T159. A World of Migrants

 

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 159
Panelists: Subha Xavier 
Host: Metta Spencer

Date aired: 11 January 2021
Date Transcribed: 11 April 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer  

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer, today we have a conversation coming up about migration. And as you probably are aware, immigration is one of the big hot button issues of the day, not only in the US, although certainly especially in the US. And migration worldwide is seeming to be one of the issues that have provoked a lot of votes. Those folks who are, I guess we can call them, right-wing populist movements around the world. And so, we have to think, very broadly, about what the… transfer of population from one region of the world to another is going to mean to us in the future and what it already is meaning, in terms of the politics of different countries. And this today, I’m going to have a conversation with I have to say, a, a woman I’ve known since she was about eight years old? A very dear friend… Subha Xavier is in Atlanta. And hi… how are you dear?

Subha Xavier  

I am well, thank you. 

Metta Spencer  

— Excellent, because I’m so thrilled at what you have accomplished, you and your friends in Atlanta, have recently accomplished by going out and going door to door and in inducing voters to… you found people whose ballots had been invalidated, and took it to them and said, straighten this, clean this up so you can vote. So, you won. Yeah,

Subha Xavier  

We did. It was really exciting. And they call it securing ballots, which I think I love that word because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. And at some point, it said on social media that I was happy to be part of any type of cure in this current climate. Um, so yeah, we were knocking on doors and helping people correct, secure their ballots. And it made a difference. In the end —

Metta Spencer  

Did, you got…two senators, who are Democrats who are going to the new Congress, and … I went to bed at something like 12.30, or 1 o’clock, feeling fairly happy about the result of that. And then I didn’t watch the news again, for almost 24 hours, or at least a number of hours. And in the meantime, what had happened was this insurrection in the Capitol? So, it’s almost as if this extremely important piece of news about what had been accomplished in Atlanta got sidelined by the more photogenic activities that were going on at the Capitol Building. Yeah.

Subha Xavier  

It’s a good way to put it sort of photogenic. What is photogenic these days? You know, what do we like to see? And what attracts our attention and our news cycle?

Metta Spencer  

It’s not just today, it’s always been blood and gut… if it bleeds, it leads. But it is important, I in no way want to dismiss the extreme importance of this insurrection. But what you did is also really commendable. You folks,

Subha Xavier  

I think it’s important to make the connection between the two, I do think that many people on both sides knew Georgia was going blue, all the signs were pointing towards it. The numbers were pointing towards it, the Poles were pointing towards it, everyone on the ground knew we had enough registered Democratic voters to win this election. And this went off. And I cannot underestimate and we cannot underestimate the importance of that news. And the impact of that news on the people who decided that interaction was the way to go. Because I think what we saw was people terrified of the change that is coming and wanting to hold on to a status quo that you and I both know, cannot last, just cannot last. And so, you know, I think Georgia was a key component in the motivations of these people. I —

Metta Spencer  

— Some of the, you know, pundits that I was watching said, Well, this is a wonderful fluke, but Georgia is still a red state and hasn’t changed. Now. I don’t know what that means. Except that they obviously don’t mean don’t believe that in the future we’ll necessarily predict further moves towards it. 

Subha Xavier  

Honestly, I think they’re wrong. I think Georgia in its population and its demographics has changed drastically, drastically in the last 10 years. And I think largely, that’s because of black voters coming out to vote and feeling for the first time that they are not disenfranchised, that they can make a difference. But most importantly, I think it’s —

Metta Spencer  

Quit touching something that bangs on your mic. Oh, I don’t know what whether you’re, I don’t know what you’re doing that sound anyway.

Subha Xavier  

…But I do think… there are huge immigrant populations that have moved to the Atlanta area and the surrounding areas. And let’s face it, that the election was won because of the Atlanta counties and the counties surrounding us. It was not won in those other counties all around this, I mean, Atlanta is hugely populated, and we made the difference, and that population is not going anywhere. So, at best, I would say it’s a purple state. But I am actually confident because of the effort of people like Stacey Abrams, and Tamieka Atkins and others who’ve been… grassroots, just working nonstop for the last 10 years. I think they have actually changed the state. Wow, blue, I really do believe we’re more blue than purple. But you know, for the pundits’ sake, I will say okay, maybe we’re purple then. But we’re certainly no longer red. I think they got that wrong.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, well, okay. And another factor has to do with, you’ve already pointed to the rural/urban differential, I’ve been looking at, I was looking at exit polls and these huge gap between rural and urban, in preference for Biden or the person whose name will not be uttered. Good.

Subha Xavier  

Okay, I think that’s very true. You know, when we were securing ballots and volunteering, they were constantly asking us if we would drive out to other further away counties, to do this kind of work to try to make sure that those ballots counted. So, we think that’s really important, too, because, yes, the urban population of Georgia is perhaps more inclined to vote red and has always been inclined to vote Republican, but they’re always and continue to be Democrats in the rural populations as well. And if we were asked to be volunteers there, it’s because they’re there, and they’re feeling heavily disenfranchised. And I was, I was just over New Year’s Eve, I was actually in Hancock County, which going there, as I looked around, I was convinced it must be a very white county. And yet I found out it was most majority black. So, you have these rural counties that are also very African-American, and where people maybe just didn’t vote, or didn’t feel like their vote counted, or are intimidated when they go to the polling stations. And it was on the national news, you know, suddenly because Georgia was on CNN, we got that on the national news. And… we saw, in fact, that a place like Hancock County, completely rural, beautiful, but completely rural and very kind of disengaged, you would think, from federal and state politics is not, and that there are in fact, all these Democratic voters waiting to vote and waiting to be enabled to vote. And I think that was one of the big changes we saw.

Metta Spencer  

And I know you said I believe that the votes that had been thrown out as not eligible somehow, and I’d be interested in knowing more about what, what disqualified a particular ballot, but that they sent, they were disproportionately black votes. ballots. Okay. So, so you were pursuing black voters, mostly right. And —

Subha Xavier  

In the vast majority, yeah… the experience was very gratifying. But it was also very sad, you know, many of the voters that whose ballots we secured were elderly people who were sick, and who, perhaps whose signature, maybe because their hands were shaking their signature on the ballot… didn’t match with their original signature when they registered to vote, who knows how many years ago, decades ago, perhaps some of them the saddest ones were people who’d gone blind since they’d registered to vote. And they’d had to have somebody help them with their signature. Now, what they didn’t know is that they could have had somebody sign in their place. But these things are not necessarily very legible on a ballot. You don’t… know, you may have to do your research to know, so… you don’t do that, you are blind and… somebody tells you here’s the line, sign on this line. You don’t sign properly. You don’t sign in the exact match for the way you signed before, and the ballot was invalidated. So yeah, the vast majority were black… of ballots that I secured, were also black women. There were also a lot of young people, like 18-year-olds, of every ethnic background, who were just neglectful with the way they did their ballot, and who just kind of threw it in there. And who we had to go help, because their signature wasn’t matching, or they had not, you know… coloured in the circle properly. So it was kind of the two extremes. But yes, I think the vast majority of voters who needed their ballots secured, or at least in my experience, of course anecdotal, were black. And I will also say that when they saw me at the door, versus my husband at the door, who is white-skinned, and when they saw me, they would open the door, but whenever we would go together… they wouldn’t open the door. So, we figured out that he needed to stay in the car, and I needed to go to the door, and I would sometimes see one of my kids, and they would, you know, open the door that would vary. So again, that also shows you something about… fear and trust, in the sense that… these are voters that have been disenfranchised their entire lives, and they don’t know who to believe anymore. And the fact that we had leaders on the ground… whose goal only goal was to bring them back in was just inspiring. And …like you said … before, I think this needs to be part of that new cycle. And it’s not sufficiently in, the new cycle – that we need to be talking about this. And I do think these kinds of things scare white supremacist voters more than anything else, when we empower the very people who they believe have sort of taken away their power, their so-called power – right there. Imagined, imagined power really,

Metta Spencer  

Would you have run into hostility from say, neighbours who didn’t like what you were doing?

