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HomeFeminismPast Stereotypes: Rethinking the Immigrant Expertise

Past Stereotypes: Rethinking the Immigrant Expertise



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“What do you consider whenever you hear the phrase “immigrant?” For many Individuals with just a few generations of historical past within the US, it might evoke sturdy feelings — starting from seeing immigrants because the “others” or outsiders to perceiving them as job stealers and useful resource takers. Nevertheless, the truth is that, apart from the Native inhabitants, each American has some connection to the immigrant identification, even when it’s just a few generations eliminated.

In response to the Worldwide Rescue Committee (IRC), “An immigrant is somebody who makes a acutely aware determination to depart his or her residence and transfer to a international nation with the intention of settling there.”

Regardless of round 45 million individuals born exterior the US and 18 million with at the very least one immigrant mum or dad, the immigrant identification stays elusive, usually eliciting unfavorable responses. Being a proud immigrant and an energetic participant within the identification, I strongly really feel that we’re one of the crucial misunderstood, misrepresented demographics, a lot in order that, sadly, many immigrants shrink back from proudly owning their, as I name it, “immigrantness.” I’ve heard buddies say issues like, “We’re NOT immigrants; we’re {naturalized} residents,” not realizing that the 2 are usually not mutually unique.

[Read Related: Learning & Unlearning: An Immigrant’s Rite of Passage]

Among the most well-known American artworks, just like the film “The Godfather,” are centered on the immigrant expertise. But immigrant illustration within the media is lower than 3%; the narrative surrounding immigrants is usually confined to political or coverage discussions. Immigrants are sometimes boxed into being both victims or villains, decreasing their wealthy, three-dimensional humanity.

On this article, I advocate for reorienting the US consciousness about immigrants, encouraging a extra genuine and real exploration of the immigrant expertise. 

Debunking Reductive Narratives

To attain this shift, it’s essential to debunk some problematic narratives that restrict the immigrant perspective and, on the identical time, spotlight the varied iterations of the immigrant expertise for a extra nuanced understanding. The predominant narratives about immigrants usually concentrate on them as “job stealers,” “tiger mother and father,” or people with “bizarre accents” who eat “smelly meals.” Whereas discussing the variety of immigrant cultural norms is important, the present framing of those dimensions may be dangerous. The dearth of context round these experiences is a priority. Sadly, second-generation youngsters, together with my kids, generally fall into the entice of reductive narratives. Comedians leverage stereotypical identities for leisure, reinforcing otherness reasonably than delving into the wealthy historical past behind accents. A special accent doesn’t equate to a scarcity of training or intelligence, strongly flavored meals doesn’t indicate a scarcity of refinement, and emphasizing sure varieties of training doesn’t essentially point out a strict, much less accommodating parental strategy.

As a substitute of solely discussing challenges, there needs to be a paradigm shift in how tales are centered across the historical past of traditions and cultures immigrants deliver to the US. We will rejoice and normalize accents, discover the wealthy traditions behind fragrant meals, and perceive the explanations behind sure parenting types.

Increasing Immigration Tales

Immigration tales needs to be extra expansive, reflecting the variety of immigrants’ origins, motivations, and backgrounds. Immigrants are usually not a monolithic group. Some come for the “American Dream” to construct a greater life for future generations, some for the glitz and glamour depicted in Hollywood films, and others come for world-class training. Immigrants come from everywhere in the world, representing varied races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and socio-economic backgrounds.

I additionally hear tales in regards to the generational trauma handed on by immigrant mother and father to their youngsters. Acknowledging the generational trauma is important, however it’s equally essential to handle the shortage of infrastructure for newcomers to regulate to their environments. Immigrants usually really feel alienated and lonely initially, struggling to cater to their very own, not to mention their kids’s psychological wants.

The Problematic Dichotomy of “Good” vs. “Dangerous” Immigrants

Addressing the problematic dichotomy of “good” vs. “unhealthy” immigrants is important. This binary manifests in varied types —undocumented vs. documented, white-collar vs. blue-collar, white vs. non-white, and economically viable vs. entitled. Immigrants, particularly these from non-European international locations, are sometimes anticipated to show their price via perceived financial worth.

[Read Related: Of Motherhood and Mental Health — An Immigrant Mom’s Journey]

The rhetoric utilized by politicians and the media implies that if an immigrant doesn’t meet particular standards of worthiness, they shouldn’t be a part of American society. This warped line of reasoning shouldn’t be solely othering, but additionally discourages many of us from coming to the US who may in any other case enrich it. Whereas international locations like Canada rely closely on the financial price of their newcomers, what units the US aside is its capability to look past that, and it has labored for the US. Why repair one thing that isn’t damaged?

Celebrating the Immigrant Spirit

Regardless of variations, all immigrants share the spirit to experiment, take probabilities, and be relentless in taking dangers. Immigrants are the OG vacationers, entrepreneurs, and risk-takers. They’re resilient, versatile, and susceptible, showcasing power via their vulnerabilities. It’s time to present a giant spherical of applause to all of the immigrants who’ve crossed America’s shores, weaving a wealthy tapestry of Americanness. With out them, America wouldn’t be as interesting to the world.


The opinions expressed by the author of this piece, and people offering feedback thereon (collectively, the “Writers”), are theirs alone and don’t essentially mirror the opinions of Brown Lady Journal, Inc., or any of its workers, administrators, officers, associates, or assigns (collectively, “BGM”). BGM shouldn’t be liable for the accuracy of any of the data equipped by the Writers. It’s not the intention of Brown Lady Journal to malign any faith, ethnic group, membership, group, firm, or particular person. In case you have a criticism about this content material, please electronic mail us at Workers@browngirlmagazine.com. This submit is topic to our Phrases of Use and Privateness Coverage. Should you’d wish to submit a visitor submit, please observe the rules we’ve set forth right here.

Saadia Khan is a Pakistani-American immigrant, rights activist & social entrepreneur. She is the Founder & CEO of Immigrantly Media, … Learn extra ›




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