Crossing the line
Reimagining our need for borders
I am pondering what is happening to those who have left their homes in Haiti to make a new home in the United States. I have seen images and videos of men and women on horseback holding whips and riding down those who wade waist deep in river water seeking safety, only to be met with more violence. Yet I refrain from focusing on this scene, because I feel this scene is a distraction. I want to instead focus on what I see as the more serious problem at hand that gives place for racist acts of this kind to manifest: borders.
All of us need security. All of us can understand the pursuit of security in the face of destabilizing conditions, especially if this pursuit leads to changing homes. However, what has become clear in the wake of recent news is that the importance of borders (which are man-made) have seemed to transcend any moral responsibility we, as human beings, have to one another. I owe much of my conceptualization and beliefs about borders to writers such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Toni Morrison; I find that their writing offers a humane and nuanced lens whereby we can understand what is happening at the border of the United States. In that vein, it is not lost on me that this border requires immense resources and logistical support to remain; it is costly and wasteful. So for this border to exist despite its wasteful presence, some entity — someone or some collection of persons — must believe it needs to exist. It is this belief which warrants my writing.
What motivates the need for a border? We have been taught through media and other forms of socialization that the answer to this question is primarily fear. Fear that rapists and murderers and drug traffickers and all other workers of crime will come across that line and wreak similar havoc; fear that the problems people purportedly have will follow them across that line; fear that without this line there is no safety. There’s even frequently expressed intellectualization to justify the need for borders; people cite impacts on the economy, government, society, education, political landscape, you name it. However, fear is a mind killer. If someone can make another person afraid, then that person has lost confidence in their agency and decision-making. I want us as a people to have a restored sense of agency so that we can be free to arrive at our own conclusions about borders, conclusions that are not fed by the diet of a fear-driven society.
I want to restore agency to people who have migrated away from their home. It is no easy feat to leave family behind or to take children along a dangerous journey of uncertainty. It is no simple act to say goodbye to the only place you’ve known with only faith and hope that things will work out. It takes courage to want better; it takes bravery to act upon this desire. The people at the border are fighting for control over their lives. The only proper response is to honor their sacrifice with acceptance and a heart to help.
What we say, how we act, what we think, what we believe, and who we are are all preconditions for the creation and sustainment of a border. This calls all citizens of the world into question, for a border is not designed to support the interconnected nature of human beings and the empathetic posture working for goodness requires. Our thinking must continue beyond what has become accepted by those with enough power to practice injustice. Our thinking must overcome our appetite for fear. Our solutions must keep in mind those who are not empowered by governments and heads of state. Our solutions must prioritize those in need of security and stability — two qualities which are necessary for any human being to thrive. It is time we cross the line and welcome our fellow travelers.
Kelvin Green II is a senior in the Department of Physics. Green is a member of Chocolate City, former Black Students’ Union co-chair (2018–2019), is the former UA Assistant Officer on Diversity (2020–2021), and serves as a representative on a host of Institute-wide and local committees.