Subha Xavier  

Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, I’m very careful. I live kind of in suburban Georgia and in Atlanta, and I’m very careful. I mean, I didn’t I didn’t leave my house for five days after the election. Not even to walk my dog. I just I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel after Biden’s election… didn’t feel safe. Because of the way people look at me, you know, and the way I get kind of stared down and there’s

Metta Spencer  

Isn’t, you say brown skin? What is it that or is it that they saw you with a… Biden sign or something and they… realizes what you were doing and didn’t like it?

Subha Xavier  

Well, we have we have Biden and Warnock and all those signs in our yard… more importantly, we have Kamala Harris signs in our yard. We have. So yes. I mean, I think it’s all of that. I think, yes, we have these we had huge securing when you secure ballots, you have all this paperwork that is very clearly Democrat. So yeah, I mean, I was I was very careful. I was, I’m just aware, I do get stares, I get racist slurs, you know, at least regularly, I would say, you know, I mean, it’s, I think we live in a time and a state that is more openly racist. And when people who are racist, are kind of given permission.

Metta Spencer  

 Right. Right.

Subha Xavier  

I mean, this is why I think he whom we shall not name is profoundly responsible because he has really emboldened people to do and see things that ordinarily they never would – there’s a part of me that thinks, well, I would rather them out themselves than not. Because in some ways when they ask themselves, it’s not only I who see it, but others see it around me as well. And that’s important, right? There’s so much racism that is kind of hidden behind closed doors that we see, for example, in the academy all the time… the ways in which racism is something we… experience, and yet we don’t show it, we don’t speak it out loud. So there is to me, a part of the way in which this particular administration has emboldened people to speak their… prejudice out loud. Part of me has been relieved by that because at least it’s for all… ears to hear and all eyes to see. and not only targeted this very pointed, careful way at people like me, or who look like me… I am an optimist, you know, I really am… an optimist means that I see all this as leading to some greater good…, I sort of think that even this kind of insurrection is… I like the fact that we all got to see it. Because otherwise, it’s often people like me who see it. but here it was the whole world — We all got to — glance on it for I don’t know how long it went on, because I didn’t watch it. But the others they watched it. And I think it’s great that they watched it. You know, I think that is exactly what you need. Watch it, and realize that this is what goes on in this country every single day.

Metta Spencer  

… I don’t know whether say it’s a blessing to me, but… I never see it. You know, I would never. And when, you know, I think your mother said that. Yes, she encounters it. And I was startled. You know, that was a number of years ago. Yeah, racism here in Toronto. But what happens? You know, I don’t see it. And I’m always astonished when it occurs. Yeah. And by the way, you said you take… one of your two children to the door of a black family, and they’ll let you in.

Subha Xavier  

I take both of them. I take both of them. Yes.

Metta Spencer  

But if they were blonde, would it make any difference?

Subha Xavier  

That’s a good point. I mean, I think children are less intimidating, no matter what. So I think that there’s something you know, when you see a woman with a child, you don’t think that they’re here to somehow intimidate you, right?

Metta Spencer  

These families that you’re going to the door, you they don’t see you as black, your Sri Lankan. They must know that you’re not black, but what do they think of you? Does it but you say it helps that you?

Subha Xavier  

I think it does, because I single-handedly secured more ballots than most of the volunteers. I mean, and it just happened that way. I did. It wasn’t planned.

Metta Spencer  

You’re a forceful personality.

Subha Xavier  

Yes. But at the same time, I think I’m… a less intimidating presence at a door. And I don’t blame them for it. Because if I was alone at home, and somebody knocked on the door, you know, in suburban Georgia, I mean, I’d think twice before opening the door… So, I do think that that has something to do with it … I don’t know if necessarily, they know what my ethnic identity is, per se. But I think seeing a small brown woman at your door is just, quite frankly, less irritating. Okay. And it tells you a little more about the sort of racial climate in the state than anything else.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, let’s talk more generally about that because part of the explanation you’ve already given is that lots of migrants are coming into Georgia. And I understand that there’s a significant change… in the demographics of the whole state, to really make a difference. So, who are these migrants? Where are they coming from? And what do they have in common? Or are they similar enough to even say they have anything in common politically? What can we say about the migrants around your part of the world? Maybe not. I know, you also lived in Miami, before you moved to Atlanta, I should have introduced you properly, by saying that you teach French and Francophone studies and migrant studies at Emory University in Atlanta, which is an excellent university and populated by excellent professors such as yourself, and I’m very proud of you. Oh, so… what’s different about Miami and Atlanta as you move from one to the other?

