When whites are ex­pats and the rest of us are im­mi­grants

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Opinion & Analysis - Mawuna Re­mar­que Kou­tonin Cor­re­spon­dent

SURELY any per­son go­ing to work out­side their coun­try is an ex­pa­tri­ate? But no, the word ex­clu­sively ap­plies to white peo­ple 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 world-view must con­tinue. ◆ Mawuna Re­mar­que Kou­tonin is the editor of Sil­i­conAfrica.com, where this blog was first pub­lished. Fol­low @sil­i­conafrica on Twit­ter. This ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in The Guardian.

Asians and Africans are im­mi­grants, Euro­peansa­re­ex­pats­be­causeth­ey­can’t be at the same level as other eth­nic­i­ties

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