The webinar held on January 14, started with a brief introduction by Paulo Illes about the European Social Forum and the Social Forum of the Americas on Migration that had taken place, engaging a large number of migrant groups and organizations. The Social Forum on Migration, organized by our brothers and sisters in Mexico, will take place on the 16th and 18th of January. He also mentioned that the European Social Forum on Migration will be held in Lisbon between the 19th and 21st of March this year and it is still unclear, due to the pandemic, whether or not it will be possible to do it in person. Paulo also thanked the organizations and individuals who helped organize this webinar as he then introduced Mariana Araújo from Casa da Gente de Barcelona.
After thanking Paulo, Mariana commented on the webinar’s topic of discussion, noting that intersectionality is an important concept, often understood as the idea that social inequities can be experienced at different layers of the social structure. The study of intersectionality has its roots in the American civil rights struggles and there is an important body of work by such authors as Patricia Hills Collins, Bell Hooks, and in Brazil, Carla Akotirene.
After Mariana’s speech, spoke professor Antumi Toasijé, the president of the Council for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination or Ethnicity in Spain. He started by explaining the etymological origin of the word racism, emphasizing that racism was an ideology used by Europeans to justify their maritime expeditions and territorial expansion. It justified taking power from oppressed people and imposing European’s white supremacy. Racism would function as a justification to usurp power. In the 18th century the first scientific arguments for racism emerged, leaving behind purely religious-based arguments. Before modern thought, professor Toasijé says, people used to be enslaved after losing a battle, and racism was used to justify it afterwards. After explaining the origin of racism, he spoke of Spain’s history of racism. Starting with the forced expulsions of Jewish and North African (Moorish) populations from Spain, and until the end of the 19th century, people who were not white could not occupy positions of power. Professor Toasijé also talked about the Constitution of Cali, that some call progressive although it has an article in it in which African people are only given the right to citizenship if they perform extraordinary services for the motherland.
Citizenship is then a racial privilege that lasts until today, as institutions are still choosing who gets to be a citizen. Immigrants from former Spanish colonies are able to obtain citizenship in about 2 years while immigrants from African countries can sometimes wait as much as 10 years. The consequences of the Yamnayas invasion were also mentioned. As was the fact that making Spain white by forcing millions of people out of the country in the 16th century ended up having unexpected results in the 19th and 20th centuries. By then, it was common among the Spanish population the idea that their “africaness” was the reason the country was lagging behind when compared to other developed nations, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. These ideas only started to change after Spain’s entry into the European Union. Toasijé underlined the relevance of the year 1992, with the rise of neo-Nazi groups and the murder of a black man with police records showing the murder was motivated by racism. There was also the Sevilla exhibition that extolled the achievements of colonialism, and a general increase in violence against people of color. At the same time, Spain increased barriers to visa issuance for African countries in comparison to countries considered to be white, as Russia.
Mariana introduced Jean Wyllys as someone coming from a racist country (Brazil), where privilege and oppression coexist. Jean is a professor, a writer, a human rights activist and served two terms as a federal deputy. He started his participation in the webinar talking about religious racism, of people who could be converted, and biological racism, as practiced by the Nazis. Going into the subject of intersectionality in the Anthropocene, Jean emphasized the domination of the population by men, patriarchy and the control of women’s bodies. People used to live separately, having however some values in common. With the globalization that emerged from the early global explorations, and the meeting of different peoples, there was a shock of differences and the need to subject people into slavery. The concept of the nation-state is developed with globalization, with religion having a central role.
Wyllys talked about the similarities between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and how colonization lead to a language, a religion, a patriarchy and the danger to reproductive sex. The issue around reproductive sex is used a lot by the far-right in France, who claims the Arabic population reproduction rate will make France less “French”. The world faces an economic as well as environmental crises with a struggle for resources on the horizon, bringing about the resurgence of historic values that are still held dear by all of us. The far-right uses new information technologies to create fake news and spread them in the population. Wyllys claims that there is a movement that aims to divide us, using nationalism to try to slip up hybrid populations and languages within different nations. In his opinion, there is also an issue with populations who migrate and don’t integrate. Intersectionality would then be before anything else the work to heal and bring together what the far-right movements have sought to divide, reflecting also how there are oppressions within oppressions, men dominating women. He ended by addressing the question of climate change and how it can be dealt with outside the neoliberal norms of today.
Maria Dantas (Brazilian-Spanish jurist, social activist, and member of the Congress of Deputies of Spain) started by drawing attention to the guarantee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR). Although human rights are indivisible and interdependent, there is a failure to fulfill these rights. Examples are malnutrition and lack of access to education for minors. Neglect to comply with ESCRs also affects compliance with civil and political Rights. An example is that the full enjoyment of freedom of expression is linked to the right to education. The right to life depends on promoting health and combating epidemics, for example. Maria Dantas recalls that civil and political rights are immediately applicable, and in practice, the implementation of ESCR is gradual. ESCR are not merely a catalog of good intentions on the part of national states, they are rights derived from international human rights treaties. She went on to explain that ESCR are not “judiciable”, meaning people can’t make a complaint to the judiciary. The committee created under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to supervise the fulfillment of these rights by States refuses to accept that there is a difference in nature between human rights. Maria Dantas explains that the applicability of ESCR remains impaired at the national level because states argue the condition of progressive development. An example is the guarantee of the right to housing. In the 2018 report, under the ICESCR, recommendations were made to the Spanish State, which was evicting people from their homes, without making sure they had another home.
