Just be happy you’re here…immigrant!

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I’ve been an immigrant for over half my life now. South Africa is the 3rd country I have settled in since I left Zimbabwe at age 17. It’s always nice to move to a new country. New life, new people, new cultures, new languages…I mean, what’s not to like? Oh yes, the xenophobia. There’s usually always a bit of xenophobia to greet an immigrant wherever you emigrate to. That part of the experience is never nice.

Anyway, what I wanted to scribble about today is something I’m sure many immigrants have faced before. The “if you don’t like it, leave!” narrative. There is this notion that when you are an immigrant to a country, you don’t really have the right to complain about any shortcomings or negativity that country may have; that the country is doing you a favour by taking you in so you really should just “be a good immigrant and be happy you’re here.”

I remember once being attacked on Twitter because I was complaining about some government department in South Africa. Someone said to me “if you don’t like it why don’t you go back home?” That tweet gave more Tweeps the impetus to have a bit of a discussion on the matter. There were tweets like:

“I hate how foreigners come here and aren’t grateful for our hospitality”;

“Why do foreigners always complain? They are not prisoners here. They can just leave”;

“You allow people to come here and they start acting all fly”.

Now, this got me thinking…I live in South Africa. I may not be a citizen, but I am a resident. Do I not have a right to be unhappy about certain aspects of the country? And if I am unhappy, do I not have the right to complain?

And please note, this is not a South African phenomenon. From the United States, to the United Kingdom, to Australia. Ask immigrants in any country worldwide and they will tell you a similar story. It’s bizarre really. Why do locals feel the need to curtail the rights of foreigners to vocalize their grievances?

Anyway following my dressing down on Twitter, I was telling the Mrs. all about it. For context, she’s South African. I rant to her about how I think it’s so unfair and borderline prejudicial to be expected to live (or die, rather) in silence just because I am an immigrant who should be grateful to be living in SA. Guess what? She agreed…with the Twitter folk! WHAAAAT? She wasn’t as crass about it but she agreed with them nonetheless. Her exact words were “You can complain…just not like us”

Shocked-Face

It’s always a tricky subject. I guess immigrants can’t be choosers…or was that beggars? What do you think? Do you think immigrants should just be content with what they get from the host country and if they don’t like it, they should just leave? Or do you think immigrants should be allowed to complain if they are not happy?

 

**** just scribbling my immigrant thoughts ****

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10 Ways to Justify Attacking Foreigners

There has been a spike in the number of attacks on foreigners in South Africa of late. As with any social event nowadays, social media is where all the discourse (and not much action) is taking place. I followed the trending hashtags this morning (#Xenophobia, #XenophobicSA, #XenophobicAttacks) and compiled what appear to be the ten most common justifications for these attacks on foreigners. So, without further ado, here are 10 ways to justify attacking foreigners:

  1. Illegal immigrants bring crime to South Africa
  1. Immigrants cause unemployment because they take jobs from South Africans, lower their salaries, and hurt the economy
  1. Black immigrants scrounge off the state, whilst white immigrants pump money into the economy
  1. Immigrants who have legal papers do not commit crimes
  1. Immigrants come to South Africa to get grants and other free State services
  1. Immigrants don’t spend any money in South Africa. They send all their money back to their home countries and leave South Africans with no money
  1. Illegal immigrants are the source of many communicable diseases
  1. Immigrants don’t integrate; they just dilute the values of South Africans
  1. Illegal immigrants do not pay any taxes and they cost more than they contribute
  1. It’s easy to be a legal immigrant…just go to Home Affairs

So next time someone asks you why you’re attacking a foreigner, pick a reason above. It might just save your blushes….shame it won’t save the foreigner’s life.

*just scribbling my thoughts*

I hate foreigners…

It’s been a while since I scribbled about xenophobia. In fact, the last time was when I wrote “How Xenophobia Can Improve Your Life”. However, of late, I’ve seen xenophobia rear it’s ugly head both online and in the so called ‘real world’ so I thought, let’s write…if only to get it off my chest.

I should point out I’m not entirely sure if this is actually considered xenophobia. I know xenophobia is the hate/fear of foreigners, but what if a foreigner hates other foreigners? What’s that called? If I hate black people because of their race, does that make me a racist? Or if I was gay but hated gay people, would I be considered a homophobe? What if I was fat and hated fat people purely because they were fat? Would I be considered a weightist or do we just file all these under “self hate?”