Subha Xavier  

Yeah… what we are witnessing in this country is the growing political presence of immigrant populations. And I think that’s really important to frame that way. That immigrant population, you know, this is a country of immigrants. You hear that being said all the time, and Canada is a country of immigrants as well, you know, most countries in the West are today, more and more and increasingly countries of immigrants, so they have always been there. But now slowly, they are becoming a political presence, a presence and that by that, I mean, their vote is swaying the way large groups of people are voting. And I do think that in Atlanta, what’s really unique to the Atlanta region is that it is a majority largely black African American, Atlanta region, and then all these suburban or rural areas… other cities that are less black overall… Even though like I said, I think that that demographic too… has to be revisited. And then you have… the major urban areas… immigrants who have been pouring in for the last, you know, easily 30 years in significant numbers. So, yes, they’ve been here all along. But in significant numbers, I would say that maybe in the last 30 to 40 years, that has changed dramatically. So there, I think, from everywhere, but what we have in Atlanta, we have a significant growing Hispanic population, not at all comparable to what we had in Miami, but a growing Hispanic population from various parts of Latin America. Significantly, I would say that I have noticed in my work with migrants in the city, that we have a growing population of Puerto Ricans, that we have a growing population of Mexicans, that we have a growing population of Venezuelans, we have Salvadorans… Brazilian…  as well, Indians have often been attracted again, or something,

Metta Spencer  

something’s bumping the mic.

Subha Xavier  

Oh, the microphone. I’m sorry. It shouldn’t hurt.

Metta Spencer  

Okay, I don’t know what’s happening. So anyway, I can edit it out.

Subha Xavier  

… there’s a huge Indian population here has always been one. And then there’s a significant African population here that’s growing. That that I’ve been working with, through my work at Emory as well, from Sudan, from Rwanda, from the Congo. And then there’s the Asian population and a great big population of Vietnamese, Koreans, there’s a whole area that’s very close to where we live called Buford highway, it’s… known as the immigrant part of Atlanta. And it’s known for its incredible cuisine, you know, and you have every possible restaurant and supermarket, and you can get any Asian food possible… but they’re also very Latin, it’s also very Hispanic and Latinx. And that too, is a positive, these are populations that have been very important and growing in the Atlanta area. So, I think it’s incredible, and that you have this diversity of population, what they have in common… is that they’re relative newcomers, that they have all of the issues that immigrants face from one generation to the other, this dramatic difference in the way they are integrated into life, from one generation to the other. I’m… obviously one of those cases in point. You know, my work talks a lot about how they are caught between… resistance and exploitation, they’re both exploited for their labor, for what they can bring, their cuisine… all the wonderful ethnic things that they bring in, they enrich our lives — then they’re exploited at the same time, because they’re treated with prejudice. And so they’re always kind of resisting, and at the same time looking to integrate, and in some ways, they’re accused of selling out, because… some of them integrate so much. And they they’re accused of betrayal, because they leave behind cultural… language… cultural practices, sometimes… religion, and these things are often deemed unforgiveable. You know, this is what the literature… I’m a professor of literature, and that’s what this is, what the art — 

Metta Spencer  

introduce you that way too. I didn’t say… Your research has to do with the literary production of people into Francophone countries. Yes. from elsewhere, from non- Francophone countries. All of them are migrants, and you’re dealing with migrant literature. In fact, I think the title of your book had some refers to the word migrant,

Subha Xavier  

Migrant texts, making and marketing a global French literature. And so yeah, it’s really about how this literature this and their cultural production gives us real insight into the ways in which they inhabit the spaces and all the spaces right the political spaces, but also the cultural spaces and the economic spaces. And I think what they have in common is the way in which they’re constantly negotiating different cultures, different language. different expectations and different politics. I mean, they listened to what you had Maria Puerto Rivera, on your show, you know, and I enjoyed it, because it did that it that’s exactly what she’s talking about the kind of negotiating politics between Trump and Guido and just kind of what, where we, where they land is interesting, because she actually said, they kind of turn into pretzels of sword. And I thought, what a wonderful image because I truly think that’s what it’s like to be a migrant, you know, you’re, you’re kind of pressing your body around, to try to, you know, meet all these different expectations and all these different standards that are held up to you. And invariably, you’re going to fail to meet somebody standard and somebody’s expectation, right. That’s what they share in common.

