We are all born free, and passport apartheid is keeping us down
Jack Dawson ran onboard the Titanic with just a ticket. He didn’t have to run home to get his passport, he didn’t have one in 1912. Passports only emerged during World War I. When the world wars ended white people began traveling freely again — passports a mere formality — but for the colonized world they became a formal way to keep us down. With a white passport you’re king of the world. With a colored passport, you’re welcome to the bottom of the sea.
If you have a rich/white passport, you can’t even see this. To you a passport is just a piece of paper. You can be a tourist, an academic, an ‘investor’, in love; you just get waved through. For most of the world, however, our passports are a wall. We get pulled aside, rejected, harassed, or deported. We get demonized, drowned, and have our children stolen. Rich/white people complain about COVID restrictions which are how most of the world just lives. Being colored or poor is worse than the plague.
This is all some ripe bullshit. Passports just launder all the world’s racism into barcodes and stamps, making it look all legal and polite, when in fact they have no formal basis in international law. Passports just sprung up in an unregulated way during the wars and remained imposed on the colonies because racism.
Overthrowing passport apartheid is thus a necessary part of decolonization. How free are we if we’re not free to move? Not free at all. It’s time to look at this paper wall dividing the world and kick it down. White kids are no better than brown, black, or any other kids, and no piece of paper can take that away. We are all born free.
The Origin Of Passports
If you look at the origin of modern passports, as Dr. Edward Kolla discussed in a recent talk, you can see that they random and idiosyncratic. When passports were imposed during World War I, one ship was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. When it landed in France, the people were rejected for not having a document they didn’t need when they had gotten on board. That’s how thought out this was.
Travel documents have often been required during periods of war. The biggest curiosity is how these ones have stayed. The League Of Nations even tried to roll them back, but passports easily outlasted the League. Historically this makes little sense, unless you realize that war never stopped.
World War II, the Cold War, America’s Terror War — western violence is still going strong. America never withdrew after World War II, they continued occupying the world. NATO still exists, now poking at China, which is nowhere near the Atlantic. The US has over 800 military bases across the world and is actively killing in over a dozen countries. Europe is always bombing or arming somewhere. These colonial powers all get together to inflict siege warfare on Iran, Cuba, or North Korea for generations. The reason wartime passport requirements never ended is that west is always at war.
The crazy thing, however, is that restrictions are imposed on the victims of war, not the aggressors. For their safety somehow. The white people that invade, that destroy cultures, that loot — they’re free to move. Meanwhile the people getting invaded, destroyed, and looted remain trapped by paper, beneath the bombs.
We’re also trapped by paper in a capitalist sense. The colonial project of taking our resources and labor continues unabated. Western corporations are free to set up all over the world, but workers must stay where they’re exploitable. We call it a free market but that’s a joke. How free is it if capital can move, but labor cannot? It’s just capital colonialism.
Our whole system of borders is a sick racist joke, and the joke’s on us.
Divide And Conquered
In the Global South, we fucking colonize ourselves. We blame ourselves. We thank our oppressors for visiting, and ‘investing’ in us. We happily read ‘development’ reports written by white people, tabled at conferences we’re not allowed to attend. We think of corruption being something only we have, even though we’re petty criminals compared to the west. Our own elites (like me) get western educations, even white passports, forget where we came from. The process of divide and conquer continues to this day.
Colored people still administer the colonial order. We reject our own people at our borders while welcoming white tourists in. We staff the visa offices and embassies, charging our own people to sweat in line. We’ve even imposed colonial strictures on people we should be allies with. China won’t letting regular Sri Lankans in. South Korea lets migrant workers freeze to death in the cold. South Africa rejects other Africans. We’ve internalized this shit and we need to have more dignity and pride. We need to wake the fuck up.
Just look at the Europeans. Do they live like this? Europeans travel freely across the EU. An EU or settler-colonial passport gets you access to nearly 95% of the world, whereas a colored passport gets you maybe 25%. Being stateless gets you zero. Why aren’t we as good as them?
The entire global passport regime is based on the idea that some people are better than other based almost entirely on where they’re born. And yes I know some people get naturalized, but it’s maybe 1%, and since when do you need to apply for freedom? Are white children default better than black or brown children, unless they fill out the right forms and wait? Do you need a certain amount of money — like the Middle East or South Korea — to be free? Why do we accept this blatant violation of human dignity and common sense? Are we not also human beings?
Every human has every right to go wherever they fuck they want. You don’t need no permission slip from a sovereign, which is all a passport is. Near, far, wherever you are, you’re king of the world. Act accordingly.