Calais 9

28th October

I´m in a hospital waiting room in Segovia, waiting. Waiting to have a small incision made in my armpit. While waiting I read the Calais 9 zine that E made. I´m happy to read some of my own words in there. It´s very well put together and brings up lots of bubbles of emotion. Tears come at times, but I blink them back, conscious of the neon lights and the other waiting waiters in the waiting room.

Three quotes in the zine get me thinking about privilege:

  • “In ‘So you think you’re an Anti-racist?’ Gorski describes racism as “an institutional structure that provides access and opportunity to some at the expense of others.” This means that anyone who has a passport is complicit in maintaining and justifying the border regime. “White people are privileged by racism; even if we aren’t consciously contributing to it.  Since we reap the benefits, we also hold the responsibility to challenge the system that benefits us.””
  • “White privilege: “an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was meant to remain oblivious.””
  • “In the context of Calais, my privilege is less like a package and more like a huge white elephant, one which is painful, oppressive and unjust, and one which must be acknowledged to be deconstructed.”

When I came to this hospital, they asked for my passport. When I used the internet earlier, they asked for my passport. When I booked into a Pensión last night, driven by fatigue and cold and worries about my tent being seen, I was asked for my passport. I don´t have the words in Spanish to ask why a passport should be necessary for internet access, medical treatment and a place to lay my head. I´m just left thinking of all my friends who don´t have one and are constantly denied such luxuries.

I can relate to the white elephant analogy. A memeory of the time I waited in the ferry queue on my bike while Afghan friends passed by the other side of a 20ft white metal fence, smiling and waving their goodbyes, draws sharply into focus. It wasn´t just white railings between us; that elephant was there too. I was embarrassed. Embarrassed to be on that side of the fence, exposing my privilege for all the world to see; and yes, if I´m honest, embarrassed also under the gaze of  the passport control and the motorists my co-priviliged fellow travellers – to be waving at these illegals who are not a part of our gang.

I think that´s what I hate about tourists: privilege flaunters. But now I am one too. Staying in a Pensión, taking walks around this beautiful place with bars called “La Colonial” and all it´s national identity. The beautiful ancient walls and castles designed to keep people out, statues and memorials glorifying conquerors and the invasion of other lands. But yes, they are pretty.

I have just had word that some of our Iranian friends, including at least three of the four hunger strikers, have made it to England. This is great news, except two of them – Benjamin and Ali – are in a detention centre. I imagine them hiding in a lorry and the joy they must have felt when they knew they had made it. I wonder how they are feeling now. I know just a little of what they have each gone through in order to make this journey and it´s more than anyone should experience.

Some recent stuff about Calais:

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