Metta Spencer  

But what you also have taught in Paris, your university sends you as kind of a mother in long with some students to spend a year or two and in Paris, and you were there recently, and I believe that then you have a really good opportunity to compare what migration is like for the people landing in Paris, the situation of people landing in Atlanta or Miami? Is, is there a difference in the way? France treats migrants? They’ve certainly had some disturbing riots and just, you know, events, protest movements of, I guess, mostly North African immigrants to France, in in the past years. I’m not sure that I’ve heard of any in the last two or three years. But at any rate is there anything you can say about how, how different countries process immigrants? And whether there’s a whether it makes any difference in their experience?

Subha Xavier  

Yeah, I mean, I, in many ways, no two countries seem to handle immigrants like, but I do think there’s always a populist, extreme right-wing version of immigration that many of these countries share, as we know, England, the US, Canada to some extent, and certainly France and Germany. I mean, we they all have a there’s always a rightwing extremist narrative of belonging and nationhood that always needs the migrants — you know, this is something I write about — in that nationalism and migrant populations go together. Right when… migrant populations increase, nationalism increases. And I think what’s important to note is that the story that each tells goes alongside with it, so the migrants’ story, and the story of immigration goes alongside with the… national… story. And the nation story is one that has to make sense of the migrants, they have to either dissolve them into themselves, or they have to posit that as the enemy. And as you see today… that is often how it works. So… that framework… if I can call it a narrative framework, is true… across the board, in terms of that extreme… nationalist narrative, … but the migrant, the immigrant is always part of that narrative. And I think that’s telling, … because it tells you that immigrants are sort of the unresolvable problem… to the nation state as we have —

Metta Spencer  

You know… your simple equation is an obvious one, but I’ve never actually put it that – simply where you have… immigration, you have nationalism… I hadn’t thought about it. Is that always true? 

Subha Xavier  

In all the cases I’ve studied, it’s been true. I mean, it’s just… a numbers game like … nationalist rhetoric increases. Even in Quebec, it was true, because I studied Quebec as well. And even in Quebec, it was true, because the 70s was this key moment in Quebec nationalism, and the 70s is when the immigration immigrant population just went like this… they were next to nonexistent till that time, they were very small, and suddenly they became a presence. And again, when you have this presence, that you can’t quite dissolve.

Metta Spencer  

You’re making me unhappy because… if you say that generally holds up… the future is not too bright, we’ll close with global warming, we’re going to have a whole lot more migration with multiple times as much migration as we have now. I mean, the whole country of Bangladesh is going to have to evacuate… And these small… islands in the Pacific and so on are going to be inundated. And God knows where else, I think Lower Manhattan is going to have to evacuated.

Subha Xavier  

Florida is going to be non-existent.

Metta Spencer  

All of these, these populations are going to be on the move, big time. And I hadn’t thought about that. There’s sort of like an equation that you calculate — how much nationalism you’re going to have… this is very un-pleasant. I hope you’re wrong. But maybe you, maybe it holds up? I don’t know, I never thought about it quite that quite that way.

