Apparently, "immigrant" is a synonym for "brown-skinned"

When I read this article, I thought it was interesting: "immigrants" is a term largely reserved for non-whites, while whites abroad are called "ex-pats". But it didn't really hit home until I wrote this post. In it, I described how, when I had arrived in London the very week that the events in the post took place, I went to a West Indian night club. Now, the main surge of West Indian immigration to Britain took place in the 1950s and early 60s, so it is likely that a good majority of the people in the club were born in England, and perhaps had never left it. (Plus, I was going into "their" night club.)

So you would think it would be pretty obvious that it was me, the person who had just arrived in the country that very week, who was the immigrant in my story, and that the people who had lived in that country their entire life were the native population. But a couple of my readers saw the crowd in the night club as the immigrants, and me as a... I don't know, ex-pat? Because, if there are immigrants in a story, well, it must be the people with the brown skin, right?! White people can't be immigrants!

15 comments:

  1. Gene, I'm one of the people you refer to from the previous thread. You're ability to think critically, which I hold in high esteem generally, seems to break down when the topic is connected to race.

    Very few Europeans that I have met regard assimilated 2nd, 3rd, and often even 4th generation immigrants to be natives. The sons and daugthers of American immigrants to Europe are usually still called "the Americans(s)". If only because most people instinctively view nationhood as a matter of heritage, customs,language and emotional grounding.

    Your story is confusing because you purport to give an *alternative* explanation for immigrant crime to the common explanation that some immigrant subgroups are inherently prone to greater criminality. If you read your story as illustrating the intersection of the immigrant experience (in the story this is your experience "immigrating" to this West Indian club) with their (your) higher crime rates, than it makes no sense as you committed no crime. In fact it was you (the immigrant) who was at risk of "digesting a bullet", as you put it, if you did not placate the West Indian. And not only that but there is no reason to believe that this has anything to do with the West Indian culture. If a European bully was getting angry you could probably placate him by buying him drinks or licking his boots. Yet that has nothing to do with European culture, per se.

    In the other reading, you are describing the experience of an Irishmen (by blood) being within an immigrant community and avoiding being victim to a crime by your quick-thinking appeasement. As I wrote in the other thread, this anecdote does not imply an alternative explanation to higher rates of immigrant crime. If anything, it would be an explanation of a higher rate of crime by natives to immigrants!

    Of course mass migration induces cultural/ethnic tensions that can explode - in part because of cultural misunderstandings. Obviously. But your story doesn't end up being about that at all, probably because in Western countries the tensions tend to be sublimated or repressed in European consciousness, at least partly because of vigorous social policing of anti-immigrant sentiment (and actual policing in places like Britain).

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    1. "You're ability to think critically, which I hold in high esteem generally, seems to break down when the topic is connected to race."

      Hmm... are you sure it's me having the break down here?

      "if you did not placate the West Indian..."

      Not understanding the culture, you choose to view the interaction as "placating." That wasn't it: I bumped him, and I made things right after.

      "As I wrote in the other thread, this anecdote does not imply an alternative explanation to higher rates of immigrant crime. If anything, it would be an explanation of a higher rate of crime by natives to immigrants! "

      John, I WASN'T EXPLAINING IMMIGRANT CRIME. I was asking could high immigration RAISE THE CRIME RATE THROUGH SOMETHING OTHER THAN A HIGH IMMIGRANT CRIME RATE. And yes, it could, if it caused "a higher rate of crime by natives to immigrants."

      So your "in fact Gene you don't show what you meant to" winds up saying that I showed EXACTLY what I meant to show!

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    2. Look John, the relationship is *merely* high immigration --> higher homicide rate *for some reason.* I.e, we do not know prima-facie who is killing who or even why, only that somehow, some way, this why eventually traces its way back to immigration. There are *many plausible reasons* besides higher criminality of immigrants than the native population (though of course, this is also a possibility).

      One of those *mechanisms* is cultural misunderstandings escalating to violent conflict *that wouldn't otherwise have happened* -- Gene's example. How about another, just for grins, to demonstrate the general idea?

      1) higher immigration pushes down wages
      2) native families experience falling incomes
      3) increased economic stress leads to domestic strife
      4) in a particular instance, native husband shoots native wife

      In the actual homicide event, no immigrants are even present. But how would this chain of events show up on graph of time vs. homicide rate? As a blip upwards in the homicide rate during a period of high immigration. The immigrants could be pious vegetarian pacifist boy scouts from the Vatican moving into Warlord-town, Somalia, and such an effect could still show up. It is independent of the nature of both groups, dependent merely on them being 1) different in some way and 2) in contact with one another.

