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Should Black Americans be Able to Apply for Asylum in Other Countries?

The tragic events of May 25, 2020, forever etched in our collective memory, thrust the issue of racial injustice into the global spotlight. George Floyd's death by a police officer in Minneapolis was not an isolated incident; it was a stark reminder of the systemic racism deeply embedded in American society. As we grapple with the aftermath of this tragedy, questions about the very essence of justice and humanity in our society demand urgent attention. 

As the topic of immigration gains more attention, it leads me to question whether Black Americans should be allowed to seek asylum in other countries due to race-based persecution in the United States. The answer, painfully clear to many, is a resounding yes. The systematic oppression faced by Black individuals in the U.S.  is not only undeniable but also deeply ingrained in the fabric of our society. From redlining and poverty to homelessness, discrimination and police brutality, the challenges confronting Black Americans are manifold and persistent.

Racism, rather than an isolated anomaly, has become structurally entrenched, tracing its roots back to the dark chapters of slavery, segregation and the Jim Crow era. The recent spate of police killings, epitomized by the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd serve as a chilling reminder of the dangerous realities Black Americans confront daily. For clarification purposes, asylum seekers are people who apply for refuge in a place outside their country of origin, compared to refugees who have already received refuge from the country they sought asylum in. 

Black Americans have continuously faced systemic persecution, such as police brutality and mass incarceration, because of their race. Two of the most visible manifestations of racial injustice are police brutality and mass incarceration, which underscore the urgency of addressing these systemic issues. According to the 1951 convention's definition, Black Americans undoubtedly qualify as refugees. The definition encompasses individuals fleeing persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. The statistics speak for themselves: Black males make up a disproportionate percentage of those killed by law enforcement within the U.S.  They also comprise 6.1% of the total population, yet make up 24.9% of all people killed in the United States by law enforcement. Furthermore, black people are three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white people.

There is a well-founded fear of persecution within the Black population, and yet this behavior has become so normalized that children are taught at an early age how to approach and handle situations involving the police. This has become known as the talk.” For many teenagers who are not Black, the talk consists of the carrot and peas or modern-day sexual education, but for Black children, the talk refers to dealing with racism, prejudice, profiling and the police with the sole goal of making it out alive. Black children are taught, when dealing with police, to suspend their rights, to not talk back, to approach with respect and arms up. This is because they are often not stopped when they commit a real crime but for the supposed crime of being Black. Even with all those precautions, there is no guarantee that they will make it out of the situation alive.

Within Black communities, we also see a high rate of incarceration. These rates have left many Black women single mothers and many Black mothers without their children. In the United States, Black people are three times more likely to receive longer sentences than their white counterparts. Within the judicial system, skin color or race determines your guilt and punishment; it marks your deservingness. When we take the stories of refugees within the United States who have escaped persecution based on race, we see that their stories are often similar to those of Black individuals within the United States. Black people are also five times more likely to be incarcerated than their white counterparts. Today, almost all the prisons in the United States have a majority Black population, leaving one to question whether it's a Black thing or simply discrimination and prejudice.

Although the most reasonable solution would be to enact change within the country, we have seen that simply stating or demanding change has done nothing. While the notion of seeking asylum for Black Americans may seem radical to some, it's a logical response to an unjust reality. Countries should allow Black Americans to seek asylum based on racial persecution. By doing so, it will bring about more awareness and enact some sort of changes whether globally or within the U.S. Resettlement efforts should prioritize communities with a significant Black population to facilitate integration and support.

However, it's essential to acknowledge that racism transcends borders and is a global phenomenon. While seeking refuge may offer a temporary respite, it does not guarantee immunity from racism in other countries. This sobering reality underscores the complexity of the issue and the need for a multifaceted approach to combat racial injustice globally.

I'm not encouraging Black individuals to become refugees, but should they want to, they have the right to seek asylum in countries that are Signatories of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. In advocating for the right of Black individuals to seek asylum, we affirm their inherent dignity and humanity. While it's not a cure-all for the systemic injustices they face, it represents a tangible step towards acknowledging and addressing their plight. Every individual deserves the opportunity to tell their story and seek refuge from persecution, irrespective of race or nationality.

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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