Speaking about environmental racism, Maria Dantas invited the participants to think about where the garbage goes in their cities. Garbage goes to more remote, poor and peripheral areas, configuring environmental racism. This environmental racism falls on the most vulnerable ethnic-racial groups. She stressed that in the observations made by the ESCR committee in relation to Spain for violations of the right to adequate housing, the state was urged to make legal changes to avoid creating situations of environmental racism. People who are displaced and evicted from their homes need to have access to an appeal to challenge the state measure in court, based on the principle of proportionality. Included are dwellings made through occupations, without property rights. Maria Dantas drew attention to the need for a digital platform for migrant regularization, including the guarantee of ESCR. Maria Dantas ended her speech by explaining that ESCR does not only come from the International Covenant, it also comes from citizenship and organized civil society, from social movements. Without a struggle, there is no guarantee of rights.
Lucie Pélissier, from the CRID collective and President of CliMates, an organization for young people acting on the climate crisis. Lucie is a consultant for the “des Ponts pas des Murs” network, which brings together organizations that deal with the issue of international migration, especially those motivated by environmental issues. She started by commenting on the results of a study that “des Ponts pas des Murs” conducted. She explained that environmental migration is inserted in the intersectionality of international solidarity and climate change. Lucie talked about how climate change will aggravate natural disasters, making displacement for environmental reasons dependent on international solidarity. The countries that historically have polluted the most are in the industrialized global north, while the countries that will suffer from the impacts of climate change are in the global south. The speaker explained that the study was conducted from a questionnaire and interviews.
Approximately forty questionnaires were made and ten interviews were conducted with different members of civil society engaged with this issue. Among the questions asked, the interviews questioned how factors of gender, age, minorities, disability, origin and sexual orientation guided the work of these organizations. The gender issue is observed by 65% of organizations; age and social status is observed by 74% of organizations; the issue of minorities among migrants is observed by 45% of organizations; the question of the origin of migrants is considered by 32% of organizations; the issue of migrants with disabilities is considered by only 17% of organizations; and the issue of sexual orientation is observed by only 11%. Environmental organizations take less into account intersectional issues, especially in relation to social status and sexual orientation, compared to organizations that deal with international solidarity. The speaker stressed that organizations working to assist migrants need to pay attention to the particularities of migrant’s vulnerabilities, as well as making sure they are increasing awareness to state institutions and society.
Next, the speakers answered questions from the audience. Mariana Araújo asked professor Antumi Toasijé to comment on the expulsions of migrants in the current context. He explained that there are marginalized people who are excluded from the concept of citizenship due to racism. There are certain nationalities who find it more difficult to obtain regularization and work in Europe. Professor Toasijé went on to explain that in Spain there is a “presumption of guilt” due to racism, as some countries are seen as more corrupt and prone to criminality, making their nationals more difficult to regularize in Spain. There is also the practice of racial profiling by police that targets people of African origin. Racial profiling creates a legal system parallel to that of white Spanish citizens. Regarding intersectionality, there is a racialization of certain religions. According to Toasijé, in Spain there is still the perception that people who do not correspond to the typical Spanish phenotype are necessarily foreigners. Spain has always been a diverse country, but with the persecution of minorities to shape a racially homogeneous country, with only one language and one religion. African-born women are the most intersectionally discriminated collective in Spain. Professor Toasijé concluded by emphasizing the achievements of the pan-Africanist collective regarding the recognition of the African community and people of African descent. He also stressed that people need to recognize that all our struggles, the fight to end slavery, to overcome colonialism and racism, start in the streets at the grassroot level.
Speaker Jean Wyllys was asked how he views the issue of xenophobia and racism practiced in Catalonia against people who are from outside the region. The speaker said that the fight begins in the streets, but it also takes place within the institutions. People on the street are not organized to the point of electing enough people to parliament, so the institutions can also contribute to social changes. He explains that the far-right uses personal attacks to undermine the left, and some people end up acting in a similar way, engaging in a culture of cancellation and virtual lynching, blocking the possibility of dialogue. The speaker defends that all people have the right to cultural identity, to preserve their language and build their collective memory in the face of colonialism. Jean Wyllys concluded that the issues generated by intersectionality are complex and that it is our duty to understand these complexities. The far-right in France, for example, manage to spark xenophobia against Muslims among French feminist women and the LGBT community. Jean Wyllys explained that the world does not work with a manichean structure, it is much more complex than that.
Maria Dantas, when asked about her political party’s positions on migrant’s rights, highlighted the work being done with the campaign “Regularizacion Ya” (Papers for All). She also highlighted the work done at the Parliament of Catalonia on the reform of the law to stop violence against women. The law has been expanded to include the concept of the crime of femicide. She also highlighted the approval of the equal treatment and non-discrimination law in the Parliament of Catalonia. On the issue of racial profiling, she explained that Spain was condemned in 2009 for a case brought by an African American women. The European Court of Human Rights will rule on the case of a young Pakistani man, also identified by his racial profile. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recently issued a recommendation on the need to prevent and combat racial profiling by its officials. The speaker stressed the need and her desire for more and more minorities to be elected to Parliament. She concluded her speech by talking about diversity in Catalonia, the plurality of languages and religions in the region. She stressed the need to combat ultranationalism and fascism, drawing people away from fundamentalist positions in Catalonia and Spain as a whole.
This webinar had 300 registered participants from countries such as Brazil, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Algeria, France, Australia, Chile, Colombia, United States, El Salvador, Bolivia , among others.