By Matthew Reiad
Adventures of a non-traditional Person of Color
According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of immigrants in Massachusetts either lean Democrat or identify as Democrat. (1) In recent decades, the Democratic Party and progressives have pushed to align their goals and policies to be closer in line with the interests of People of Color and immigrants. As a person of color and a child of immigrants myself, I have constantly criticized those efforts as pathetic pandering and attempts to gain more votes. I have constantly been critical of white liberals and their loud voice in public policy and I hope to shed light to exactly why I view their white guilt as problematic.
The “Caucasian Overcompensation” is a term that I have created to define the deep, rotten, and self-righteous “white guilt” projected by some white liberals when discussing race relations in the United States. I can’t help but be sickened of the self-serving white guilt as seen in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent race riots in the United States. People of color can be Democrat, Republican or Libertarian and modern race movements have tried to convince me and my fellow people of color that we must be progressive, this is simple, unacceptable.
In the current climate of American politics, race relations come at the forefront of many socio-economic issues. Although I myself do not subscribe to the notion that identity politics can help to understand socio-economic issues, race relations cannot be ignored when discussing the state of American politics. Since the United States is composed of majority-white ethnic groups, the general “white” response to political events, whether conservative or liberal, can define the outcome of a nationwide election.
First, “people of color” are not helpless creatures who need your everlasting allyship. As a “person of color” myself, I have experienced many white people assuming things about my identity that are simply untrue. In an attempt to be “woke,” white people say, “I’m so sorry” when they hear I’m ethnically from the Middle East. Their attempt at sympathy is a clear form of racism when they claim to be allies. The Middle East is often portrayed as a war-torn place and in their attempts to be sympathetic to my family back in the Middle East they portray sympathy which may or may not be warranted. There are many people in war-torn nations such as Syria and Iraq that leave mostly peaceful lives, going to school, the store, and hanging out with their friends. In their attempt to be woke, they actually sound racist. People of color do not need your Instagram posts or you sharing all those useless petitions that do nothing to support the causes.
Secondly, the “white savior complex” is alive and well, and any attempt to cover its existence is unacceptable. Certainly, many people may post on Instagram to support Black Lives Matter or to call for “Justice for Breanna Taylor,” however, there are many who do so just for social acceptance. Using Black Lives Matter, or any other political group, for your self-righteous motives is simply unethical and should be publicly discouraged.
The United States is a diverse nation with people from all ethnicities, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds. If you are posting it to increase publicity of the issue and thereby cure it, then, do continue. However, if you post publicly for your own self-gain, and to look good in front of others, reconsider your intentions. It is only through self-reflection that we as humans are able to improve our actions and improve our intentions. Throughout this self-reflection, I encourage people to actually speak with a person of color and ask for their thoughts. Refrain from sticking yourself in an endless echo chamber of white guilt.
As the child of immigrants, I have strongly encouraged my fellow immigrant children or immigrants themselves to assimilate. Liberals have often scoffed at my encouraging words accusing me of telling immigrants to dilute their own cultures. I encourage immigrants to assimilate for their own good, to allow them to find jobs and establish their family in a foreign land. Assimilation isn’t easy, but immigrants who assimilate find it easier to connect with their new nation and thereby allowing them to prosper in a new land.
One of the most beautiful things about the United States is its welcoming nature to immigrants and refugees. The United States is home to more immigrants than anywhere else in the world with over forty million immigrants calling the United States home. (1) Although many claim the United States is a hostile nation for immigrants, immigrants in the United States lead fulfilling and successful lives across the fifty states. Although individuals may suffer instances of xenophobia and the United States immigration process is long, tedious, and heavily bureaucratic, once immigrants arrive in the United States, they find themselves citizens of the world’s greatest ever Democratic-Republic. As immigrants enter the United States, they must ask themselves one crucial question, “to what level should I assimilate?” The question, to what degree should immigrants assimilate, is one that plagues immigrants from western nations, as well as non-western nations. While I disagree with state-enforced assimilation, I do argue that it is in the best interest of migrants to assimilate when they come to the United States.
