I realized long ago (but quite early when moving here to the US) that I had become one of “those people.” I was given my label and not just by some people, but everyone seemed to have a label for me that was supposed to identify me. I work with people from all over the world, and not just because the US is full of immigrants, but actual international clients that are based all over the globe. Recently I’ve been working a lot with Latin America and the funny thing is that even though I am Colombian by birth and very proud of it, I still got a label… I am now the “Colombian Gringo.”
The labels don’t bother me, while I know that everything that people say and think about you does affect you to a certain degree that is not the issue. Some labels are about inclusion, most of them are about belonging. Immigrants here in the US is immediately attached to Mexican people crossing the border, by association (skin tone I guess) I am a Mexican as well. I have felt the discrimination and exclusion. Infiltrators is what some Israelis call African immigrants, same issue, same label… again skin color?
The hard part starts when people think you are not like the others. Like when people hear me speak English in a professional setting and they don’t notice my accent… then they start with the, well you are not like those people that don’t learn English… inside my head I am thinking, like my parents that speak broken English because they came here as adults and have done nothing but work hard in this country? or like my Grandma that had no interest in learning more than just the basics because there was no point to learn any more than that.
Even when the color of the skin does not give me away, I am not black… that does not mean that one of my closest friends that feels like a brother to me isn’t. Or the fact that I am not Mexican, yet my niece and nephew share half of that heritage in their blood. I am not trying to make you walk on eggshells around me either, I am just challenging you to think about your perception about what “those people” are.
Poverty is something that has had an effect on my better half growing up. While color might not be something she has dealt with as much as I have she has dealt with the poor thing before. Poor people are also looked down upon by others, “those people” that can’t afford this or that. Unless you have lived it in some way it is hard to relate to it, I understand. Just try to think about it before you generalize a group of people that you know nothing about. Try to find common ground and understand them rather than slap a label on them and call it a day.