Why are white people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

Most white people deny that they enjoy the privileges of a racist system. And why not?

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin March 14, 2015
Surely any person going to work outside their country is an expatriate? But no, the word exclusively applies to white people. In the lexicon of human migration there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else. One of those remnants is the word “expat”.

What is an expat? And who is an expat? According to Wikipedia,
“An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person’s upbringing. The word comes from the Latin terms ex (‘out of’) and patria (‘country, fatherland’).”

Defined that way, you should expect that any person going to work outside of his or her country for a period of time would be an expat, regardless of his skin, colour or country.

But that is not the case in reality; expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad.

Africans are immigrants. Arabs are immigrants. Asians are immigrants. However, Europeans are expats because they cannot be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. ‘Immigrants’ is a term set aside for ‘inferior races’.

Do not take my word for it. The Wall Street Journal, the leading financial information magazine in the world, has a blog dedicated to the life of expats and recently they featured a story ‘Who is an expat, anyway?’.

Here are the main conclusions:
“Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants; and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It is strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat… Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they have been here for decades. Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese are rarely regarded as expats… It is a double standard woven into official policy.”

The reality is the same in Africa and Europe. Top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period.
“I work for multinational organisations both in the private and public sectors. And being black or coloured doesn’t gain me the term “expat”. I’m a highly qualified immigrant, as they call me, to be politically correct,” says an African migrant worker.

Most white people deny that they enjoy the privileges of a racist system. And why not? But our responsibility is to point out and to deny them these privileges, directly related to an out-dated supremacist ideology. If you see those “expats” in Africa, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there. The political deconstruction of this out-dated worldview must continue.

This post originally appeared here.
Mawuna Remarque Koutonin Mawuna Remarque Koutonin is editor of SiliconAfrica.com and a social activist for Africa Renaissance. @siliconafrica
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Stacy Metzger | 9 years ago | Reply Most people view "immigrants" as people seeking to live in a country permanently while expats are there for a limited time.How race enters into this is in the author's head. I've met many expats who are black, Asian, or none of the above.
constantine | 9 years ago | Reply It's an economic thing, not a racial thing. You will never hear an Eastern European referred to as an expatriate, they're always immigrants due to the fact that they come from a poorer country. They're white, in fact many of them have blonde hair, blue eyes, and are whiter than the average English-speaking individual (who has brown hair and brown eyes), but they're also (relatively) poor; but a Japanese businessman stationed in the west by his company is an expatriate. An expatriate is a middle class or better immigrant from a wealthy nation, the lower class person from a wealthy country and anyone from a poorer nation is an immigrant. It has nothing to do with race.
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