Mar 16

The Ironic Effect of European Bombings on Muslim Refugees

When something as terrible and emotional occurs, such as the attacks in Brussels last Tuesday, it’s easy to overlook long term implications and just focus on the ongoing tragedy. But doing so ultimately allows these subtle but pivotal effects to go unchecked, resulting in a disaster just as awful and even more preventable.

Here’s what happened in Brussels: At 8am local time on Tuesday (3am Eastern time) two explosions went off at Brussels airport, one caused by a suicide bomber and the other by an unstable bomb left behind when another terrorist fled the scene. Collectively they killed around ten people. About an hour later, an explosion at the Maelbeek subway station, not far from the European Union’s core institutions, killed approximately 20 more (Shannon). Collectively there were about 300 people injured, half of which needed to be hospitalized with many put in intensive care. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both bombings (BBC News).

This is without doubt a great tragedy. But the carnage will not stop at Brussels. As Ammar Al Saker, a 21-year old refugee who saw the news on his cell phone from the middle of a Greek refugee camp told his friends, “God knows what will happen tomorrow… For us it will get worse” (Shuster).

Europe and Turkey have been experiencing huge waves of refugees, with some countries being more accepting than others. But after the Paris attacks in November, this pathway began to close. Even Greece, who has been one of the more welcoming countries to date, closed its borders to all refugees with ethnicities other than Syrian, Iraqi, or Afghan. This excludes all African refugees escaping crimes against humanity, who have made an even longer and more dangerous trek to Europe than the Syrians. The bottleneck has caused thousands of refugees to convene in squalid camps at Idomeni, sleeping in tents and unable to get the supplies or care they desperately need (Shuster).

To many refugees who consider themselves victims of terror as well, this backlash is perverse. After all, nearly all of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, including the mastermind Salah Abdeslam, had been born in the European Union, and had passports which would allow them to move more freely than any immigrant or refugee ever could (Shuster). Abdeslam was finally imprisoned in Brussels about a week before the attacks, but its reasoned he was likely behind those as well (Bothello, Krever, and Shoichet).

Not all Europeans feel the same way about blocking refugees. It’s become a prominent political issue across the continent, with left-leaning parties calling for more acceptance and to put a stop to the “racist” rhetoric and restrictions of the right-wing parties. These restrictions, like what we’ve seen in Greece, are often based on ethnicity, with an increasing focus on blocking Muslims (Shuster). So other than being closer to the action, it’s really not too different from American politics.

A few days after the attack on Brussels, angry right-wing protesters took to the streets in an “anti-terror” raid. Ironically this raid took the local police’s attention off of searching for the suspects and created an even more chaotic atmosphere in an already shaken city. I feel this raid is a great metaphor for the effect of ethnic fear and restrictions sweeping Europe. It doesn’t help anyone, least of all the victims of these acts of terror, and instead polarizes the situation, breeding hate and chaos during a time when we all need to be standing together as one to defeat a common enemy. Blocking refugees doesn’t make us less safe, it makes us less human.

Bothello, Krever, and Shoichet. “6 Detained in Raids in Belgium.” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 March 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.

“Brussels Attacks: Two Brothers Behind Belgium Bombing.” BBC News. BBC 23 March 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.

Shannon, Victoria. “Brussels Attacks: What We Know and Don’t Know.” The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 22 March 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.

Shuster, Simon. “Refugees Could Be the Next Victim of Brussels the Attack.” Time. Time Inc., 22 March 2016. Web. 28 March 2016.

Mar 16

1955-2016: Comparing the Evolution of the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation Movements

Most people realize that the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements were quickly followed by the Women’s Suffrage and Liberation movements, but many underestimate the full extent of their similarities. Even with my Women’s Studies major I was surprised to notice during the spring trip just how much the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements appeared to mirror each other, and how this mirroring seems to have continued up until the present day.

Last week we spent most of our time learning about the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, so I’ll start my explanation there. As was the case in the 1800s with the women’s suffrage and Abolitionist movements, the Women’s Liberation movement was partly in response to the Civil Rights movement. With so much of a spotlight finally being shown on the inequalities in society, women began to realize that they too faced oppression in several ways, many of which they saw blacks experiencing as well.  At the time, the most visible sections of the movements were the large organizations, which were mostly run by the older generations. These organizations included the SCLC (run by MLK and his generation) and NOW (cofounded by Betty Friedan, the author of The Feminine Mystique, a book that’s said to have ultimately launched the Women’s Liberation movement in 1963). This “mainstream” movement was augmented by smaller grassroots groups that were run by younger, more radical supporters. These groups often sprung up out of colleges, and the students who ran them were often more willing to put themselves in harm’s way in order to protest the status quo. A few examples of these types of grassroot protests were the sit-ins which popped up all over the south, many of which were organized by university students and SNCC, and the protest of the 1968 Miss America pageant, in which members of the New York Radical Women tossed traditional feminine products like make-up, pots and pans, and bras into a trash can labeled “Patriarchy” before crowning a sheep the winner of the pageant and unfurling a banner reading “Women’s Liberation” movement. Both protests received worldwide attention.

Despite the younger and older generations having very similar long term goals, the two groups within both movements often didn’t get along. The older leaders such as MLK and Betty Friedan were worried that the younger more radical groups like the Black Panthers and the New York Radical Women were too extreme in their expression, and that their goals seemed unrealistic. Similarly, the younger movement tended to believe the older movement was not pushing hard enough, and therefore was not as committed to the cause. Another concern was that the older generation’s movement only acknowledged one form of women or black person (respectively), rather than exploring the differences between inner groups as the smaller organizations were able to.

In the 1970s and 80s, this idea of studying intergroup difference began to grow in popularity. Within the Women’s Liberation movement, the “white feminism” of Friedan went out of fashion, to be replaced by LGBT and multiracial feminism. Black feminists in particular began taking a seat at the table during this time, proving they were some of the best theoretical thinkers of the movement. Many, including bell hooks and Audre Lorde, wrote about how certain identity factors such as race, gender, sexuality and class could all compound an individual’s oppression. It wasn’t until 1989 that another black feminist, Kimberle Crenshaw, would finally give a name to describe this intersection of identities: Intersectionality.

Because of the idea of intersectionality and shared identity within different groups, different social movements were now beginning to collaborate. The black movement worked with the women’s liberation movement, which worked with the LGBT movement, which worked the AIDS movement, which worked with the immigrant rights movement, which worked with the anti-Vietnam movement, which worked with anti-apartheid movement, et cetera et cetera.

Since the invention of intersectionality in 1989, the women’s movement in particular has been working to become more inclusive. One of the more defining characteristics of this current generation of feminists is their focus on promoting a definition of gender which knows no boundaries. This has thereby also finally given voice to the gender-queer movement–a group of individuals in direct contest with the traditional gender binary.

After a short hiatus from the public eye, the Black rights movement (now termed the Black Liberation movement) has arisen again with new force in the form of Black Lives Matter. However, a distinct difference between this movement and what we’ve seen in the past is their emphasis on inclusion, which is quite similar to the current women’s movement. Black Lives Matter makes it clear on the front page of their website that “Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum.”

The evolution of these movements has brought all of us so much closer to understanding each other and what makes each person powerful and unique. I look forward to seeing what each movement takes on next, and the opportunity to advance society that it provides.

Skip to toolbar