Immigration is a difficult process. Although I have not experienced it myself, both my parents are immigrants from the Middle East. The immigration process is long, stressful, and requires a great deal of luck. When immigrants come into the United States, they are welcomed into a culture like none other. Although in the beginning it mainly catered to European migrants, the United States today is an immigrant-based society. Regardless of your country of origin, once individuals become United States citizens, they are afforded the exact same rights as a natural-born US citizen. United States citizens enjoy an extremely high standard of living, great public goods, and an abundance of individual freedoms, both social and economic. However, in order to enjoy the freedoms that the United States has to offer, immigrants should assimilate into the nation. When I am discussing assimilation, I am merely discussing a moderate shift in societal expectations and standards that immigrants should adopt in order to better integrate with the society they left their homes to be a part of. If you leave your home country for a better land, you are explicitly suggesting the United States presents itself as a better alternative. When assimilating, I suggest immigrants abide by several key standards.
First, immigrants should know basic conversational English. Although the United States does not have an official language, English is widely regarded as the official language of the United States. In order to be successful in the United States and become financially and economically stable, immigrants should read, speak, and understand basic American English. While some people would suggest that I am coming from a position of privilege given that I was born in the United States, I would still stress that conversational English is extremely important for immigrants to learn.
Immigrants should familiarize themselves with American traditions, norms, and customs. Some American customs immigrants should be familiar with include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July. Along with basic American history, immigrants to the United States should also research and be aware of notable political social leaders, both present and past. Notable political leaders would include the sitting president, Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington just to name a few. By understanding key political figures in the United States, immigrants can better understand the history of the United States and how its key figures influenced current economic and social policies.
Lastly, Americans should understand the United States’ stance on international issues. While they do not have to agree with the stances, immigrants should understand key issues that the United States involves itself in. This can include United Nations treaties, international sanctions, as well as international conflicts that involve the United States.
As someone who spends a majority of his time with immigrants and children of immigrants, I have seen firsthand the importance of assimilation and integration with American culture. Immigrants who assimilate become more accustomed to American culture and are more likely to find economic success by doing so. Immigrants should and must hold on to their own personal cultures, but assimilation can also be done simultaneously. Immigrants lead difficult lives, and while assimilation, in the short term, is difficult, it proves to pay dividends in the long run. Immigrants who assimilate are able to make long-lasting social connections in the United States, thereby increasing their opportunities to find better jobs and acquire a strong social support system; they not only help themselves but improve the overall strength and unity of the American people.
Stop using the term “people of color”
UMass Boston and its professors stick to a very distinct set of politically correct terminology, both in and out of the classroom. Although I am generally skeptical of political correctness and its ramifications regarding the regulation of free speech, I almost always stick to the politically correct terms surrounding gender and race. If someone requests that I call them a certain pronoun, I always try to remember that pronoun in order to ensure that person is comfortable when I am conversing with them. I do this because I am a civil person in a civil society, and I do my best to respect people’s personal choices, as long as those personal choices do not influence me or anyone else.
Apart from politically correct terminology surrounding gender, POC (people of color) culture arises in another place: race. When I am describing myself, I always like to specify my race. As Coptic Evangelical Egyptian and Palestinian American, my race is intertwined with my identity as a Christian from the Middle East. However, oftentimes my peers, white or black, use the term, “person of color” to describe anyone not white. As a person who is not white, I have adopted this term to describe myself to be in line with modern, politically correct terminology. Upon further investigation of this term, I am less inclined to use the term to describe my non-white peers, given the historical connotation of the term. Furthermore, I find the use of the term to describe anyone who is not white fundamentally and academically lazy.
I hear the following statements thrown around a lot, “We need more people of color in government,” or “Women of color are especially marginalized.” While these statements might be well-intentioned, they fundamentally ignore the nuances between races. Is someone who appears White from the Middle East or Latin America considered a person of color? Are there any fundamental racial or ethnic differences between an African-American person whose family has been in the United States for seven generations and an African immigrant, even though they may physically appear the same? These are important questions that question the nature of a term such as “person of color.”
