Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

#StudentBan & Systemic Oppression


This is just a quick commentary on the recent #StudentBan news – where ICE (I don’t know who they are) are saying international students in the US cannot keep visas to stay in the US if their classes are fully online.

So here we are, all of us, fighting to keep people online so they can stay safe, resisting the “go back f2f” pressure, because we care about lives… and other people on a governmental level, are basically saying, international students, in particular, need to risk their lives to be f2f in order to stay in the US.

The way education looks at international students… as simultaneously a source of income BUT ALSO a form of “international aid” is so disgusting, isn’t it? And this is the neoliberal contemporary situation, and we haven’t even dug deep into the colonial history of how it came about… that people in the Southern/Eastern part of the world have such horrible education systems (thank you Britain and other colonizers) and look up to the North/West for a better education (thank you internalized oppression) in order to come back to their own countries and have a good position (thank you institutionalized neocolonialism).

The same people who were colonizers and went and took over other people’s land and resources then left them impoverished and with hopeless bureaucratic oppressive systems to be used by autocratic regimes (which they support in contemporary times)… then they treat those who go there LEGALLY to do something CLEAR like work or study… as a strain on their own resources! The same countries who NOW offer financial aid to these same countries, then use that financial aid to bring THEIR OWN Western experts and technologies, impose them, convince them that their own local resources, solutions, approaches to problem-solving are inferior… and then, then, after they’re convince that the West is better and now they want more of it, THEN they want to make it hard for them to go, even though… when you think about it… so many international students coming from the East are either self-funded (and therefore, themselves GIVING financial aid to the US), or are on scholarships that HELP improve the university’s rankings as it becomes more “global” and such.

Yes, international students in any context can be enriching for institutions.

And sure, I understand that that is the argument that will probably “work” with policymakers, but I much prefer a socially just argument, more along these lines:

As opposed to arguments like this one – which literally uses the word “mean”,

Calling it “mean” as if the Student Ban is a “microaggression” or hallway bullying rather than what it is: systemic anti-immigrant, xenophobic, socially injustice, without justification, and completely disregards the complexities of asking someone to leave a country for a semester or year then come back (will they come back? will you feel sorry if they didn’t? will you?). They’re not even thinking long-term, not even for financial reasons, how this may scare international students from ever going back??? They’re not thinking that, not because they’re mean people. But because they are in a space where the general public might accept anti-immigrant, xenophobic behavior and even applaud it.

Note: Unlike the person who used the word “mean” above who focuses on letting us know he is credible because he is a higher ed lobbyist and recently published a paper on that… I’m “just” speaking as someone who has lived in both the US and UK, where my husband was working as a surgeon because there were not enough people in the UK specifically who were as qualified as he was… and we still faced racism and xenophobia … and being made to feel like a “burden” on the system, when my husband was doing work of treating UK citizens and residents, because there weren’t enough “of their own” to do so (sure, he was learning, too, but he was way overqualified for the position he was in). We never ever tried to immigrate to either country. I would never ever want to be a US citizen. I had an opportunity to get an easy pathway to Canadian citizenship and I refused (long story). Just FYI. Oh, and I’ve internalized that oppression – all my education is Western. School, university, graduate school. I work at an American University in Cairo. I’m there.


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