0

Alicia Wallace: You Shouldn’T Need To Be Exceptional To Enjoy Basic Rights

photo

Alicia Wallace

“You like bad treatment.”

When is the last time you heard that? Whether it was directed to you or someone else, you likely got the feeling the person saying it does not want to offer their support. How does it feel when someone tells you your situation is due to your failure to remove yourself from it?

Perhaps they are trying to motivate you to take action. Maybe they are tired of seeing you suffer, no longer want to come to the rescue, or do not want to hear the complaints. They may even suggest things are not as bad as you say they are because they think you would extricate yourself from such terrible circumstances.

Little consideration is given to the difficulty of intentional ending or significantly changing relationships and giving up benefits, even if they do not seem, to others, to come close to making up for the negative impact.

Over the past few days, there have been numerous comments about the Bahamian Olympic gold medalists and their decisions to represent The Bahamas. It is assumed they both have the opportunity to represent other countries and suggested, by a very small group of people, that they should do so because The Bahamas does not treat them well enough.

Do they get the support they deserve? Are their human rights respected? Is The Bahamas a place they could comfortably live and reach their potential? If they are more at home and access better somewhere else, why represent The Bahamas?

Some of the same people would probably lambaste them for representing another country because this is where they are from. As we know, “some people never satisfy”. Some have the strange belief that Bahamians who “make it” belong to the rest of us and owe us something, like the glory of their wins and maybe even their firstborn.

photo

Shaunae Miller-Uibo

It is mentioned, over and over again, that because Miller-Uibo is married to an Estonian, she is constitutionally prevented from conferring Bahamian citizenship on children, should she choose to have any.

As you may expect, people generally assume she will have children and do not consider that she can make a different choice. Her hypothetical children are framed as a loss to The Bahamas because Miller-Uibo and her husband are both athletes. The assumption is that their children would also be impressive athletes.

Every time Miller-Uibo makes a great athletic achievement, there are people who remind everyone else that “her children ain’ even ga be Bahamian”.

It is unsettling that people are thinking about a woman as a source of new athletes to potentially represent a country and build national pride. At the same time, it is telling people value her based on her wins and her being the vehicle for other wins. She is not an ordinary Bahamian woman in the conversations that people try to make about women’s rights. She is exceptional and that makes her worthy of the right to confer citizenship on her children. That right could then enable Bahamians to enjoy the feeling of superiority, pride and gratification.

There are two interesting things to consider here. The first is that we are selective in our support for various causes and groups of people. There is often a benefit we need to access in order to be on the side of a person or group of people who are disadvantaged by systems and practices we otherwise support.

Women’s rights may not be particularly important to a person, but being able to claim an athlete and celebrate their wins is important. If giving that woman access to a particular right would enable us to benefit from subsequent wins, so be it.

This should not be confused with genuine support for women’s rights. This is a part of a long-time trend in which women are encouraged and supported in a particular activity that benefits men. Women could stay at home and do unpaid domestic work to support men working outside of the home.

When there was a labour shortage, (white) women could work outside of the home for pay. (Black woman had been working before that). When a single income was no longer enough, women could work outside of the home for pay. When there was a need for more labour, women were encouraged to have more children. The condition of the economy has long affected women’s lives and the involvement of others in their decision-making. In the case of women’s conferral of citizenship on their children, some of are supportive as long as the children accessing citizenship are expected to be productive, useful in economics, politics, and international optics. Exceptionalism is not the way to change minds. We do not set a good precedent when we treat citizenship like a bet, granting it with the expectation of a particular return.

The second is that Miller-Uibo is exceptional and can enjoy the privilege of being an Olympic medalist, a household name and valued by the government. Should she choose to have a child, do we really believe she would be given access to Bahamian citizenship for that child? Chances are she would not even have to ask. She would likely be approached by a government official to ensure everything is in order for the process to go smoothly.

There are others that have been able to secure citizenship for their children born under similar circumstances, but instead of celebrity status, they had connections with the right people or enough money to ensure the law did not get in the way. These people did not even have to wait for their children to turn 18 to apply. The law simply does not apply to people who are the exception, whether they are exceptional like Miller-Uibo or have the right resources to access what others cannot.

We should not have to be exceptional to have access to human rights. Women should have the same rights to confer citizenship that men have. It should not be necessary to point to an exceptional figure to get people to care about rights. In addition, we have no right to people’s children, and to treat people’s children like stocks and bonds, speculating on value and performance over time, is strange and unnecessary. We don’t like bad treatment, so we have to do better. A substantial part of that is valuing each other as human beings and demanding equal rights in law, policy, and practice with attention to making rights accessible to all including women, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, people experiencing poverty, and migrant people.

Recommendations

Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar. Part memoir, part novel, this book is about the son of Pakistani immigrants. He grew up in Milwaukee and grapples, throughout the book, with identity. From his father’s confusing and frustrating affinity for the 45th president of the United States—solely on the basis of meeting him and being his doctor years before—to his mother’s declining health, it delves into the intersections of family life, politics, work, and how they shape and are shaped by personal and cultural identity. A visiting uncle argued, “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t solve healthcare in this country?”

Never Have I Ever. This Netflix comedy-drama series is about an Indian-American teen navigating life following the sudden death of her father during a school concert. Growing up in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, Devi is getting through high school with her two best friends—drama talent Eleanor and robotics genius Fabiola—and quickly gets lost in her own plan to boost their social rankings by getting boyfriends. The plan, of course, does not work, but it shapes their sophomore year.

Summer Book Club: The Satan Seller. These episodes of the You’re Wrong About podcast get into The Satan Seller, the 1972 memoir by Mike Warnke about joining a cult. Sarah reads parts of the book to Mike, and they are obviously tickled by some of the details Warnke “reveals” and the improbability of many parts of the story. The hosts are accustomed to digging deep on issues and stories we think we know well, and challenging existing ideas that have come from or led to panic. The “satanic panic” is one of their favorites, and the fun they have with this book is obvious.

Comments

Disgruntledoptimist 5 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for bringing up these important points!

0

jamaicaproud 5 months, 1 week ago

You are brilliant. The idea in this 2021 that ones own children cannot be automatic citizens of their homeland seems.....

0

Sign in to comment