Migrants, Emigrants, Immigrants and Expats…

I learned the other day that I am an ex-pat
No, not a former paddy – though my government would no doubt love to take those like me off the list of people they answer to – but a person living outside his own country.
Sorry, that’s white person living outside his country. And living in a less well off one (or at least one further south…)
I always thought I was an immigrant – or an emigrant. I actually thought that ex-pat meant the same as emigrant – one outside his native country, viewed from that country. I’m an Irish ex pat living in Spain; an Irish emigrant living in Spain. Not the same as an immigrant from Ireland living here in Spain.
But migrants and their prefixes only refer to non-whites, it seems. Silly me.
When I lived in the states, I knew I was an immigrant, despite my lily-whiteness. Homeland security was pretty good at getting that message across. There everyone is an immigrant. At least…. the Irish were, since they hardly counted as white back in the day.
And yet, when my former students of colour learned I was an immigrant, they laughed. And now I wonder if it wasn’t because I was not supposed to be called that, being white. I mean, it was obvious I wasn’t American. They asked if I was illegal, and lamented the fact that an illegal immigrant could be a teacher. I patiently explained. But for some, immigrant and illegal were words that were bound together like fried chicken. Can you be an immigrant if you’re not illegal? Can you have chicken if it’s not fried? Sorry, perhaps that’s an inappropriate metaphor, but I can’t think of anything else right now, and they’ll take it the right way – the way I did when I patiently explained that we don’t eat Lucky Charms in Ireland…
But I’d never thought there was anything bad in the word immigrant, despite the ignorance of a few kids. I was wrong. Silly me.
There was a stigma attached to the word, and kids who were obviously not born in America were reluctant to use it. I used to tell them I was an immigrant to how them that it was okay to be one, that immigrants could be “white,” too. But no. Now I realise they were right. Their reality is the truth.
There are those who like the fact that “immigrants” sounds like “illegal immigrants.” People who don’t want those who come to their country to have the same advantages (or luxuries in many cases) that they themselves have when they go to those persons’ countries.
These are the same guys who insist on a tight border control between the USA and UMS, yet like to take a trip to old Mexico now and then. Or the upper- and political-class Europeans who like to travel to the tropics to show how worldly they are, but let thousands drown in the Mediterranean.
They’re only migrants dying, after all.

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About davidjmobrien

Writer, ecologist and teacher

Posted on May 8, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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