      Merely saying that you could imagine such a thing as being plausible is not to say that it actually happens. But the point is this -- anyone with good sense should see that it is potentially playing with fire to open up borders willy-nilly, and you don't have to be a 'racist' to have excellent reasons to believe that. Immigration policy is not at all a simple question.

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    3. "But the point is this -- anyone with good sense should see that it is potentially playing with fire to open up borders willy-nilly..."

      And this is what really surprised me here: I made a post noting that, even if immigrants are no more criminally inclined than natives, the crime rate might go up anyway, thinking that thus it is obvious we might want to be cautious about things like open borders... and John took this as some sort of open borders argument.

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    4. Well, in their defense, this argument leans to the 1)intuitive, which most people aren't used to, 2) anti-rationalist, which most people really aren't used to, and 3) violates Enlightenment norms, and probably sounds to them something like 'Your Honor, I protest that my client is innocent and actually a really nice guy, however, he should probably stay in jail' or some such, even though that's not really the case being made.

      You've kind of got a triple-witching going on in this argument that people are having a hard time digesting. I notice that a lot of the arguments against you take the form of "but...but...that's diff-rent ." Or "that's not quite a logical parallel (on this particular point that doesn't actually matter)." People are trying to put the argument into forms they are more comfortable with (logical, sensing, emotional, but not intuitive).

      For my part, I can't make heads or tails of Nick Rowe's recent post, or Bob's response. I think I'm not logical enough. So, I'm not going to comment.

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    5. Nick's post: if the islanders are in a position where A wants to live on B's island, while B wants to live alone, then it "open borders" forces B to live with A, which is simply the other rule's result as well: B is forced to live with A! Furthermore, if they both want to live together, or both want to live alone, the two rules produce the same result as well.

      So, in this situation, paradoxically, a rule calling for "open borders" -- which seems very libertarian and free -- produces the exact same result as a rule forcing B to live on the same island as A, which seems very unlibertarian.

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    6. Ok. Thanks, I think I get it. So I guess whether one agrees with Bob's criticism turns on whether one thinks what country he lives in/who his neighbors are is analogous to what name he winds up with...or something...

      One more point (mostly for John, if he's still listening...)

      One of the big reasons I think this stuff is important (and especially conservatives ought to pay attention to it) is less to do with the immigration/race thing & more to do with how people argue & think. Conservatives tend to 'overdo it' and fall into this kind of trap of making abstract claims about how things work to support their policies, which wind up blowing up in their faces.

      Suppose we were listening to this in debate, conservatives have made their case that immigrants are disproportionately criminal, that explains the statistics, and Josiah shows up to helpfully inform us that El Paso is overwhelmingly immigrant and is the safest large city in the country. Well, guess that shows those meanie conservatives were wrong -- open borders it is!

      When somebody lays out a theory like that & the other side demonstrates he is conclusively wrong on something he has made into a central point --even in only one case -- he winds up crawfishing and getting steamrolled into bad policy, even though on the larger issue he was really right. When his policy stands or falls on his theory, and the theory falls, right or wrong it's all over. It is bad to obligate yourself in that way. This is to say nothing of attempting to persuade people on a point they are highly unlikely to accept.

      Recognizing when a situation is really complex and difficult to distill down into something simple can actually help you produce some really powerful arguments. It can also help you pick apart the arguments of others when they make the same mistake.

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  2. Or is an immigrant quasi permanent while an ex-pat is itinerant since they always have a desirable home to return to?

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    1. Exactly. I am an ex-pat. I have not given up my Canadian citizenship nor taken measures to become a citizen of the country where I am now. I plan to return to Canada. If that changes, if I become a citizen here *then* I will become an immigrant.

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    2. Come on, Ken: have you ever heard anyone refer to the multitude of Mexicans in the US who have not given up their Mexican citizenship as "ex-pats"?

      I didn't think so.

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    3. I believe I specified "I plan to return". Also that I have not got a green card. But one of my (white) profs who became Canadian described himself as an immigrant.

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    4. 'I believe I specified "I plan to return"'

      And? Many Mexicans plan to return to Mexico one day. They are still not called ex-pats. And white people in the Caribbean, say, are called ex-pats, whether or not they ever plan to return to wherever.

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    5. Wikipedia: "An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of their citizenship. "

      Nothing about "planning to return" as a necessary condition.

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    6. The vast number of British who leave their country upon retirement for better weather almost all do not plan to return, and yet I have *only* heard them referred to as ex-pats, *never* as immigrants.

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