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  • Dr. Julianne Malveaux

Taking ISIS Out?


As President Obama says he is going to take ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) out. I wonder how many of us have been to that part of the world. I haven’t and I wonder if our visions would help us understand what is going on in that part of the world.

If I had a gazillion dollars – or maybe just Koch bothers money – I'd send every student I knew, especially African American students out of the country, Whiie I’d most enjoy sending them to Africa or the diaspora, anyplace would work. The point would be for them to get out of themselves, out of their privilege. Then get out of the reasons that so many in other countries have antipathy toward us.

This, of course, does not account for President Obama’s plea that the world rally around the United States to stop ISIS. Global awareness, however, would go a long way toward our understand ding of the way things work around the world. Just under a quarter of a million students less than one percent of our total) study internationally, most of them white and most of them headed to Europe. Had more of them gone to the African diaspora or to parts of Latin America, more might understand the lives that so many lead, and the privilege we enjoy in the world context. We should not, of course, apologize for our gifts, we should simply be aware of them.

On one trip abroad I learned that people eat far less frequently than we do, considering it a treat as opposed to a staple. On another trip, I adjusted my concept of space, when three women – four including me, shared a bedroom. On still another occurrence, six of us shared a single can of Coke. It was a high honor and an expense for our host to be so generous. Each of these experiences “blew my mind” and made me think of US privilege. Each of them made me wish I had a young person with me to share the humbling sense of the world in which we live.

Our conversations about the global village are more theoretical l than real. We can no more relate to a global village than we can spell it if we do not leave the United States. Yet while we speak of globalization economically and culturally, wee rarely speak of it practically. We are so immersed in our own energy and culture that we are utterly unwilling to get out of ourselves.

“I used to live in the world, then I moved to Harlem an my universe became six square blocks,” wrote Ntzake Shange in her powerful play “For Colored Girls Who Committed Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enough” She spoke of thinking and shrinking and allowing boundaries t surround us. We are not all colored girls, but we are all limiting ourselves when we choose and decide to limit ourselves to our narrow environments. Our universe may be greater than those six square blocks, but not large enough for us to view and immerse ourselves in somebody else’s world.

Every single day we are confronted with some form of international crisis, from the kidnaping of girls in Nigeria, to the beheading of journalists in by ISIS. We feel, we mourn, we take up collections, and we moan and groan. And we still don’t get it. If we’d been outside ourselves, we just might

Our trips to Mexico and Jamaica don’t even begin to count toward a quest toward global awareness. While no one should put herself in risk by going to a country under siege, a few days in a ace where there is struggle may turn the kaleidoscope of presence in ways we an hardly imagine.

President Obama did “tough talk” when he warned the ISIS thugs would not take their nonsense. Good for him! Few in the United States would disagree. AT the same time our perspective might be nuanced if we got out of ourselves, got into the world.

If we say we are global citizens, then we need to act like them. We need to embrace the globe and learn that we are not the center of the world. We are less than a tenth of the world’s population, yet we consume disproportionally. WE have a long way to go before we practice what we preach.


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© 2017 by Dr. J. Malveaux