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What It Means To Be An Immigrant In The 21st Century

by Muhammad Hamza Shah about a year ago in opinion
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Comprehending The Good, The Bad & The Ugly!

Photo by Nicole Geri from Unsplash

Humans... There is no denying that we are complicated beings, scrambling to deal with the plethora of different issues plaguing our daily lives. Sadly, these troubles fail to unite us as we continue to find ourselves on the receiving end of deleterious behaviour from our biological peers. Immigration is just another example of how this contradictory phenomenon can manifest itself and my experience was no exception to this unwritten rule.

Over the course of this article, I will be using 3 separate themes to outline how the immigrant experience continues to haunt some of us.

1. Airport Blues

Photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash

For most people, travel entails relaxation and offers a chance to escape the monotony which encircles our day-to-day lives. Others associate the airport with blatant discrimination and an ideological anomaly. If you haven't guessed it yet, I agree with the latter. Personally, I can't recount the number of times I have been stopped at airports for a "random" check that somehow involves a thorough scan. On top of that, I seem to invite intrusive glances from airport officials every time I proceed to the security checkpoints. Even my passport garners their attention and gets an extra inspection for any signs of being a fake.

The agonizing moments before an entry/exit stamp finally makes it onto my passport always end up provoking a mixture of anger and sorrow in me. Like come on, is this really what I am supposed to be internalizing at 21 years of age? What's more, the airport machinery isn't built to accommodate people of colour and those large scanners don't take ethnic minorities with uncommon hairstyles (or even head coverings) into account.

2. Daily Encounters

Photo by José Martín Ramírez Carrasco on Unsplash

Of all the things, I believe streets are the hardest to navigate. Quite simply, people don't do a good job of hiding their hatred when they see a brown person. I seem to be threatening their livelihood and probably don't even have a right to be in their country. Being a medical student, it's further disheartening when patients adopt a different attitude towards me just because I don't "look" a certain way. There is also a presumption that I don't know English or that I won't be able to put together sentences. Out of respect, some pause for a little bit to let me talk but others quickly change their demeanour when they see me. There is always that threatening look being doled out, possibly to let me know they are the predominant race.

Being brutally honest, I have grown to accept that conversational racism is only prevalent amongst people, who don't realize the magnitude of their words. For example, hinting at the surprising nature of my upbringing or the relatively "lax" set of values I possess isn't supposed to be considered friendly banter. And don't even get me started on the "but where are you from originally" question because it defeats the whole purpose of generational integration.

3. Job Hunt

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Jobs are another place where prejudice has ingratiated itself in hiring practices. Don't get me wrong, I am not disregarding the progress we have made in ensuring diversity hiring and it's definitely a welcome sight after decades of indifference. Despite that, I feel there is no way to ensure whether employers are actually judging such applications or letting their implicit biases dictate their choices.

While corporations may have taken the first step towards diversifying their employees, there is no way to ascertain whether this translates over to the individual level. Obviously, discretion is an important factor in determining the right candidate but there are no checks in place to ensure whether impartiality is being exercised. And yes, you could easily label me as a sore loser but my peers agree that there is some degree of randomness associated with such job offers.


Lastly, I just want to emphasize that I do appreciate all the headway we have made in tackling racial discrimination. If anything, the #BLM protests have shown us how we are able to launch a successful campaign against partisanship and invoke a meaningful global movement in the process. Yet, one can't help but wonder why we need such movements in the first place, especially in the 21st century.


About the author

Muhammad Hamza Shah

Medical Student | Trying to discover my forte in writing while snoozing over lofty medical textbooks.

Instagram: @anatomical.medic

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