The Trouble with the Nation-State

By Ladi Fagbola

The language of segregation, “separate but equal”, is the same language used for nation-states and international relations. We know that all countries, like all people, are not equal. The US, which was built on the blood and sweat of many Black people forcibly stolen from Africa, restricts those same Black people from accessing the profits of their own labour. Black people were barred from the good schools, the nicer parts of town, the better jobs, and state running. Although the civil rights movement attempted to correct this, segregation remained, but it became less legible. On the international level, the same can be said for the entire West, including her settler offspring in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. The current Western civilization was built on the labour, blood and resources forcibly extracted from Africa and her Black population. And yet, we are barred from freely walking into any Western country without experiencing punitive immigration laws and unnecessary hurdles.

Similar to the new and less visible segregation in the US, where there are no longer any racist signs above shops, Black bodies in those stores are severely monitored and overhandedly punished if they are perceived to be out of line. The same can be said for Western immigration laws. Couched in the rhetoric of controlling security, they limit Black people from accessing their own wealth which oozes out of every brick in Westminster. Even when Black bodies make it here, invited or not, the punitive surveillance never stops. Indefinite detention, deportations, withdrawal of the right to work, absurd requests for cancer treatments and more. The list is endless.

The UN claims that all states are sovereign. It also claims that no state has the right to interfere in the affairs of another. You only have to turn on the news to see the western interference in Venezuela. Western countries have acknowledged a self-appointed president. This situation is not rare. Consider France, who still controls the cash reserves, monetary and economic policies of 14 African countries. The Russian investigation by the US authorities has reached hysterical levels, especially considering that nobody comes close to US election meddling in other countries.

The West holds non-Western nations to a different standard. The West can interfere in your affairs and tell you when and how to control your borders, resources, elections and population. The consequences for stepping out of line: Economic sanctions, persistent military invasion, coups. Yet, only Russia and China seem to be able to have some form of micro-influence on Western international policy. This is due to their capacity to retaliate through violence. In essence, the idea of the nation-state, particularly those defined by colonial decrees and laws, are created as open-air prisons. They are built to keep Black people confined to specific areas of the world. Typically, these are areas which have been deliberately impoverished by Western powers, e.g. Haiti. However, they allow resources and capital to freely move in and out of said areas, but the bodies, Black bodies, will be punitively monitored.

Ironically, African governments are keen to protect these arbitrary borders which were constructed by Western powers. Africa has corrupt, self-interested heads of states, defending concepts that were imposed on the continent. African leaders get most of their medical treatment in the West, spending millions of non-African currencies abroad while imposing sanctions on their own citizens for trying to do the same. The only reason the West tolerates this is because they have secured constant access to African labour and resources. African leaders can come and go as they wish. This idea is most visible where it is easier for a corrupt person to move ill-gotten gains to Swiss accounts than it is for a Cameroonian to claim asylum. If Burkina Faso restricts capital flight or if the Black bodies host a strike or boycott, they are met with violence, coups and sanctions. This is not a mistake. It is intentional.

We need to dismantle the idea that Black nations are sovereign and free from interference. Until we do away with the idea of nation-states, Black people will continue to be pitted against in a fight to offer the cheapest and quickest access to labour and resources for the racist West.

Photo by Hdptcar

Licence by: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

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