Titanic: A Recreation of Disparities Bringing Attention to the World’s Refugees

While the world has been gripped by the possibility of five people suffocating in a cold, dark, and claustrophobic vessel, some wonder if our attention was being distracted from something else. In fact, at the same time international efforts were undertaken to rescue this small group of billionaires chasing the titanic, distress calls from a shipwreck of over 800 migrant workers and their families were ignored off the coast of Greece, leaving hundreds missing and presumed drowned. Because the injustice to migrant people is already apparent to you, we wanted to offer a few points to help you digest the issue over the weekend.

Hubris—our society misguidedly reinforces the fiction that excessively rich people who ignore caution, the rules of nature, and human dignity deserve god-like worship and our undivided attention.

Define Irony—5 people on a boat declared “impregnable” meet catastrophic ends searching for the ruins of a boat that had been declared “unsinkable”.

More hubris & Irony—The world searched for billionaires determined to exploit the ocean-bed graves of people who’d sunk with the titanic only because they were too poor to be considered worthy of life rafts. We did this even as almost 1 thousand migrant workers and their children seeking refuge from Somalia, Libya, and other countries were shipwrecked off the coast of Greece and had their distress calls ignored. Even more, this occurred during Immigrant Heritage Awareness Month in the week of World Refugee Day. These unspeakable events sadly and literally recreated the horrific disparities of the Titanic.

Humanity of Immigrants—Because of incessant coverage, we know the names and stories of each of the Titan’s 5 passengers. Conversely, because of limited coverage, most of us know nothing of the hundreds of people aboard the Andriana, including the boat’s name “Adrianna”.

In fact, thousands of people whose names we don’t know have drowned this year pursuing fractions of the freedoms enjoyed by Americans, let alone of billionaires like those who tragically met catastrophic ends aboard the Titan. Migrant workers are dedicated contributors to community and the economy. They are laborers, innovators, family members and friends whose stories are often untold, and whose cries are often unheard. To be sure, the confirmed loss of 5 lives on the Titan yesterday was awful and tragic. But how much greater is the tragedy that as the world searched for them, we summarily ignored the distress calls from hundreds of adults and children who remain missing in the Mediterranean and are now presumed drowned? A quote Stephen Jay Gould comes to mind: “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops”.

Mary Forfia is an operations management global migration patterns expert serving currently as Focus: HOPE’s Development Specialist.

Jasahn M. Larsosa is an organizational and social justice leader serving as Focus: HOPE’s Director of Advocacy, Equity & Community Empowerment.

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