Subha Xavier  

As I do… that is my prediction. I will stand by it. I really do think and you know, whether or not we are comforted or discomforted by that reality, I think we need to be aware of that reality. I think we need to, and we need to respond to that reality. I think in places like the US what’s fascinating is to look at Georgia as a really good example of … what that means politically, because what you have is, if you have more and more migrants in a place like Georgia, well, they’re going to vote differently. And they’re going to be a different kind of political entity. And that also, to me, brings with it some hope. I’m not saying that immigrants don’t contribute to nationalist thinking, because they do. And we’ve witnessed it… we know that immigrants did vote for Trump. I think that’s an important thing to say. I think we know that immigrants do vote with the right wing. Well, there’s — 

Metta Spencer  

— Another thing though, that motion is somewhat different. Your equation has to be is sort of modified in that… I’ve talked to Doug Saunders about this, because he writes about migration. And he, if I’m not misquoting him, I think he really would say that, where the opposition to migrants is located is not where the migrants are. In other words, where they actually settle the people around them become – Okay, you know – they handle it pretty well. It’s some people some distance away… localities where there are no migrants that display the greatest amount of bigotry. So… maybe as more migrants come, They have a better chance of winning the narrative… as a better prospect is – would you want to say that or not? 

Subha Xavier  

Well, I think I unfortunately… I was trying to say, I don’t think it’s that simple. Because some of them are, if I can use the word almost co-opted into the other narrative, right. In other words, and let’s not forget that. I think that’s important, because we don’t all invest in a great majority, for example, the US immigrants tend to vote Democrat, great majority. But let’s not forget those who don’t — there’s been a lot of writing about that recently. You know, when I’m writing about that, as well, right now, it’s just I think it’s important to note that there’s some percentage of them who do not vote.

Metta Spencer  

Maria was pointing… to the Venezuelans.

Subha Xavier  

Exactly,

Metta Spencer  

Exactly those people they supported Trump 

Subha Xavier  

Absolutely 

Metta Spencer  

Doesn’t make really much sense, because they’re, they’re, you know,

Subha Xavier  

I appreciated that she problematizes that because I think we need to do more of that kind of work. We need to show how, ultimately – it’s so contradictory, and it’s really not rational. And I don’t think there’s anything about nationalism that is rational, let’s face it, it is kind of this gut reaction, in this way of voting. I think I told you earlier, that, you know, the first Trump signs that came out in my neighborhood, were from the Korean family… and that was a very disturbing thing for me and my children. I mean, my kids were just trying to understand that, they were trying to process…  “Ma… these are not the people you said vote for Trump. How can this be?” you know, and then we’ve had to process it as a family. These are our neighbors. And what does it mean to be the first to bring out the signs? That’s also really key. I think they’re saying… is where we stand. … you may see a Korean-American coming out of… my door, but this is who we are. Not — I think it’s really important and that… population is not going to go away and the… Republicans if they’re smart, will actually capitalize on those populations…. we know our Cuban… Venezuelan, there’s a certain percentage of right wing voters among all the immigrant groups. And I think they are important. And we need to understand that as long as that tendency is there among immigrant populations, the narrative will never be one narrative, right? There will be many different stories that are being told. And I’m interested in stories, as you know, because I write about stories. So I’m interested in their story as well. And this is why I’ve been doing some work on this right now. And I’m interested in the story that they tell of themselves, because they have to make it somehow make sense.

Metta Spencer  

Are you doing it systematically, you know, trying to compare migrants that tilt left to migrants right? Or are you What? Well, I,

Subha Xavier  

As you know, I’m not a sociologist, and I have sociologist friends who are doing that work. So I’m drawing on their work… they’re doing the data analysis, I’m doing the kind of literary analysis of stories and texts. And the texts to me are really very interesting, because I like to read between the lines of text and see… what is the story you’re telling? What is the story you cannot tell, or you refuse to tell? And the story you refuse to tell is just as interesting as the story you tell. So, the story you tell might be that look at me, I’m Korean American, I’ve come here, I’ve done well look at my beautiful house, look at all the houses that I rent to other people, look at my business, look at my small business, and so on so forth. But in the putting up of the sign…you also saying… I’ve gotten this certain status, and the status allows me to vote in my interests. And my interests are my taxes. And I do not want to pay these taxes. And my interest is… private schools, because that’s where my children go, they go to the best Atlanta private schools… You’re saying, I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t have to worry about other people, I get to just worry about myself. That I think is a message. That’s how I interpret the message.

