Said Multiple Times to an American Immigrant in the United Kingdom
When I first moved to Britain, mistakenly thinking I was invited, welcomed, and about to slot immediately into a lucrative position that carried respect, spoke to my skills, and was at least similar to anything I might have been doing in the USA, I didn’t expect the question in the title. At all. It felt somewhat invasive to ask this. It questioned my judgment. It said something dark about where I landed but also about where I’d come from. It made me feel uneasy and vaguely undesirable. I wasn’t used to such a feeling.
I’ve just recently read an article by Lazenya Weekes-Richemond on Medium. It was called — So You’re A Refugee? (https://medium.com/illumination/so-youre-a-refugee-9caceb23bedb) and it detailed the pain that assumption caused her. She moved from Montserrat to Britain when the volcano blew up. I can completely understand why she’d do that. She is a Caribbean-born British citizen. In reality, for her, it’s like moving from Baltimore to California. But not really. Maybe Alabama to Alaska. She certainly had the same right.
A lot of people said in the comments that she shouldn’t feel so negative about the question because being a refugee is not something to be ashamed of. After all, there are many, many people who have been displaced around the world. It’s one of the ways we get gene distribution and mixing for the betterment of the human race. Any DNA test will tell. But that’s not the point. Her feelings were the point and we all needed to learn once again that what comes out of our mouths is often barbed and wounding and we need to pause and consider before speaking — all of us, all the time.
I found myself relating to Lazenya’s pain but from an entirely different place.
The question I was subject to Why on earth are you here?!? carried with it all kinds of assumptions. First, why would anyone leave America for little, old, decrepit, and ‘untidy’ Britain? (actual words used).
The implication was Couldn’t you make it there? (said out loud at least a few times). That takes you aback.
Also, Why would you leave the United States when EVERYTHING is there, for here when there is so little to recommend this tiny island to someone like yourself? What?!?