Do you know what box you get to check on your tax return if you’re not a citizen of the US?
(Non-) Resident Alien
I understand the classification. Either you are a resident (i.e. a green card holder) or a non-resident (i.e. student visa, work permit etc.). The alien part is even simpler—it means you don’t belong.
A recent class discussion of mine went something like this:
Professor: Why do we feel the need to categorize people who come to the US as immigrants?
Colleague: Do we really call everybody immigrants though? I was always under the impression that some people are called expatriates. Like, British people who live overseas call themselves expatriates, but when we talk about Hispanics or Asians coming to America, we call them immigrants. Alec, what do you call yourself?
Me: Ummm, I’ve always thought of myself as an expatriate of the UK.
Colleague: But isn’t the difference just your skin color? What I’m saying is, if you weren’t white, we would call you an immigrant. Doesn’t having white skin and calling yourself an expatriate put you in some privileged group that believes its fundamentally superior to black people, or Hispanics, or Asians that are migrating from their home countries?
I want to make one thing clear, though. I have never considered myself more important or superior to other migrating groups because of my skin color. Nor did my colleague intend this as an insult (tone of voice is difficult to portray here). It was simply a line of scholarly inquiry, and it was one that I appreciated a great deal because I had never paused to think too much about my perceived status in the US.
I have white skin. I speak English fluently. And for the most part, these days, I speak it with a pretty decent American accent. When I meet people I’ve never met before, they don’t see me as foreign. That’s the privilege of my white skin.
But the US government puts me in the same classification as everybody else: immigrant. And this is rightly so. I recently went to have my biometrics done at the US Citzenship and Immigration service center, and I was the one white kid among a sea of Hispanic and Asians individuals. For that small moment, I realized that despite my privileged assimilation among the American people, I am still so very different, and often feel so very foreign in a strange world I am working hard to understand. And here are a handful of reasons why.
Before you read this list, remember that I love your country dearly. Please enjoy.
1. It’s a toilet, not a bathroom.
2. Potato, pot-ah-to.
3. That damned-awful gap.
4. Pickle people.
5. 50oz soda.
6. The pet elephant portion sizes.
7. The insincere hello.
8. Hugs and kisses, without the hugs.
9. Addicted America.
10. You’re friendly, but sometimes too friendly.
11. Yes, this is for real.
12. Time to tan.
13. 12th February 2015.
14. No, it’s not socialism.
15. The patriotism.
I love my country. You’re allowed to love yours as well. But nobody can’t realistically believe it’s the best at everything (i.e. 7th in literacy). But you are first in the number of incarcerated adults. Like I said, I love this country, it is an incredible place to live. But other places have freedom too.
Let’s have a more positive attitude on immigration, whether they’re black, brown or white. They’re leaving their homeland, and even if it’s a white western country, we are more different than you might think.