Wednesday, January 21, 2004

"Blatant racism"

Indian columnist Ashok Mitra writes that the new US law stipulating that some foreign travelers be photographed and fingerprinted "smacks not only of authoritarianism, but of blatant racism." Mitra also adds "Besides, if Americans are terror-stricken by visitors from non-white countries, including Brazil, Brazil has even greater reason to be wary of visiting US citizens, a fair contingent amongst whom could well be CIA or FBI agents."

The American administration, in a blue funk over how to crush terrorism as defined by it, has clamped an order concerning visitors to the United States of America. Such visitors will be fingerprinted and photographed before they are allowed entry into God's Own Country. Not all visitors though. Those from Canada, 26 west European countries, and Japan are exempt from the ambit of the order. The rest of the human population, black, brown, yellow and of other non-white hues, will however be treated as criminals, and subjected to regulation fingerprinting and photographing.

Beyond question, this is an outrageous order. It smacks not only of authoritarianism, but of blatant racism as well. The Americans have every right to take measures which will provide them with extra security. They, however, have no right to infringe upon human dignity, and in such a discriminatory manner. The rest of the world nonetheless continues to be in awe of the US. Not a murmur of protest from the United Nations. Not a murmur of protest from the countries whose citizens have been grievously affected. No sign of embarrassment from Japan either, despite its being honoured -- or dishonoured -- by conjunction with the whities in the manner the US notification has done.

But at least one nation has decided to defy the US. It is Brazil, the same Brazil which organized the developing countries at the World Trade Organization ministerial conference at Cancun last September and sabotaged, with spectacular success, the US-European conspiracy to appropriate for themselves, lock, stock and barrel, the economic sovereignty of the poor nations. The US authorities are trying hard since then to make Brazil pay for its insolent behaviour. Concerted attempts have been launch- ed by American trade diplomats to set up, under their leadership, a free trade area of the Americas, which would include all Latin American nations, barring Brazil.

[...]

Tit for tat, decreed the judge. If Brazilians are to be fingerprinted at the point of entry in the US, US citizens too deserve to be treated similarly at Brazilian ports of entry. Were he sufficiently worried, President Lula could have gone on appeal against the judge's order to a higher court. He has not. His country's tourist trade, he is aware, is likely to be severely affected if the judge's decision is not reversed. He is equally aware that, should he not budge, the US administration might contemplate even graver measures. Brazil's president is unshaken. He has his own theory, and has plenty of logic to back it up: a bully can be brought to heel only when counter-bullied.

The US, the hyper-power, has been taking the rest of the world for granted. In case the rest of the world keeps shying away from protesting, the US authorities would begin to behave even more atrociously. Checkmating it is an imperative necessity. If the other victimized nations are hesitant, Brazil will show them the way to be cheeky. And one nation's courage will, sooner or later, bloom into collective valour.

Besides, if Americans are terror-stricken by visitors from non-white countries, including Brazil, Brazil has even greater reason to be wary of visiting US citizens, a fair contingent amongst whom could well be CIA or FBI agents. As regards the possible adverse impact on tourist earnings because of the Brazilian riposte, the point might be made, with a touch of levity, that, whatever the circumstances, the Copacabana girls will never lose their fatal attraction.

Someone should mention to mention to Mitra that there are about 56 million "non-whites" in the US. And we're not sacred of them.


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