During Jim Crow, the term “colored people” was used on bathrooms, tables, and water fountains to segregate Black and White people. All of sudden, in the 21st century, the term is used commonly to describe non-white. Personally, while I am not offended by the term, I do find the widespread and lazy usage of the word problematic for the advancement of non-white people. While in colloquial conversation, this umbrella term is very acceptable, but the usage of this term in academic circles presents issues.
The nuances of race in the United States must not be overlooked. In no other nation can people of all different races come together and be called one people: American. Our different racial backgrounds are key to identity and must not be overlooked or oversimplified. I would encourage my white and non-white peers to analyze the differences in race and not use oversimplified language to describe race. Race itself is one of the most complex and historically significant aspects of human history.
In Asia, Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have had a long and brutal war-filled relationship. Within Africa are hundreds of different racial and language groups. In Europe exist different types of Europeans. Prior to the formation of the European Union, these countries were often at war. In Latin America, differences in color have formed variations in culture and language. In the Middle East, the introduction of Islam has formed lots of different types of races, each linked specifically to a religion. In the subcontinent of India, differences in religion created modern-day Pakistan and modern-day India, respectively. Race is incredibly complex, and boiling down thousands of ethnicities to a two-letter phrase is lazy, irresponsible and careless.
Giving a voice to UMB's immigrant conservatives
College campuses all over the United States portray conservatives as close-minded, bigoted, racist white people. From getting approved College Republican flyers torn off the wall, to hostility toward anyone center-right, UMass Boston is an extremely hostile environment for those who identify as conservative or center-right. And yet the reality is that plenty of minorities and children of immigrants identify as conservative.
David is a Latino-American whose parents immigrated from Brazil. David is frustrated with the negative perception of America by the progressive political movement. David writes, “There is no other country that gives opportunities to grow and prosper. The United States was made by and for immigrants, and it's whether or not you take the opportunities that are out there, or watch them walk right past you that truly determines your success.” Any nation that encourages immigrants, and is so enticing that it forces people to leave their homes, families and livelihoods, is one that must be respected and understood to be a welcoming place for them. Whether immigrating from Europe, the Caribbean, South America, or Africa, the United States is a welcoming place to immigrants who respect our great nation, the Declaration of Independence, and the United States Constitution.
Sahmeer is the son of Haitian immigrants, and has a very positive outlook on the opportunities afforded to minorities and immigrants by the United States. “The freedoms this country allows, despite social class, religious beliefs, or outward expression is phenomenal.” As a Haitian person of color, Sahmeer often expresses positive sentiments towards the United States. Regardless of skin color, the United States offers the same opportunities to anyone and everyone.
Conservatives such as myself often face harsh criticism from white, elitist liberals, who call us derogatory names. Personally, I have been called a “race-traitor,” an “Uncle Tom,” and a “house n*egro,” for having right-wing political leanings, while also maintaining many socially liberal political leanings. Oftentimes, I use my identity as a person of color and a child of immigrants to counter argue against those who call me “xenophobic” and “racist,” and with some effectiveness. Yes, some Republicans are racist, some are uneducated, but let me state plainly that President Donald Trump does not represent the majority of Republicans—more specifically the new wave of young, progressive Republicans. While I do not devote myself to one specific party, I do ground my political activities to certain principles. These principles include conservative Christian tendencies, coupled with strong, fiscally conservative economic policy—they lead me to view the Republican Party more favorably than the Democratic Party.
I would like to call upon my fellow liberal classmates, peers, and professors to engage with conservatives on a personal level rather than brandishing us all as racists, MAGA-wearing, xenophobic individuals. As is the case with any political camp, there are stark differences between people within any given political party. Given that the United States has only two prevalent political parties, tasked with representing over three hundred million people, there will inevitably be differences between individuals.
Just as the progressive wing of the Democratic Party distances itself from the establishment, so does the libertarian, socially-liberal, and fiscally-conservative wing of the Republican Party distance itself from the traditional establishment of the Republican Party. United States Representative and proud progressive, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) once said, “We don’t have a left party in the United States. The Democratic Party is not a left party. The Democratic Party is a center or center-conservative party.” (1) People of color, come from all walks of life and deserve to have a voice regardless of their political party.