- Don’t be an immigrant. Stay put. Avoid leaving a place that doesn’t get you. Find a way to love patriarchy, classism, social injustice, or whatever is making you feel like you have to leave. If it is poverty, wait for the next cycle of elections. When politicians visit, see if you can convince them to listen. This time. If it is your high-school philosophy teacher telling you that women don’t study philosophy, try to see his perspective. Consider another major. It doesn’t matter really. If you stay, you probably won’t have a career anyway. If you don’t want to be insulted by comments about immigrants, stay put. Don’t move. Don’t dream of other ways of being in the world. You can’t imagine better scenarios for yourself without running the risk of becoming an immigrant.
- Convince yourself anti-immigrant speech is not about you. If you came to this country legally, consider yourself the luckiest person. Not only are you safe from deportation, but you can pretend that when people are talking about immigrants, they are not talking about you.
- Pretend you don’t understand. They think you don’t understand anything anyway. People hear your accent and think there is no way you are getting what they say. There is no way an accent can be accompanied by sophisticated thoughts. If you have a European accent, this suggestion may not work for you. But if your accent shows you are from anywhere south of the U.S., when people hear the accent, they will assume you don’t understand. Use that.
- If you are concerned about other immigrants, and they won’t agree with number 1, and number 2 does not apply to them, try to guide them to use number 3.
They will understand.
- Offer new perspectives to people with anti-immigrant views. This one takes time and effort, and it is not fair it is being asked of you, but it is a solution. Painful comments don’t always come from mean people. For example, a friendly person with honest intentions of understanding your culture may ask you if there are paved roads in your home country. Never mind that Latin America is home to some of the biggest cities in the world. If the friendly person is friendly enough, maybe show them a picture or two of your hometown. Show them the beautiful architecture and the highways. Explain that you did not leave because there were no paved roads.
- Consider that they may be right to question your presence in their country. This one is painful. People with anti-immigrant sentiments may feel like we crashed their party. Never mind that the party has taken over the whole block and their guests come in and out of your house whenever they want to drink your aguas frescas or eat your tacos. Their presence in your house was not an invitation to the party. Sit by the window like a maiden in a fairy tale and listen to the sound of the party from the distance. You may have to come to terms with number 1.
- Remember what you came here to do. You may have forgotten because you are spending too much time defending your right to stay. Remember the limitation on your happiness from before. See the opportunities you have here, the ones you came for. Focus on that and the noise of mean words will soften. Stop spending time justifying, explaining. You know you are not harmful, that’s enough. When you reach your goals, the benefits of your presence will be obvious. Being hopeful is at the core of being an immigrant. Remember your purpose.
- Remember Seneca’s teachings. Pause to consider if you respect the source of the insult. If the insulter in question holds values and ethical postures opposite to yours, rather than feeling hurt, you should feel relieved. If someone with questionable ethics disapproves of what you are doing, then you are probably doing the right thing. An appropriate response to an insult from a contemptible person would be, “Hey, thanks for letting me know you feel that way about me.” If you do this, you will be walking away from that moment with a smile on your face. Your principles were praised in a reverse kind of way.
- Question your tendency to allow others to define you and yours. Are the people insulting you the same who drink your aguas frescas, eat your tacos, and then don’t invite you into their houses? Are they the same ones with questionable ethics? If so, surely they can’t be trusted with defining who you are.
- Remember the good qualities from the place you came from. Allow those details to travel with you. Feel the music from the distance. Voices at family reunions. Let the high air of the mountains reach you. The cracked sidewalks that defy time and welcome rain. The loyalty of your friends– your son calls them aunts and uncles, even though you are not related. You may not have been invited to this party, but the party is more fun because you are here to do your thing.
Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash.