There are 6.4 Billion People, not 300 Million

PZ links to a site that offers American student bloggers scholarships. The basic idea – recognizing bloggers who are college students – is good, but for some reason, the rules require every contestant to be a US citizen. Not just a resident – a citizen. I couldn’t apply even without that restriction since I’m no longer in college, but it still showcases to me how Americans tend to treat non-US citizens like dirt.

A good example of a person who’d never be able to get this scholarship even if she did make it to college is Adama Bah. Bah is an 18-year-old girl who lives in New York is about to deported to Guinea, where she lived until she was 2, because the US government decided she was a potential suicide bomber despite having no evidence to support that belief.

[Link] Adama Bah’s schoolmates were jubilant when she returned to 10th grade at Heritage High School in Manhattan in May 2005 after six weeks in a distant juvenile detention center. Her release put to rest the federal government’s unexplained assertion that Adama, a popular 16-year-old who wore jeans under her Islamic garb, was a potential suicide bomber.

But a year and a half later, with many of her friends planning proms and applying to college, Ms. Bah, now 18, was still wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and tethered to a 10 p.m. government curfew, restrictions that were conditions of her release.

The ability of people not to care about the civil liberties of those who they consider different would astonish me if I weren’t already a cynic. The political meaning of “different” underlies Niemöller’s poem, “First they came…”; the racial meaning is why segregationists torpedoed Roosevelt’s race-neutral universal health care plan; the national meaning is why many American libertarians are literally up in arms about violations of American citizens’ rights but cheer when the US government shreds civil liberties abroad.

Her income fell far short of needs. And though a few community agencies tried to help with diapers for the youngest and trips to a food pantry, she said, the financial crisis deepened. In the end, it was an Islamic political activist in Maryland who came through, taking three of Ms. Bah’s siblings into his home for the summer, and paying $500 a month toward household expenses so she could attend summer school and re-enroll in Heritage this fall.

Incidentally, if the US government is looking for a self-centered reason not to treat non-Americans like dirt, here it is. If people find the government oppressive or even uncaring, they’ll turn to extremists like the activist described above, a former Black Panther who mainstream Muslim groups shy away from.

10 Responses to There are 6.4 Billion People, not 300 Million

  1. gordo says:

    Good point. And I’m sorry about the scholarship. Because I’m not a student, I didn’t bother reading the rules.

    I find it frustrating that I feel that I have to bring up Jose Padilla in order to make some of my fellow Americans realize that things like indefinite detention without trial are wrong. AS anomolous as Padilla’s case is, it means more to some people than all of the hundreds of cases in which non-citizens were held without trial.

    I’m glad Niemoller was able to express the danger of creeping fascism in a way that strikes fear into the hearts of the intolerant, but I think that you and I can agree that we shouldn’t protect the rights of non-citizens out of self-interest alone, but also out of compassion and human decency.

  2. Katie Kish says:

    I got excited about the scholarship too… seeing as I really need the extra money, and in the past I’ve been fairly lucky with getting scholarships. but nooo America Junior doesn’t get to participate.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    The person running the contest changed it to “enrolled in an American college”… which is less revolting, though still not nearly good enough for you.

    And of course, society should protect the rights of non-citizens out of human decency; but it’s not generally a good idea to portray rights as an adversarial thing, and right-giving as an act of charity. It’s a great way to motivate 10% of the population to contribute and 90% of the population to be wantonly intolerant.

  4. Bushbaptist says:

    Why am I not surprised? The US has a “World Sereis” baseball competition, a “World Series” football competition etc. when there are no representatives from anywhere else. We “Worldlie Ones” chuckle mightily at the spectacle of a “World Series” where there is only one country represented.

    BTW Alon, have I told you how much I like reading your blog? Hell, I even understand most of the math!!

  5. Bushbaptist says:

    Why am I not surprised? The US has a “World Series” baseball competition, a “World Series” football competition etc. when there are no representatives from anywhere else. We “Worldlie Ones” chuckle mightily at the spectacle of a “World Series” where there is only one country represented.

    BTW Alon, have I told you how much I like reading your blog? Hell, I even understand most of the math!!

  6. Alon Levy says:

    Thanks, Bushbaptist… you can ask me anything about the math that doesn’t fall under “most.”

  7. Stentor says:

    Bushbaptist: Um, I’ve never heard our football competition called the “World Series” — it’s the “Super Bowl.”

    Bah is actually one of the lucky ones. Plenty of people get deported every day to countries they left when they were very young children. There are special camps and organizations in Cambodia because the US has deported so many people there who don’t speak a word of Cambodian. These kind of everyday deportations don’t make the news because they don’t have the sexy connection to terrorism. They’re just, say, some guy who was adopted as an infant, his parents never filled out the naturalization paperwork, and years later he gets busted for having some crack and sent back to a country he doesn’t remember.

  8. gordo says:

    When people from outside the US criticize the “World Series”, it makes me wince. Just so ya’ll know, that’s not a name that Americans voted on in a referendum. Major League Baseball is a private corporation, and they’re allowed to call their championship anything they want. There’s nothing that the rest of us can do about it, so it’s not really fair to criticize us for it.

    Surely, there are better examples of American arrogance.

  9. [...] There’s an online poll for the scholarship I attacked earlier for being too parochial. There are ten finalists, the top vote-getter of whom will win the scholarship. I know about two bloggers out of ten, Shelley and Jenna. But I have to play favorites based on who’s on my blogroll, so I’m going to root for Shelley, who’s only third, with 1780 fewer votes than the leader. [...]

  10. article king says:

    The post kind of helped me. Well How you get ideas for such posts. sorry if it’s out of topic.

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