middle East and North Africa? The Western world and the Middle East/North Africa? They continue by stating, “No one has control of the situation, no one knows who these people are, where they are from or where they are going. Politics as the power to shape is currently nonexistent in Europe” (Steiner). There could be a multitude of explanations behind this vagueness, however it could attribute to the fact that Germany is placed in the middle of the problem. Germany is at the heart of being able to do something about the problem and being the cause of the problem.
While there are many reasons behind the extremity of this crisis, it can be deemed that each state has played some sort of a role in the escalation of this migrant crisis. Even though they try to deny it, the West is to blame for their continuous interference and armed force in that region of the world. However, the Middle Eastern and North African countries are also to blame for their political injustices and level of corruption within their government, which has therefore led to a vast number of political, economic and social grievances to be placed upon the natives, aiding in their decision to migrate/seek asylum. Essentially, the blame is to be shared among the near enemy, the countries, and the far enemy, the Western world. However, no one is accepting blame or responsibility for the problem at hand, therefore nothing is being done to stop it. Vox Media notes, “Unwilling to face this reality, a number of Western countries have taken the attitude that they can ignore the crisis and make it someone else’s responsibility” (Taub). It can then be argued that those that can and have the ability to help ought to. However, it is not something that can be accomplished with a one-and-done solution to one specific problem, but rather a solution on how to solve the greater problem at hand. If nothing changes, we will always be caught up in a “what to do” mindset, rather than on finding a “how to stop” solution.
“Assad Blames Western Support of ‘Terrorists’ for Migrant Crisis”. VOA News. VOA News. 16 September 2015. Web. http://www.voanews.com/content/assad-blames-refugee-crisis-on-western-support-of-terrorists/2965763.html
Chee, Foo Yun. “Unprecedented migrant crisis forces EU to seek answers” Reuters. Reuters. 31 August 2015. Web. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/31/us-europe-migrants-idUSKCN0QZ0TK20150831
Edmunds, Donna Rachel. “Putin: U.S. to Blame for the Migrant Crisis in the Mediterranean” Breitbart. Breitbart. 4 September 2015. Web. http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/09/04/putin-us-to-blame-for-the-migrant-crisis-in-the-mediterranean/
“Information minister slams Britain over ‘illogical and irrational’ Syria policy”. The Syria Times. The Syria Times. 12 September 2015. Web. http://syriatimes.sy/index.php/news/local/19583-information-minister-slams-britain-over-illogical-and-irrational-syria-policy
Lwanga, Martin M. “Uganda: U.S. to Blame for EU Migrant Crisis” All Africa. All Africa. 20 September 2015. Web. http://allafrica.com/stories/201509212954.html
Melvin, Don. “West to blame for Europe’s migrant crisis, say Erdogan, Putin” CNN. CNN. 4 September 2015. Web. http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/04/middleeast/turkey-russia-blame-west-migrant-crisis/
Park, Jeanne. “Europe’s Migrant Crisis” Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations. 23 September 2015. Web. http://www.cfr.org/migration/europes-migration-crisis/p32874
Ryan, Danielle. “Media Coverage of Europe’s Migrant Crisis Ignores Root Cause: NATO” Russia Insider. Russia Insider. 23 June 2015. Web. http://russia-insider.com/en/media-coverage-europes-migrant-crisis-ignores-root-cause-nato/ri8228
Steiner, Felix. “Opinion: National egoism everywhere you look” DW. DW. 16 September 2015. Web. http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-national-egoism-everywhere-you-look/a-18718941
Taub, Amanda. “Europe’s refugee crisis, explained” Vox Explainers. Vox Media. 5 September 2015. Web. http://www.vox.com/2015/9/5/9265501/refugee-crisis-europe-syria
Kylie Hanschman is a junior at Luther College double majoring in Spanish and International Studies. She is originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Kylie enjoys traveling and learning about other cultures, as any other International Studies major. She has studied abroad in South Africa and will spend next spring in Valparaíso, Chile studying Spanish and Latin American studies.
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