I am an immigrant but no one cares because I’m white


Ain’t no subtlety about this one, folks.

If you’re reading this blog post, that means you have access to the internet, so you are most definitely aware of what’s happening in good ol’ America. Though I’d like to point out that the xenophobic basis of what is happening in America has happened and is currently happening across many parts of the world; the US just beat us all to the punch of being really damn blunt about it.

My race and country of birth give me an immense amount of privilege so I won’t even pretend to relate to any minority seeking refuge from persecution. However, I am currently living on a Visa in France, which has lead me to think and reflect empathetically. If France decided to ban all immigrating Canadians, regardless of Visa or Green Card status, I would have to cancel any upcoming trip I have out of the country because I would not be allowed back into the place where I am employed and have a documented home with all of my belongings, and I would live in fear of being found out by the French government. And while this hypothetical scenario is significantly less grave than the real life scenarios of Muslim immigrants and refugees, it really makes me reflect on how that is a terrible situation to be in.

But the funny thing is, even though I’ve come to France to steal their jobs and live out my Canadian beliefs, no one gives a crap because I’m from Canada and I’m white. No one is afraid of me. No one bats an eyelash at the fact that I’m taking employment away from the French and imposing my Canadian values onto their country. In fact, everyone thinks I’m super exotic and interesting and my accent is really cute and they won’t stop asking me how cold it is back home. My “diversity” is celebrated, while the diversity of Muslims is villainized, even though we post the exact same level of threat to the world.

And I’m sorry for my language but that’s just fucked up.

I don’t have a conclusion to my point here, because there never will be a conclusion to the discussion of xenophobia. And it isn’t just America. My dear naive Canadian friends: if this week has taught you anything, it should be that your own bright and shiny country isn’t as perfect as you make it out to be.

We need to do better. All of us. When you think you’ve done the best you can, that’s probably the exact point where you need to try your hardest. Put yourself in the position of others and try to understand. Because there are so many things in this world that are not fair, and just because you drew the long straw in life, does not mean you won’t be impacted by the sufferings of the short straw.

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How to be a foreigner

This week I had planned on writing a post titled, “How to be foreign and exotic,” in which I wanted to talk about what it’s like to find myself as the cool and interesting foreigner, a strange feeling when I always considered Canada to be Wonder Bread level of plain and boring. I was going to make witty comments about how people here ogle at my accent and bow in my maple syrup covered presence because I’m just très exotique.

That was, however, until today when I witnessed a Syrian woman cry in front of my French class as we applauded her for immigrating to France.

On Thursdays I attend a French class in my small city, which is offered for free by a church and designed for recent immigrants to France. I take this class to improve my French, but also as a way to get out of the house and do something with my absurd amount of free time. Moving by myself to a country that has different customs and a different language from what I’m familiar with has been difficult, but today I was reminded just how privileged my experience has been.

Normally our French class is divided into multiple groups so I don’t often interact with other students, but as today was our last class before the holidays, we had a Christmas party, at which some of the volunteers presented a map of where all of the students were from and recognized each country. As I watched this sweet Syrian lady pull tissues from her purse, I felt incredibly moved and incredibly guilty because my biggest struggle of the day was that the instant coffee at the party was not up to par with the Nespresso creation I drink in my 5-bedroom French home, which I moved to not because my country is at war, but because I really had nothing better to do.

France is fun and scary and crazy and challenging and beautiful. It’s difficult being away from my Canadian friends and family, especially at Christmas, but I need to remind myself that moving to France was my choice, and there are many immigrants who were never given a choice. As I watched each student stand up and be applauded for the country they came from, I reflected on just how stupid xenophobia is. People in France welcome me with open arms because I’m Canadian, which apparently means I’m cool and harmless. I just wish that all foreigners here were welcomed with such appreciation, because their need to be here is much greater than mine.