Why are white people expats?

Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

Surely any person going to work outside their country is an expatriate? But no, the word exclusively applies to white people

 Expats or immigrants? Photograph: Matt Brandon

Expats or immigrants? Photograph: Matt Brandon

In the lexicon of human migration there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else. One of those remnants is the word “expat”.

What is an expat? And who is an expat? According to Wikipedia, “an expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’)”.

Defined that way, you should expect that any person going to work outside of his or her country for a period of time would be an expat, regardless of his skin colour or country. But that is not the case in reality; expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad.

Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they can’t be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’.

Don’t take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal, the leading financial information magazine in the world, has a blog dedicated to the life of expats and recently they featured a story ‘Who is an expat, anyway?’. Here are the main conclusions: “Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It’s strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they’ve been here for decades. Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese are rarely regarded as expats … It’s a double standard woven into official policy.”

The reality is the same in Africa and Europe. Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period. “I work for multinational organisations both in the private and public sectors. And being black or coloured doesn’t gain me the term “expat”. I’m a highly qualified immigrant, as they call me, to be politically correct,” says an African migrant worker.

Most white people deny that they enjoy the privileges of a racist system. And why not? But our responsibility is to point out and to deny them these privileges, directly related to an outdated supremacist ideology. 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. The political deconstruction of this outdated worldview must continue.

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is the editor of SiliconAfrica.com, where this blog was first published. Follow @siliconafrica on Twitter.

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow@GuardianGDP on Twitter.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration

3 Responses to Why are white people expats?

  1. tyronedemery says:

    My family an i purchase our house about 12 years ago in the city of LAKEWOOD California, from former mayor and sheriff’s Todd Rogers we have been harassed by code enforcement Seaca, Lakewood sheriff’s in Lakewood City Hall for the last 13 years the same problems the city brings to my attention they never stay are do anything to the white family in our area/city. Family my received $1000 fine in the mail today. Help us stop the racism at 2409 del amo vf Lakewood California

  2. Dennis Kenyon says:

    Deconstruction in literary criticism was Jacques Derrida’s idea from 1971. Words can take up connotations that have nothing to do with their original, denotative meaning. “Expatriate” and “immigrant” once depended on the speaker’s point of view. If I moved from the USA to Mexico, I would expect Mexicans to call me immigrante or llegado, “immigrant,” but other Americans to call me an “emigrant” or “expatriate,” and in both cases without hard feelings. The purpose for moving also didn’t figure in, whether for work or retirement, the same terms were used as long as the new residence was long-term.

    DeWolf’s editorial in WSJ is about how such descriptors are construed in Hong Kong, a subject I know nothing about. Hong Kong is unusual in being a recent British colony but now part of China. Preferences extended to citizens of Commonwealth countries might have something to do with that.

    In the USA, the semantic and usage wars in language go under the rubric of “political correctness,” or PC. This seems to have begun in the 1980s. It’s had mixed results with respect to concise communication: The term “police officer” is more inclusive than “policeman,” and more accurate as well. In other cases, use of PC has led to some loss of subtle distinctions English once could make. For instance, in the present example, it’s possible to determine where the speaker is from by whether “expat” is used. If this word is eliminated from the lexicon, then a sentence or relative clause must be added if one wants this information. The term PC itself has changed its meaning in connection with this, as it used to be generic for any style or wording considered politically acceptable for discourse. The current meaning is narrower, specific to inclusiveness with respect to gender and other ascribed statuses.

    There’s also the treadmill element of PC. When a new, neutral term is introduced, it can quickly acquire all the negative connotations of the term it replaced. This is happening with “African-American,” which is now coming to be viewed as offensive or patronizing in some quarters. The New York Times and Washington Post have picked the simplest solution: They no longer identify individuals by race unless it is essential to do so. It seems that could be done here. Why not just call the person a “worker” or, if citizen status information must be conveyed, a “worker from outside the country”?

    Curiously, the mountain pass through which the Mormon pioneers entered Utah was named “Emigration Canyon,” with the prefix e- and not -im. That is, they didn’t see themselves as immigrants to Utah, but as people who had left Illinois.

  3. Roland Groce says:

    Good question but only to be asked here in the US… As a black man having lived in Europe I understand. My experience in every other country, and especially as related to how to identify me outside of the US has always been as an Ex-Patriot AND I let the populations know, proudly as a black man that i completely agree with the label, I served in the military, I come from a black family who served in the military and we are all highly disappointed in how we’re treated and rec’d in these United States, opposed to how white men, even white men born in other countries are treated. I basically am a Ex-pat, living in my own country where because of the color of my skin, me and all black people are marginalized. And the country (white folks), can’t even talk about it without outing their whole European culture. No different from my older brother and his friends who became Ex-pats in Viet-nam after serving. How else better to serve a people (Vietnamese)despite how the American military treated black soldiers as well as the structural violence and racism inherited-ly in all American Institutions. Ex-Pats are probably the better of US in these Unites States that call ourselves any kind of “Patriot”. Last but not least – take one look at the majority of the Republican Legislators, Politicians and Leaders and answer this: if they can’t be patriot or ex-patriot, what kind of country are they truly representing, a united or divided U.S.?

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