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On the Death of Mame Mbaye: Racialism as the Ultimate Goal in the “Battle Against Irregular Immigration”

SCJ 11(1) front cover

State Crime Journal Special Issue on Migration and Racist State Violence

Vol. 11, No. 1 (2022) – open access

Barak Kalir (University of Amsterdam)

On 15 March 2018, Mame Mbaye, a 35-year-old migrant from Senegal who lived in Spain for 11 years, died on a street in the centre of Madrid. A police raid on unauthorized street vendors caused panic among illegalized migrants, who ran away trying to avoid an arrest that could have led to their detention and deportation. Mbaye ran towards his home, located a few hundred meters down the road, but he never made it. The official version, endorsed by the Spanish court, is that Mbaye suffered a fatal cardiac failure. Some eyewitnesses claim the police suffocated him to death. The article explores how the pervasive and perverse exercise of racism on different levels against illegalized migrants results in their social and in some cases literal death. To fully grasp the tenacity with which racism and racial cruelty are applied in the immigration field, we must recognize that most other arenas that have historically served as breeding grounds for advancing racialism in western societies have been legally proscribed. In contrast, the antiimmigration arena allows for acting practically, discursively and politically in racializing and racist manners against some of the most vulnerable members in society: so-called ‘irregular’ migrants, ‘failed’ asylum seekers and ‘non-real’ refugees. The immigration field thus serves as a crucial, and perhaps the last, frontier for advancing racialism more holistically in western societies. Animating racialism as an operative ideology informs—consciously or not—those who staff the state apparatus, and society more broadly, to believe in and act upon racialized categories of othered people. In so doing, racialism legitimizes the social production and justifies the social death of illegalized migrants. The ultimate goal of this vicious dynamic, of inhumane treatment and judicial impunity, is to keep operational the racist notion that the lives of some people matter less than others… (read more)

State Crime Journal Special Issue on Migration and Racist State Violence