“I’m glad you moved to Norway, I’m guessing they treat their immigrants worse than their own people, life must be great there.” While on the phone with my grandparents earlier this week, they jumped on the subject of immigration and refugees, and how, in their opinion, immigrants shouldn’t receive any benefits, forgetting that their own granddaughter is an immigrant somewhere.
No one accuses me of stealing their jobs even though for every job I’ve had so far, I was chosen over a native.
I’m not surprised, it’s not the first time this happened to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. “Because you’re not an immigrant,” people scream, “you’re an expat.”
When I got a job in Norway, people congratulated me, cheered for me, told me how impressed they were by how far I have become, or that their cousin would like to work abroad as well. I’ve been told countless of times that I’m not a real immigrant, that I’m a native.
No one accuses me of being lazy, no one wants to send me back to where I come from (luckily), and no one accuses me of stealing their jobs even though for every job I’ve had so far, I was chosen over a native.
However, some people, like people of color or Muslims, don’t get to experience the same warm welcome I did. They can’t wear their religious symbols, get criticized for the food they eat, are told to go back to their own country, are denied jobs, and experience hate and violence. Only briefly going through Twitter’s trending tags proves that lots of people seem to hate people who are different from them, and they’re not afraid to show that hate.
People like to call out the middle eastern guy owning a food store for stealing their jobs but they don’t mind me doing so.
Yes, not everyone is like that. Not all men are sexist. Not all white people are racist. But lots of them are. Too many of them are. And it wasn’t until I became an immigrant myself, and didn’t receive any hate for being an immigrant, that I realized society is pretty fucked up when it comes to the subject of immigration. We don’t seem to mind a white woman moving from one western country to another, we encourage it, but we don’t even want to give someone who looks different from us a chance.
People like to call out the middle eastern guy owning a food store for stealing their jobs — which is a horrible word choice as it suggests the job belonged to someone and someone else unrightfully took it away from them, and that’s not how the job market works — but, at the same time, they don’t mind me doing so.
People offer me to talk English with me, telling me these days it’s not necessary anymore to learn new languages, but the same people have no problem following the “if they come to our country, they have to speak our language” mentality when it comes to people of color.
Noticed how whenever people talk about immigrants committing crimes or being unemployed, they use the word immigrant, but when talking about achievements of white people, they talk about expats?
Some will make the argument that an immigrant moves to a new country with the intention of staying there permanently, while expats move somewhere for an unknown period of time. But that distinction is rarely made when talking about immigrants or expats.
I moved to Norway with the intention of staying here permanently, if we follow the above definition I qualify as an immigrant. Yet I’m never called one. And a black woman who temporarily moves to another country for work will most likely be called an immigrant, not an expat.
We shouldn’t have to fight, write blog posts or protest about wanting equality. Being treated like a human being should be a right, not a privilege.
And when my granddad said he was happy I’m living in a country that treats their immigrants badly (Note: I don’t. While Norway isn’t perfect, I’ve noticed way less racism and way more acceptance towards diversity here than I have in Belgium, where I grew up), he actually meant he was glad Muslims and people of color were treated badly, and that people like him, white people, get to live in an environment where they can superior, not equal.
It’s crazy that something we have absolutely no control over, like our skin color or who our parents were, can cause such a big difference in how people treat us and interact with us.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy I’m not experiencing racism or xenophobia. I’m glad people are so welcoming towards me, and that I am where I am right now. I don’t want to go through that bullshit. But I definitely don’t want others to have to go through it either. I want everyone to get the chances I got, and receive the welcoming smiles I did. We shouldn’t have to fight, write blog posts or protest about wanting equality. Being treated like a human being should be a right, not a privilege.