The label has become a prop used to demonise or lionise, which does little to capture the experiences of ethnic minority communities
There is something underwhelming about being born a second-generation immigrant. You’re not the first generation, but the second, and you feel you didn’t really do much to earn the title.
Your parents fled or travelled to the country where you were born, sacrificed customs to adjust, faced the fear of being “first”. You, however, are not an “immigrant”. Your migration story is someone else’s, even if it is your mother’s or father’s, or both.
Yet the alternative, your identity on paper as a native-born citizen, isn’t the whole story either. If that’s the only box you’re able to tick on a form, it somewhat erases your family’s history.
This is the contradictory limbo that children and communities descended from migrants occupy. It’s a position exploited by racists and multiculturalists alike.
Yesterday, Donald Trump told four Democrat congresswomen to “go home” to the “crime-infested places from which they came”. Three were born and raised in the US, and the fourth moved to the US as a refugee when she was a child. All are women of colour.
Like many who discriminate against immigrants – and extend their bigotry to second generation immigrants, too – Trump is using their family history and skin colour to wrongly suggest that they are not American. That their home is elsewhere, and they should instead focus on the governments of countries where they have never lived.
The racist rhetoric impelling citizens to “go back to your own country” is used for native-born citizens as well as immigrants, particularly if they are not white.
Conversely, those who celebrate diversity and migration often do a similar thing, inadvertently diminishing people as citizens by amplifying their immigrant status, whether they be first generation or otherwise.
I noticed this in some reactions to England’s cricket world cup victory yesterday.
Championing the winning team against jingoistic sentiments like that of the Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg – who wrote “we clearly don’t need Europe to win…” – a number of tweets went viral reading:
“Captained by an immigrant, batting led by an immigrant, fastest bowler an immigrant, leading all-rounder an immigrant, main spinner son of an immigrant.”