Tag Archives: racism

“Expat” or “Immigrant”? Race and Realisations on Privilege

I recently read an article that referred to the word “expat” as something:

In the Western lexicon of human migration there are still lot of remnants of a white supremacist ideology, with hierarchical classes of words created to differentiate White people from the rest of humanity, with the purpose of putting White people above everyone else.

I’d never thought about it before. What is the difference between an “immigrant” and an “expat”?

There were various answers in the comments below the above quoted article. One difference tends to be duration. An expat is planning on returning within a short time, an immigrant is planning on staying longer term. Another might be integration. An expat is more likely to be working in a language they speak very well (like English) and not have much opportunity/motivation to learn the local language, whereas an immigrant would most likely be working in the local language and have more chance of becoming proficient.

As someone who has been living abroad for several years, I came to understand the negative side of “expat”. As an “anglo”, people automatically assumed you know nothing about local customs, often resent your presence as you have “stolen” a local person’s job, expect you to speak their language perfectly immediately, constantly expect you to “integrate” (meaning laughing at their jokes about you). I took a million language classes, I changed my clothes (to blend in), and I breathed a sigh of relief, and something very simple finally clicked.

People of colour cannot change their clothes as I can. They cannot camouflage themselves. It might seem obvious to someone from a multicultural society, but for me, it took the experience of moving out of my “home” country to teach me about privilege.

I thought about all the times my non-white British friends had mentioned racism to me, or I had witnessed the aftermath of a racist incident. I had sometimes said (in my head) at the time: “It’s not that big a deal. Why are they so upset? People say shit to me all the time”.

Then I got it. I can lose weight. I can cut my hair. I can work at conforming. They can’t ever conform physically. And why should they? (Oh crumb nuggets. This was my privilege to only just realise this now. Wha?????!!!!)

I think the tone of the above quoted article is a good example of how a person writes when they are angry after years upon years of unpleasant personal experiences (see “Favourite quotes, below), let alone generation upon generation of colonialism. It’s a rare gift to be able to be keyed up about a subject, like race/colonialism/sexism, without attacking the readers who you may be trying to educate in to reconsidering their positions. It’s a skill I must confess that I have not yet acquired. I know this because many of the blog posts I write I am unable to publish as they too are full of ire. It can take many drafts before I convert my spleen into something that might be considered balanced, bordering on informative.

Favourite quotes from the original article:

Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period.

If you see those “expats” in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there!


Favourite quotes from NYT article cited in: “Don’t Call Them Expats”

A more current interpretation of the term “expat” has more to do with privilege. Expats are free to roam between countries and cultures, privileges not afforded to those considered immigrants or migrant workers.

But Hong Kong will extend all of its rights and protections to me once I’ve lived here for seven years–though I often get the feeling there isn’t much expectation of reciprocity, the way immigrants to the United States are expected to learn English and adopt a certain set of values.



UPDATE: A “cleaner” (less angry, attacking) version of the Silicon Africa article was featured in this Guardian article


American Sniper: 0/5 The Worse Film I’ve Ever Seen

I had reservations about watching American Sniper. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it because of American propaganda, but I got lucky; this film has a lot more wrong with it than skewed ideology.

No Female Soldiers/ Soldiers of Colour

Women make up 14.5% of the active-duty force (according to CNN), while African American soldiers make up around a quarter. So with almost half of soldiers on active duty being made up of women and African Americans, you would think any modern war film worth its salt would try to accurately represent that, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong.

Mental Illness/Masculinity

Men are at four times more risk of suicide than women. Some psychologists argue that this is because of hegemonic masculinity, which demands a “tough guy” front from men, who are conditioned from an early age to not talk about their feelings, leading to them not being able to ask for help later in life.

I found it completely irresponsible, that this film portrayed Chris Kyle (who seems to be suffering from classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress), as some sort of “strong silent type”, who’s miraculously cured by a 20 second scene with a psychiatrist who tells him simply to “help others” in order to recover. I don’t know whether this is Clint Eastwood’s old school portrayal of masculinity, or whether the problem comes from the autobiography that the film is based on.

Portrayal of Iraqis

Opens with “call to prayer”, which is normally played in Mosques.

Iraqis are referred to as “savages” by American soldiers.

Characters proclaim: “We’re not fighting for this dirt”

Brutal, unnecessary violence from “bad guys” (such as the scene where the enemy leader uses a drill on a child and then shoots both the child and the father), whereas American soldiers are depicted as just “doing their jobs”/”protecting themselves”.

The film depicts roughly 1 American soldier dying to 6-10 Iraqis. In actual fact, during the whole war, 4,500 American soldiers have been killed,  and 450,000 Iraqis, meaning  that a more realistic ratio might be 1 American soldier dying for every 100 Iraqi deaths.

Badly Made

-Comedy baby doll, completely obviously fake.

-Sound, in general. Car noise random and too loud.

-Wooden characters.

-Doesn’t hold together.

-Passage of time only shown by size of children (not by any changes in adult actors)

-Only one female character.

-Only one black actor.

Fighting Racism on Facebook. Rule No. 1: Be Nice


So, I’ve noticed a lot of racist things cropping up on my news feed over the past 12 months, and now I’ve read this Guardian article about the rise of racism in the UK. It’s a long article, and if you don’t have time to read it, my favourite quotes from the article are all at the end of this post, in the order they appear in the original article*.

Here’s a corker:

He said the political and media class faced a huge challenge. “Right now we’re in a state of complete denial about why Ukip’s assault on Britain’s elite culture has found an echo, across the political spectrum. This isn’t just a reaction to the financial crisis; and we need to treat people with greater respect than to imply that if only they were better informed and smarter, they would see the error of their ways.”

(Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust – Britain’s leading independent race equality thinktank)

If you disagree with racism, with Ukip, with Nigel Farage, then WE NEED YOU. We need YOU to quietly, respectfully say to your Facebook friend who posts something by “Britain First”: “Hey man, actually, the immigrants aren’t stealing your shit. It’s the politicians who are fucking us all over! They are sitting in their mansions laughing their asses off at us all fighting each other!”

So please. Don’t delete people who post anti-immigration/pro Ukip/islamophobic stuff on Facebook. Do the more difficult thing. Let them know that you don’t agree. Quietly, respectfully. But let them know. 

Let them know that the Daily Mail manipulates news stories to play on the anger and frustration we all feel. Let them know that Bah Bah Black Sheep has never, and will never, be banned. Let them know that the people who talk about changing the name of The White House are actually mad right-wingers who say extreme things to make a point and grab headlines. Let them know that if they don’t want to eat Halal meat, they can still go to Subway, just probably not the one that’s closed during Ramadan.

Be kind, and let them know if they have been tricked into believing something that has no basis in fact.

But most of all, be kind.


First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

*The shadow justice minister, Sadiq Khan, said the findings should come as a wake-up call. “This is clear evidence that we cannot be complacent about racial prejudice. Where it manifests itself, it blights our society. Those in positions of authority must take their responsibilities seriously. It also falls to us to address the underlying causes.”

Trevor Phillips, former chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Integration doesn’t happen by accident – you have to work at it. If we want to avoid a slow descent into mutual bigotry, we need to drop the dogma, stop singing kumbaya to each other, weigh the evidence without sentiment, recognise the reality, and work out a programme – both symbolic and practical – to change the reality.”

Campaigners say the new findings are in part a result of a decade that included 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror”, rising inequality and increasing hostility towards immigration – especially from eastern Europe.

Omar Khan, acting director of the Runnymede Trust – Britain’s leading independent race equality thinktank – said the data should be noted by all the main parties.

“This nails the lie that the problem of racism has been overcome in Britain or that somehow when Jeremy Clarkson said the things he did it is some sort of anomaly that does not tap into a wider problem.

“Politicians became too relaxed and thought that all they had to do was let things continue unhindered and that generational change would take over. But this should act as a warning shot to politicians and the public about how we see ourselves.”

He said the political and media class faced a huge challenge. “Right now we’re in a state of complete denial about why Ukip’s assault on Britain’s elite culture has found an echo, across the political spectrum. This isn’t just a reaction to the financial crisis; and we need to treat people with greater respect than to imply that if only they were better informed and smarter, they would see the error of their ways.”

Prof Bhikhu Parekh, the Labour peer who in 1998 chaired the groundbreaking Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, said the data revealed a country increasingly ill at ease with itself. “The last few years have been marked by fear of loss of identity,” he said. “There have been new people coming in and new mores. People feel uncomfortable. They lose their bearings. What should they say or do to not be classed as racist?

“People have a feeling that we are losing control of our own society in terms of the EU and the liberal establishment and that they are not in charge of their destiny. They feel they can’t do anything about it.”

But he also argues that the language around race has changed. “The term racism has undergone a change of meaning. It has lost its moral force. We use it today too freely. After the war if you said someone was racist, you had images of Hitler. A racist was someone who hated people. Now it is applied to someone who might say: ‘I love my people and want to keep others at a distance.’”

She said the makeup of prejudice was complicated. There are tensions between black and Asian communities – highlighted by the riots in 2005 and 2011 – as well as between white and non-white groups. “It is about class and deprivation and also the result of very poor management of an ethnically diverse city and region. What we need to do is get better at creating public spaces where people can mix, at serving really diverse communities and addressing some of the underlying problems of poverty and isolation.”

Why don’t we have the MOWOs?


In the UK, there’s an awards ceremony called Music of Black Origin, or MOBOs for short. People often ask the question “Why are there no MOWOs?”, e.g. awards for just for white people. Isn’t that racist?

The MOBOs promote music from a diverse genre that might become even more stereotyped if it didn’t have it’s own PR event (which is what awards ceremonies basically are). Justin Timberlake and Amy Winehouse have both performed there, and they are both white, so it’s not just an event for black artists either. (What music would there be in the MOWO awards? Classical and country? Doesn’t sound like it would draw much of a crowd.)

But all jokes aside, the reason we don’t need to have the Music of White Origin awards is because, we already have them. Mainstream art awards, whether they be for visual or audio (or both) mediums, tend to be won by white people, from affluent backgrounds. But that’s straying into the topic of an entirely different (but related) post.

If you are questioning why there aren’t “Music of White Origin Awards”, you may be in a stage of waking up from “white privilege”. It is our privilege, as white people in a white world, not to notice how there are very few black people who win music awards, who act in films, and who appear in books. Black culture/people is/are stereotyped in a very narrow way, and so to combat this within music, they need their own platform to express lots of different types of music within the incredibly broad genre of “black music”.

While it could be argued that music of black origin makes up the majority of popular music (R and B, Hip Hop, Soul), those genres went from being counter-cultural to being mainstream via white artists, like Elvis and Eminem.

Think of the alternative of it the MOBOs not being allowed, where non-majorities wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate their culture freely. I look forward to a day when we don’t need the MOBOs, or any other form of positive discrimination, and after having lived outside of the UK for some time, I am proud to live in a country where the MOBOs can happen, and we can have this conversation about why there are no MOWOs, which is actually a discussion of “reverse racism”.