So yes, my gripe today is with the xenophobia (or self hate…whichever floats your boat) displayed by foreigners towards other foreigners.

I recently had a bit of a debate with a fellow Zimbabwean regarding the changes to South Africa’s immigration laws. She was going on about “I’m glad the South African government is doing something about immigration. There’s way too many foreigners in South Africa.” At this point I was thinking to myself “oh, now that you’re in, there’s too many foreigners?” She continued “our economy can’t absorb them all.” By now I couldn’t stop myself laughing. “Our economy?” OUR? So now that you have a job, it’s “OUR” economy? Now that you have papers, everyone else is “too many foreigners?”

The crazy thing is you hear such talk all the time. One minute someone is jumping the fence into South Africa, next minute they get a job and start complaining about the holes in the border fence. One minute they are a refugee just trying to survive, the next their asylum papers come through and they start complaining that South Africa is granting asylum to too many people. But weren’t you this so called “too many people” a few months ago?

Then there’s those foreigners who have nothing but negative commentary about their nation of birth. “I can’t imagine living in Zimbabwe hey! I get sick whenever I’m there” they say….and this will be coming from someone born and raised in Zimbabwe for 25 years of his life before he moved to South Africa in 2010. How then did you survive 25 years of “I get sick whenever I’m there?”

Then there’s those foreigners who even pretend they are South African by birth. Your name is Tawanda but you’re out here talking about “how do we stop foreigners coming into OUR country?” Into whose country Tawanda? What makes it even more cringe worthy is when Tawanda can’t even speak a single South African language.

Then there’s the class warfare amongst foreigners; classist tendencies that usually see Western foreigners at the top of the foreigner food chain. They usually hate African foreigners because they believe they (Western foreigners) contribute to South Africa’s economy whilst African foreigners are just mooching off the state. This is probably the same everywhere you go though. I’m sure British foreigners in the USA hold themselves in higher regard than their fellow foreigners from Mexico. But it’s not as straighfoward as Westerners vs Africans. We also have classist tendencies amongst ourselves as African foreigners. For instance, Southern African foreigners feel like they have more of a claim to this foreign land than, say, Somalis/Ethiopians.

Ultimately, I don’t know why we are all so obsessed with borders, passports, nationalities, places of birth, etc. Countries are just the space between geometric lines drawn by some very capitalistic individuals who were sharing the world’s land between them.

As for foreigners, they are pretty easy to create. Just take a piece of land and codorn it off, name it, give yourselves little booklets with the land’s name on it, and voilà, everyone on the outside is a foreigner. Then, just for fun, allow some foreigners in and watch them fight each other.

I hate foreigners…who hate foreigners.

* just scribbling my foreigner thoughts*

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How xenophobia can improve your life

You’ve all heard it before…”foreigners are taking our jobs”….”oh and our women too”. Welcome to Xenophobia!

Before I rant about xenophobia I want to make something abundantly clear. Xenophobia is not a soley South African problem. Just visit any country that has a decent foreign population and you’ll see what I mean. I use South Africa as an example simply because I live here.

So anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I was wondering about the logic behind xenophobia the other day. What exactly is a viable argument for wanting people to stay on “their side” of these geometric lines drawn by some old white men hundreds of years ago? And does chasing “kwerekweres” out of the country actually achieve anything?
The Centre for Development Enterprise (CDE) in a 2010 report put the approximate number for illegal immigrants in South Africa at about 2.5 million. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, there are an additional 500,000 legal immigrants in South Africa, thus bringing the total to about 3 million. Taking the country’s population to be about 49 million would imply about 6% of the population is “foreign”.

So here is my question: if we get rid of foreigners, would there be a 6% improvement in our lives? Our incomes, would they go up by 6%? Or our health sector, would it become 6% more proficient? The lost productivity due to strikes, would it be reduced by 6%? The schools in rural Eastern Cape, would they be 6% less crowded? Would Limpopo students get 6% more textbooks? In fact the whole education system in the country, would it become 6% better?

Let’s not forget the women. 6% of the women would be back on the market right? And the nation’s income-to-debt ration would reduce by 6% hey? The unemployment rate which stands at round about 26% – that would be reduced by 6%. Right?

Maybe the xenophobics are right? Maybe we should get rid of the foreigners. Who among us wouldn’t want a 6% raise? I certainly would love an extra 6% in my wallet….oh wait, I’m a foreigner. D’oh!

ps: according to the xenophobic folks, blacks are foreigners, whites are tourists. Don’t get us mixed up

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