The foreigners are at fault again

I’ve been a foreigner or immigrant in a few countries and, let me tell you, it’s not always easy. InImmigrationsign
Zambia, where I grew up, strangers would occasionally call me "mwenye," a term for Indians that’s not too endearing. In America, a few people, unhappy that I criticized the Iraq War and other U.S. policies, have sent me emails saying, "If you don’t like it here, then go back to where you came from." (I tried to go back to where I came from, but there just wasn’t enough space in my mother’s womb.) In Canada, I’ve yet to experience any xenophobia, aside from a rather unpleasant encounter with a border official, an older lady who talked to my wife and I as though we were dogs. I can’t tell you how much I felt like biting her.

The vast majority of people in Zambia and North America have treated me well, so it’s easy to overlook the slights. I really can’t complain, considering what other foreigners or immigrants have had to endure around the world. Just look at what’s happening in South Africa, where mobs are attacking Zimbabweans and other foreigners.

Many of those who have sought refuge in police stations, churches and
community halls are Zimbabweans, who have fled violence and poverty at

Up to three million Zimbabweans are thought to be in South Africa.

The BBC’s Caroline Hawley in Johannesburg says the
immigrants have become a scapegoat for social problems, such as
unemployment, crime and a lack of housing. [Link]

In almost every country, there’s a segment of the population that isn’t doing well, a segment that’s struggling to make ends meet. It’s easy for these people (and others) to blame foreigners for their problems. Who else are they going to blame — the government?

Native American (sipping a Budweiser): "If it wasn’t for white people, I’d have a job!"

White American (sipping a Corona): "Well, if it wasn’t for Mexicans, I’d have a job!"

Mexican-American (sipping a Red Stripe): "Well, if it wasn’t for Jamaicans, I’d have a job!"

Jamaican-American: "Excuse me, guys. It’s closing time. Time to go home now."

Mexican-American: "Go home? I’m tired of people telling me to go home. This is my home."

White American: "No, you’re wrong. This is my home. I’ve lived here longer than you."

Native American: "No, both of you are wrong. This is my home. My ancestors were here before anyone decided to build a bar here."

Even if you were born in a particular country, you might still be considered a foreigner, especially if you don’t look like the majority, as Hanif Adams realized recently when he tried unsuccessfully to become president of the Football Association of Zambia. A number of commenters on one Zambian blog thought of him as "just a mwenye." Others, thankfully, saw no merit in focusing on his race.

Look at the developed nations and see why they are so successful.
America, Canada, the UK thrives on the expertise of immigrants. They
embrace people from all walks of life and races in their development.
You are going to write off someone with a proven administrative record
just because he is of Indian race? [Link]

Embrace people from all walks of life and races? What a foreign concept.

Photo by Robotson

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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