Teju Cole: Migrants Welcome

Source: The New Inquiry

I’ve been reading the later work of Derrida, in which the intensity about language remains but there’s also a turn towards the thorniest questions of ethics. There’s a remarkable passage in “The Gift of Death” (1995) that gets at something the news isn’t touching on:

“…because of the structure of the laws of the market that society has instituted and controls, because of the mechanisms of external debt and other comparable inequities, that same ‘society’ puts to death or (but failing to help someone in distress accounts only for a minor difference) allows to die of hunger and disease tens of millions of children…without any moral or legal tribunal ever being considered competent to judge such a sacrifice, the sacrifice of the other to avoid being sacrificed oneself. Not only does such a society participate in this incalculable sacrifice, it actually organizes it.”

I’m seeing a lot of writing about not calling refugees “migrants.” This is in reaction to those who say refugees are “only” migrants, that this “flood” of migrants flows to richer countries for economic benefit. And it’s true that there’s an urgency in the condition of refugees (no one growing up thinks this will be their fate: to be a refugee, at the crucial mercy of others), and what is specially awful about being a refugee must be recognized and acted on, and not simply reduced to money.

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