If I Ever Leave America, I Wouldn’t Be Expat — I’d Be an Immigrant
I would be viewed as an immigrant and not an expat, mostly due to the color of my skin
I recently came across an article that was published by The Guardian, titled “Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?” After reading it, it sparked a pretty interesting conversation at my Mom’s birthday celebration.
I was sitting at the dinner table with my relatives, who were all in their own separate mini-conversations, when I shouted to my sister from across the table and held up my phone to show her the article. She responded by telling me that she had already read it because a mutual friend of ours had shared it on Facebook.
After bringing up the article, everyone sort of dropped their conversations to enter this new one on the topic of immigration.
My entire family immigrated to the United States from the Philippines, so the only people at the table who were born in the states were my sister, my boyfriend, and myself — That being said, I was interested in seeing where this conversation would go.
In summary, the article highlights the fact that society has created separate terms for those who have left their country to live in another. Yet, these terms are distinguished specifically based on your country of origin. Moreover, it specifically speaks to the superiority of “western white people”, as stated in the article.
It begins by defining the term “expat”,
“According to Wikipedia, “an expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing.”
Then, it continues onto its point,
“Defined that way, you should expect that any person going to work outside of his or her country for a period of time would be an expat, regardless of his skin colour or country. But that is not the case in reality; expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad.
Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’.”
I had never thought about this before — Mostly because I never really saw myself living in another country (I’ve definitely thought about it, but more as a fantasy rather than a reality).
Then, it got me thinking and I went ahead and posed a question to my audience of relatives (and my boyfriend).
If I’m born in America, but of Filipino descent, would I be considered an expat or an immigrant if I were to ever leave the United States?
The response was pretty unanimous. I would be viewed as an immigrant and not an expat, mostly due to the color of my skin.
So, regardless of the fact that I was born and raised in America, act American, and actually am American still doesn’t override how people will view me when they physically look at me — And that’s the fact that I am a minority.
I, then, looked to my boyfriend and thought to myself, “If him and I were to leave for another country together, he would ultimately be more likely viewed as an expat than me purely because of the fact that he is white and I am not”
Well, that’s just completely unfair.
It has taken me a very long time to finally come to terms with the fact that there will be some disadvantages that I may face purely because of the color of my skin. I’ve come to accept it in America, but to know that I also have to accept it universally really makes my blood boil.
I always figured that America created its own problems in the area of race — We were the ones who created segregation amongst ourselves and expressed prejudice to those from foreign countries. And this is an issue that we are sadly still continuing to face.
But knowing that this prejudice is not limited to our nation’s borders is what puts me over the edge.
Because that just means that I can never escape it no matter where I go. So, I’m at a crossroads — Do I accept this?
For now, I guess I will just have to keep being vocal about it until the world decides to put an end to racial superiority. But, who knows when that will be…