‘Changing the habitat…’ – The Anxiety & Guilt of Being a Migrant of Colour

Dance with the devil_AnnVanes
Dance With The Devil by Anna Vanes (c)

Migrants, particularly from the global south, face increased threats as a result of the worldwide rise in far-right nationalism and racism represented in such governments as that of Brazil, India, Hungary and, even, the UK, whose ongoing ‘hostile environment’ policy resulted in the deportations of Black Caribbean British citizens. Anxiety in vulnerable migrants causes them to give up aspects of their identity to placate anger and reduce their exposure. Whilst not necessarily medically categorised as social anxiety, such fears replicate the pattern of vulnerability, fear and maladaptation which characterises social anxiety symptoms.

Blogger, Saurav, reflects on his own anxiety as a Nepalese migrant of four years in Finland. He recognises the benefits he has reaped in his new country in education, music and culture but has witnessed racism in Finland, whether firsthand or otherwise, including, he says, Neo-Nazism: “I never go to bars in the night just to hangout. I used to do that a lot back in Nepal. I just don’t go. Partly, because I don’t drink. But the underlying reason is, people are drunk, they feel medieval when they are drunk and starts treating you in a certain way just because of your skin color. I’ve experienced it so many times and it’s dark.”

He contrasts the positive changes he has made in his new life, including, leading a healthier lifestyle, with the perception of disapproval and, even, threat, in Finland, posed against his ethnicity and migrant status, which has made him alter his behaviour: “I started growing this feeling of immense amount of responsibilities on this new society that I started putting people’s opinions or views higher than mine in each and every thing that I did. The society’s opinions started canceling mine. I would always think on the other person’s point of view and cancel my own point of views on things. I was trying to be polite all the time even though at times, it was not me.”

He had internalised the racism and anti-migrant feeling he has experienced in Finland, he says, more frequent amongst older people. He was going beyond being polite in his new country to distorting his own sense of self and well-being to erase his own identity. He was, he realised, feeling guilty about his own existence.

Another blogger, Annie, from Australia, writes in a recent blog-post of her childhood experiences of being undermined by others, sometimes, she suggests, out of racist feeling: “At my high school, there were white students who didn’t want me to succeed and be better than them at English, the subject. For some reason, they resented some girl, perhaps even an Asian girl, topping them in class.”

At the time, she experienced social anxiety symptoms: “My teenage life was a misery. I should have stood up for myself. I should have voiced my opinions, my thoughts. Instead, conditioned by my father that to stay silent is the best way to protect yourself, I did not. I smiled, agreed, simpered, succumbed and capitulated. I was my own traitor.”

Annie writes that she has restored her self-esteem and is able to assert herself. Saurav, a new migrant in Finland, seems to still be on that journey. He writes: “But the strong ones rode & sailed around the world and set the rules about how much of this world is accessible for certain group of people. Created borders. Created races. Created nationality. Created currency value. Created walls in our life that how much we want and are willing to, it’s super difficult to connect with people from different culture. Its important to know we can exist in any part of the world without feeling guilty of being here.”

In the face of organised and threatening racist policies from governments and intimidation from groups or gangs, overcoming fear to assert one’s own identity cannot be easy. It is likely, with such feeling on the rise globally, migrants will have to continue to balance fear and self-protection against a need to express their true selves. As ever, the best protection from fear will be organisation, education and solidarity.

Image designed by Anna Vanes.

To read the full blog-post by Sauvar Tamrakar, “Changing the habitat, belongingness, responsibilities, politeness & self-sabotage” click below:

My Dark Cave

As we move to new places in this world, we start developing a feeling of immense amount of responsibility to adapt/integrate towards the new society in such a way that we cancel so many things about ourselves.

I moved to Finland back in 2016, it has been 4 years. I’ve learned many great things in my life in this period of time and have also learned many things that disgusts me. I am here to tell you my story transparently and I suggest anyone reading this should read it as a human-being rather than reading it as the given identity of yours, whoever you might be.
Territorial things are anchored in our brains from the history of our ancestors. We feel comfortable in certain territory, feel the belongingness and struggle to find the same feelings in new places. Whoever opposes to this should try moving to new culture/places for at…

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Author: Workers' Archive

Covering sensitivity at work and beyond on my website: https://samuelaliblog.wordpress.com/

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