Monday, February 23, 2009

Slightly Better "Other"

Mojad@s Anonim@s
''Leticia Bravo''

When I was growing up here, in the United States, I was always labeled as an "other". Correction: I was labeled as a slightly better "other." I never quite understood why I received that label, though. Why have I not been an "other" but a "slightly better other"?

More importantly why is it that we keep accepting some "others" and keep rejecting a specific type of "other". Is there really such a thing as a better type of immigrant? Unfortunately, in the United States, there is a more desirable immigrant.

The term "other" has always made me cringe, yet I have always known that I was an "other." I might’ve come to terms with it, or the "slightly better" label might’ve overshadowed the "other" label. "Slightly better" might’ve been an alleviation to my "otherness". I really do not know. I just knew I was not the same.

People knew that I was undocumented, yet I did not receive the same treatment as other immigrants. I have not received the same treatment and I will not. But why is this so? We are all immigrants, right?

Yes, there are certain things that I will not have to face. Yes, there are certain discriminations that I will not have to go through. Yes, I can go under the radar. But the fact that I can go under the radar in no way justifies the faulty immigration system; it has been an advantage for me. Just like with anything that looks at privilege, I have to acknowledge that I had many advantages growing up.

I came to the U.S. at a young age, which facilitated my understanding of the English language. I have always wondered what my life might’ve been like if I had come to this country at my sister’s age. When we crossed the border she was 16; I was 4. Knowing what my sister went through and continues to go through, makes me see the absurdity of being labeled a "slightly better immigrant". You (Reflejo readers) can see this within your surroundings, as well. Many of us can see it at home.

So, what happens when I have been labeled a "slightly better other" and I begin to accept it? How can I stop myself from becoming the people that have named me an "other"? There has been an incredible fear and worry inside of me which has risen from this acknowledgement. I am afraid that I have internalized the "other" mentality and that I will see that in future immigrants. I do not want to become that person.

I do believe that a lot of "us" and a lot of non-"us" forget that there are many types of immigrants out there. Linking this to some of the issues discussed in my women’s studies classes makes it easier for me to understand.

It is that same difference that allows us to contribute so many wonderful parts to everything. In the same way that understanding the different experiences of women all over the world is essential to feminism, understanding that there are different experiences for immigrants all over the world is an essential part of comprehensive immigration reform.

This needs to be at the forefront of the reform, because being stuck on the antiquated belief that European immigrants are the best types of immigrants is a rejection of the importance and contribution of every immigrant.

Recently, the thought of becoming a more desirable immigrant has entered my sister’s head and it absolutely breaks my heart; she is a desirable immigrant.

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