Immigration in the United States is strongly tied in with capitalism and the policy decisions of the U.S. government. It is also strongly linked to racism and class divisions. Immigration may look different on different people on the surface, but there are some deeper similarities.

Immigrants are often treated as invisible or as an afterthought, even though we perform important work in our new countries. Often our differences are not seen, or we are seen as so different that we are regarded as perpetual foreigners or exotic “others.” People may assume that all immigrants of a particular nationality are alike and not see the diversity within our group. We are heavily pressured to assimilate and give up our cultures.

Immigrants of the global majority are also targeted for our perceived racial differences. We may notice that something is wrong, but because of how we have internalized racism we often assume that native-born white people must know better; we second-guess our thinking and can barely talk about racism. Our survival patterns and the pressures of assimilation can lead us to avoid confrontation and not make waves. Sometimes, because of the oppression, we have a hard time seeing where white people and other locals can be our allies.

We all need to prioritize discharging on the racism targeting African-heritage people, but we also need to discharge on the oppressive messages about groups from different national backgrounds.

Allies to immigrants can discharge on their internalized stereotypes of the various nationalities. They can also discharge on their own families’ histories of migration and assimilation and any feelings of being superior for being from a dominant national background.

Immigrants can discharge on what we have had to give up to fit in and survive. We can discharge feelings of not knowing the rules of the game, feelings of always having to translate ourselves, feelings of always being an outsider and of isolation, loss, and nostalgia for our home countries. We can discharge on where we have a hard time standing up, for fear of being attacked, and on messages that we better be grateful for simply having been allowed into our new countries (a way of silencing us and keeping racial divisions in place).

Immigrants have big pictures of the world—not because we are better but because we have lived in very different worlds. We can reclaim the many strengths of the cultures we have been a part of. We can also work on realizing that we are completely good, that there is nothing wrong with us, and rejoice in the unique strengths and other qualities that all humans bring to our worlds.

Below are listed some useful articles on this topic.

“Ending Racism Toward Asians,” by Cheng Imm Tan, Present Time No. 172 (July 2013), pages 58 to 60

“Immigrants,” by Katy Butler, Present Time No. 42 (January 1981), page 65

“Immigrant and Proud,” by Ellen Koch, Present Time No. 38 (January 1980), page 62

Note: These articles are all on the RC website , along with others on immigrants, and can be found by searching for the titles.

Bikku Kuruvila

Berkeley, California, USA

(Present Time 182, January 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00