November 18, 2014

Looking Down on "Would-Be Immigrants": An Illustration for our Times

In many ways, its the illustration of our times. The caption from this Reuters picture from their latest “photos of the week” gallery reads:

Tourists look at would-be immigrants at the Maspalomas beach, on Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands, November 5, 2014. Some 21 would-be immigrants arrived in a fishing boat on their way to European soil from Africa, Spanish police said.

Isn’t it interesting (indicting? ironic? expectable?) how the white folks so naturally claim ascendency by their scale, proximity to us and, ultimately, “the higher ground” when everybody in the photo is a foreigner. You don’t even think “tourists from where?” so automatic is the instinct to identify the African as “the other.” Of course, the language of the caption (two “would-be’s,” the more cherished reference to “European soil” and interjection of police) is part of the slant, on top of the coding as to who’s bigger and who’s smaller, who’s higher and who’s lower, who’s up and who’s down, as well as who (on this island) came by sea.

(photo: Borja Suarez/Reuters)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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