Are you really Global apartheid?

The writer, a "Global" Somali traveler, reflects on borders, airports, and belonging.

Airport. Image credit Jacky CZJ via Flickr CC.

The fascinating dimensions of the oft-repeated idea and much endorsed dictum of our day, “Global,” allude to the almost warm, fuzzy feeling of human fraternity in “progress” alongside the many wonders of the age of digitalis.

This begs the question; Are we all Global, or are just some of us Global?

A few “others” are more Global than most. They are the shifting mixed populations in search of the ideal Hollyweird-induced gold standard of the nation or republic, with the transparent and very much talked about old, and almost sacred, constitution. The kind of nation that spills a dream of Democracy, Peace, and Harmony over all of Wo/mankind. So says cablevision. Versus a group of folks who live in a world where deference is accorded them anywhere, everywhere (if not white, white passport will do). The rich and powerful in places of the Global South embrace the mantra/motto with an almost tranquilizing exuberance. (Them and their brood who later visit us in a giant blowback of afropolitan-chic, multilingual [Euro] eloquence—ease with western capitals, several dwellings, flamboyant scarfs, passports to match.)

Globals can wake up in the middle of the night and catch a bus to the airport in, say, New York, passport in hand. Ticket bought online, leave to go to any place in the world without much preparation. They wait not in long lines, and don’t pay a tear-jerking 100 pounds or dollars, for a fleeting chance to be a resident in the shadows, to acquire the status in a local (back home) paper’s obituary:

The deceased is also a cousin of John K. Karanga of Baltimore, MD.

So and so of the United States gets listed along with the deceased relative—who in their death is bolstered in status from the largess of the foreign domicile—perhaps Maryland is heaven.

The process of traveling, for an African of even above average means, is produced through vigilant anticipation. For the Global in spirit, it means months of preparation. The already wealthy country pilfers the poor further by a staunch no-refund policy. It seems they are saying, “we will punish you for even thinking about that Hollywood dream.” The line-dwellers and Globals, in tragic spirit, understand it to be like an old John Wayne feature—all is FAIR and Square, white horse riding off into the sunset (with visa). Alas, the applicants are at times happy to have entertained the thought and still dream of a touch down.

In this apartheid Global system, I include myself—a shadow man for some years, accorded the privilege to come home both ways, yet oftentimes disputed by African officials aghast at my audacity to wander around with a Somali passport and an American residency permit. On many occasions, I have had the door close to being shut, the plane about to take off—my Somali Globalness suspicious and even scandalous. I hear the echoes of my African Global South compadres who threw parties to celebrate acquiring a US passport.

I am thinking those close calls were too too many. Heck I may throw a party to herald uninterrupted sojourns. However, I hear from Somalis who have had these celebrations that it doesn’t matter what passport you hold. Being Somali elicits digressions from even this seeming place of gold-standard bliss. Look for stoppages, lots of hours waiting (head shaking in disbelief, overqualified-Nigerian for company! Sequestered Somali/Nigerian pan-African unity) in silence undergoing the exercise of “just how much disdain I can show you” (by fellow African authorities). Random returns may follow, or even a visit from the local white airport official—usually a low budget version of yesteryear’s Tom Cruise, the not so subtle air of surveillance dark glasses resting on the low cropped (blond/brown) buzz.

Thus the Global world is more like an apartheid “village”—security everywhere, hotels, buses, restaurants in Mogadishu, Mombasa, Addis, Hargeisa, New York, Nairobi, all of these places I set my foot in are “secure” with what I guess is a new opportunity to solve unemployment along with gender inequity all in one (men and women who frisk you every time and everywhere on this giant airport we call Earth).

I already see translations of this securitization as a symptom of growth, a very “sustainable” factor in #Africarising’s glib proclamations, of the Next Big Power. This is through the wand-waving (metal detectors) minions employed in every country. All spaces are state/police spaces now too. To see how the world was before 911, I suggest you go to a wildlife game reserve. Here you will find a semblance of this bygone era.

Further Reading

The most powerful currency today

Passport privilege remains an entirely unaddressed, unsustainable inequity, and the most consistently overlooked factor that defines every single immigration debate and “crisis” of movement and migration.