Facing and dealing with discrimination as an immigrant

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Are you planning to travel and live abroad? Then thinking about the possibility of feeling and actually being discriminated against should be a top priority. The first experiences in the new country may vary from person to the other. It moving and arriving in the host country is always full of mixed emotions.

It really pays to know that you may be discriminated against so as to start being psychologically prepared on how best to handle such situations without completely losing it.

Actually, some countries in the world are no go zones for foreigners because they are well known to permit immigrant discimination….although some daredevil immigrants still bet on chances to move there. I guess you are not the daredevil type of person who carelessly takes chances.

I tell you,  the sting of discrimination in a foreign country may be worse than lacking basic necessities.

The feeling of being discriminated as an immigrant is even worse in situations where you naively immigrate without first knowing the ways discrimination happens at the destination only to end up with psychological distress, depression or a struggle to belong.

Meaning of Discrimination against immigrants

When someone says that they have been in one way or the other discriminated, what quickly comes to mind is racism, segregation et cetera. While those too are aggravated forms of discrimination, what most immigrants face could be its concealed forms.

Yes, discrimination against immigrants can take the form of being blocked from entering a night club despite having paid a ticket because people like you are not allowed in there. You can’t quite imagine the rage, anger, distraught feeling that comes in such situations.

There are stories out there where children of immigrants have been profiled. Their friends are allowed to enter some night clubs yet they are turned back . The people who man such public spaces sometimes give reasons that are less convincing just to cover up for outright discrimination.

There is no annoying and freaking statement to hear as, “you are not allowed in here.”

On the other less aggressive angle, discrimination may be where classmates of a particular social grouping just reject including you into a group discussion. Even when you express an interest and they accept you, they may keep ignoring your contributions.

It may be possible to dismiss such malicious treatments only to realized later that the people were silently telling you, “get the fuck out of here”, “you don’t belong.” I am not talking about racial discrimination alone because even among people of the same race, other forms of discrimination still happen.

Likely  forms of discrimination against immigrants

As an immigrant, there are many ways you will actually be discriminated or feel discriminated. How people discern and realize that whatever they are undergoing is actually discrimination varies depending on how sensitive or aware they are.

Today, aggressive discrimination is not practiced in most countries but there are still very germane aspects that have persisted over time. In the history, someone would spit on another’s face or blatantly tell them off that they are unwanted in some spaces. Today, the case is a little different.

The forms of discrimination that a foreigner may experience depends on which spaces they are and what they do.

For student immigrants, colleagues may be slow to include them into their teams, continuously bash their pronunciation, consistently tell off their contributions as inferior, avoid listening to them or just openly shut them down.

In some cases, certain comments that demean the status of a parson based on where they come from also happens. For instance, just because someone wears an hijab, keep long beards and look like a Muslim, they are quickly associating them with terrorism. 

Often, people who practice discrimination in any of its sheds will make sweeping and general statements like “Muslims are terrorists”, “Africans are fools”, “whites are racists.”….you will realize that these sentiments absurdly groups people and apply that classification to everyone.

In public spaces such as supermarkets, clubs and restaurants, some people may prefer sitting far away from you. Again, they may make facial expressions on their faces that tells how much disdain, disrespect they have for you yet they are seeing you for the first time.

Who practices discrimination against immigrants?

Anyone thinking of moving to a new country should know that there may not be any one group of people who practice discrimination. It may be men, women, elderly, children, normal citizens, state authorities et cetera.

It may take you time to realize that you were dealing with a case of discrimination. These days, people who are hell bent on continuing with discrimination of immigrants hide it in such a way that they may appear as being nice but not very much so.

In most cases less travelled, elderly, lowly educated or sociopaths are the ones who practice and sympathise with discrimination against immigrants. As anyone will agree, the world has changed and people have become more informed of the truths about virtually every country in the world.

The young, highly educated and widely travelled people have had the opportunity to interact with people from every corner of the world or visited the places. This has made them more aware about and overcome stereotypes that in most cases support discrimination.

So at any one time, be watchful and vigilant of the categories of people who are likely to openly or covertly discriminate you. When you are more aware, it is easier to deal with the experience without necessarily being overwhelmed.

Standing up to discrimination

Whether white, black, Muslim, Christian, tall, black, red or whichever form you are,  being discriminated against can come knocking at the most unexpected time and unlikely ways.

You may not imagine the reality of being discriminated as an immigrant by the host community  until it happens to you.

Before you travel to any destination, take your time to know what forms of discrimination you may have to face on arrival and thereafter. Some people try to ignore the need to be aware of immigrant discrimination until they get to the destination and sink into depression. So, be proactive and ahead of the curve.

How one can react to discrimination depends on the form of discrimination:  whether aggressive or subtle. In the case of open and embarrassing situation, you cannot hold back but protect yourself too.

You don’t necessarily have to be violent but direct and vigilant. If the situation needs to be escalated to the responsible state authorities, take evidence i.e. camera footage, audio recording and pictures (mostly in aggressive discrimination or assault).

Am I being discriminated or something else?

As an immigrant, you will soon realize that some discrimination are not necessarily because you have a bad character. Some of the people you interact with are simply ignorant or interacted with people who look like or come from the same place at you.

Narrow-minded people will tend to assume that you are like the people they have interacted with before. At the back of the mind, there is an instinctive categorization of people like you. Their mind is already blocked and do not give chance to the possibility that you are unique.  

Check out and weigh what really motivates the discrimination and react appropriately if necessary. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to argue with the people who discriminate but in some cases, just take your time to educate them instead. When you educate them and display unique character, they soon realize that they were wrong anyways.

Ways of handling immigrant discrimination

To avoid falling into the trap of depression and victimhood, try to do all or some of the following. Your stay in the foreign country may end up being magically interesting even if the people discriminate you.

  • Be authentic and do not force yourself to belong, soon, they will realize the value of your individuality and start to appreciate diversity.
  • Learn to ignore some aspects of discrimination because some people have been socialized to have a certain belief about people like you.
  • If given a chance, to not engage in vendetta but instead, display the unique personality that makes them feel ignorant, stupid and foolish all in the same go.
  • Do not ne unnecessarily sentimental and picky. Some people just complain about discrimination which may but turn out to be just a figment of their imagination.
  • Be less judgmental and more expressive
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