On Random Acts Of Xenophobia

On random xenophobia.

This is hard to write and this post is hidden from a lot of people I consider my friends. In the same time, I feel like it is important for what I am about to articulate to be articulated, brought into light, by which I hope its power (from functioning in the recesses of the subconscious) can be diminished — not merely for my own sake but for the sake of everyone who occupies closely or remotely similar interstices of being as me.

I was at a friend’s house recently — I love her dearly and I think she is great. We had an unusually candid conversation — of a kind we had never really had. We talked about “otherness” in this society and different valences of otherness and how those who signify otherness in one way or another are often assigned a lesser value than what is considered “normal.” And in that rare moment of sincerity, when it felt like we were allowing each other into emotional/thought landscapes in each other that had been kept inaccessible in the past she said: “You know what I thought of you the first time I met you? I though… ‘Well, she made it into the U.S. At least her life will be better.'”

I regarded what she told me with relief and apprehension. Relief — because I felt like something, the presence of which I had vaguely suspected had finally been allowed into the surface where it finally could be challenged. It was no longer a lurking shadow of whose presence I wasn’t entirely sure. And apprehension because… I couldn’t tell her: “I appreciate that this is not the defining feature of how you relate to me now… But you are my friend and I love you and I just don’t know how to tell you without hurting you that what you just expressed is xenophobia.” And it is. It is because the core of that statement is the belief that where I come from (and not only I — a lot of other people; and then other people from other geographies) is inherently bad or worse than what it is here. And once you believe that, it is hard to keep that belief from spilling into how you value the lives of those people who are in certain ways “other” from you.

Why am I writing this here on Facebook? 1) Because I feel like once what my friend said was out in the open, in the space of that room, it is my responsibility to make something out of it. I think that something important was said about “being” in this country in the 21st century. 2) Because this attitude is autopilot and if you detect it in yourself, I ask you to bring it to the light and examine it and push that thought to the end — with all of its implications for what it means for how the lives of “others” are valued.

This will be part of a longer blog post where this will be connected to the wider discourse on privilege (because this is, ultimately, about a type of privilege and what it means to have it and what it means to not have it). But it was important to articulate this bit here and now.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: