books, Essays, Immigration, People of Color, Political Writing, Reading

“The Good Immigrant” Edited by Nikesh Shukla

“The Britain that accepted [my grandfather], the place I call home, is now experiencing a period of rejection. The last year has seen a depressing attack on many immigrant communities, as the aggressive rhetoric of adhering to ‘British values’ has catapulted itself into political and social policy. Cameron specifically targets Muslim women for their poor language skills, the tabloid media demonizes refugees on a daily basis, and the rhetoric encouraging us to prove our allegiance to the country’s best interests, makes the place I call home feel less safe for people who, largely, look like me.” – Kieran Yates, “On Going Home”

IMG_0368.JPGIn this staggering collection of voices, contributors from all over the world in various stages along the spectrum of migration share their impressions, outrages, and humanity  as outsiders in today’s UK. And though this compilation was curated in and focused on the UK, there is no doubt that this is an apt window into this global moment, where mass migration meets with not unique but certainly momentous rancor and division. Here, in a series of deeply personal essays, 21 black, Asian, and minority ethnic writers take a painful step to speak their truths and, perhaps, to open the eyes and hearts of those around them to the mind-numbing, soul-crushing press of contemporary xenophobia and bigotry. The essays vary in eloquence and profundity, as any collection might, but together they are a cogent, potent, and persuasive. Below are just a few sips of this thoughtful and thought-provoking collection.

“I have seen this sense of property in the eyes of men who step to their girlfriends, who walk into children’s bedrooms uninvited, in the policemen who slam a brown or black body against a wall for a half-smoked zoot – no, often less. It is there in the white men and women who do not understand, to the point of frustration, why we still walk with the noose of our ancestors around our necks, as we cannot comprehend how they do not carry the indignity of their ancestors tying it there.”  – Chimene Suleyman, “My Name is My Name”

“Respectability politics is the dogged belief that if black people just shape up, dress better and act right, racists would suddenly have a dramatic change of heart, and stop their racist ways. Respectability politics puts all of its faith in racist gatekeepers (telling us that we must change to appeal to their inherent, good-natured humanity), and puts none of its faith in black people living under the weight of poverty and discrimination, scrabbling, trying to make a life anyway they can. Poverty is narrow and limiting. People work within the confines of it. That they have to do that is not the problem. Poverty itself is the problem.” – Reni Eddo-Lodge, “Forming Blackness Through a Screen”

“America uses its stories to export a myth of itself, just like the UK. The reality of Britain is vibrant multi-culturalism, but the myth we export is an all-white world of Lords and Ladies. Conversely, American society is pretty segregated, but the myth they export is of a racial melting-pot solving crimes and fighting aliens side by side.” – Riz Ahmen, “Airports and Auditions”

“Your shade is not skin deep. Your shade is not just about your heart and soul; your religion and spirituality; your elders and your history; your connection to a country, to geography and to a time and place. Your shade is an industry, your shade is a token, shade is a passport, shade is a cage and shade is a status.” – Salena Godden, “Shade”

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