Metta Spencer  

You are you actually have the makings of a very fine politician, very dynamic. I don’t know whether you have aspirations along those lines. But I kind of would like to,

Subha Xavier  

Who knows, you know, but I think one thing I’ve really thought a lot about in Georgia is that, you know, the way this administration — but even before this administration, sadly, this was going on under Obama as well — has treated immigrants and illegal immigrants has been, the most horrific and the most inhuman. possible, and the fact that immigrant populations are not up in arms… protesting what this treatment — to me is also one of the most disturbing things about migrant life that I have encountered.

Metta Spencer  

Wait a minute, now you’re saying that this was going on? And it wasn’t just under… but it was under Obama, too? Yes.

Subha Xavier  

Yes. Because, you know, Obama was known among immigrant populations as deporter-in-chief.

Metta Spencer  

Right? Yeah,

Subha Xavier  

He was. He was deporting he was imprisoning the number of detainees, basically detained in inhuman conditions, far too many people… within a prison. You know… denied all access to their loved ones, denied access to proper meals… it’s a system that is corrupt. And we there’s not one person we can blame. But what I’m saying is that immigrants have not been treated very well, especially in Georgia, because we are actually home to some of the largest prisons of immigrant detainees. And the fact that… you have these immigrants who are doing so well and who are prospering and at the same time… are so removed… at least mentally, are able to say, “That’s not me… that’s not my problem.” …  you can say this is a human problem, and all humans should be worried about it. But the fact that you can be an immigrant and no longer feel any kind of identification with someone else, who has come under dire conditions, no matter the reason, under difficult conditions, and is now being treated, inhumanly, in inhuman ways that you can just kind of let them sit there.

Metta Spencer  

Well, that’s really disturbing. That’s doesn’t bode well for your prospects under… Biden’s administration if… Obama wasn’t all that great, then is there any reason to think Biden is going to be different? Or I don’t know whether you want to pin it on them personally Biden the man and Obama the man, or just the people around them? Is there any reason to expect that because of the big anti-immigrant action under the Trump presidency, that there will be a reaction that will be much more favorable to immigrants now, or, or?

Subha Xavier  

I like I said, I want to be the optimist. And I want to be hopeful. And I think we are so starved for hope at this point, after the last administration that I have to think it can only be better… Am I… confident that Biden and his administration will bring kind of huge systemic… change, which is the kind of change we need? I’m not so sure. At the local level, I am a big fan of Stacey Abrams. I’m really hoping she will be governor in 2022… I put more faith in her and… the American system is such that really… at the state level is where so much is done and can be done. And certainly, in terms of our prisons in Georgia, I would think that somebody like Stacey Abrams, would attend to the human- rights crisis we’re in in ways that I’m not sure Biden — I’m sensitive to Obama’s, the ways in which he was blocked, you know, right, left and center every time you try to make any kind of change. And I think I’m sure Biden will be too, even with our recent Georgia victories, I you know, everything will be a challenge for him. Any sweeping change will be I think, blocked by,

Metta Spencer  

You know? Yeah. Well, let’s hope that this scandal over the last few days will change the dynamics in a significant way, too, because I think the Republicans are fragmenting you know, we’re gonna hear all jumping ship right now. Yeah, enough to make a difference. How many of them, what fraction? I think it’ll be very interesting. I think over the next few days, we’ll have a pretty good idea of how many people are going to go down with the ship. If it goes down? Yeah, okay. Look, I this is a, I should move on, I’ve got a, we both have a full day ahead of us. We’ll see how… delightful… to talk to you,

Subha Xavier  

Thank you feel free to talk to… and I’m very grateful to… you were one of the people who welcomed my family as immigrants and as refugees. And I know, you’ve done this for lots of people, and we are just one among so many you’ve helped. But that, you know, I was thinking to myself before today, before meeting you today that I think you were my first real Canadian white adult, who I knew. And I think that’s huge. When you think about childhood and the kind of impact people make on you and you’re, how they shape who you are, and they shape your dreams, and they shape your ambitions. And, and I… think of myself like… I became an academic and really, there are no academics in my family. But Metta as an academic… I mean, maybe you were my inspiration. I never really thought about it that way. But it occurred to me today.

Metta Spencer  

Well, I really would love to take credit for you. Good. I’ll claim all the credit. That’s It’s wonderful. And I’m just really happy for you and for your family. Thanks. Okay. Bye.