I have always been an immigrant

Yesterday when I woke up to the news on the EU Referendum, I said out loud,“Oh NO!! NO!! It can’t be...”

I was disappointed, disheartened and heartbroken.

I am half Jewish German and half Italian with a Bengali name that means ‘very sweet'. I was born in Germany, grew up in the United States and immigrated to the UK and I’m married to an Englishman. I have close friends who live all over the world who I love and miss allot. I have neighbors who are originally from Jamaica and Albania. We have a corner shop and the men who work there are Turkish. They all are hard-working people.

When I moved to London in 1988, I thought I had moved to a more inclusive country than even the US.

Maybe because I grew up with a German father and Italian mother I sounded different when I spoke. Sometimes people would ask me where I was from. “Here!” I’d reply bewildered. When I moved to London and met some people, they would ask me where I was from. I would say “California” and they would say, “Why are you here?” (as California would surely be a preferable place to live, that is) “Many reasons,” I would vaguely reply.

Once, about three years after I moved to the UK, I saw a policeman harassing a black man. I stood there observing to make sure he understood I was watching. Another young black man turned to me seeing what I was doing and said, “What do you care? You’re white.” and I told him that when one person is mistreated we are ALL affected.

This is not a segregated world as much as some people would like to imagine. It’s a big world but one that, as with global warming, we are all affected. Nothing segregated about that.

We can’t think of US and THEM. We all have hopes, sorrows, worries, joys and pains. We are all mostly from somewhere else even if some people have lived generations in one place.

Now, more than ever, we can connect and tell our stories. Explain how we feel and communicate to our hearts content. And yet when I woke up yesterday I felt more of an immigrant than I did the day before. My instinct was to stay quiet. Don’t speak, don’t let people know that I am an immigrant as much as the next person who wasn’t ‘from’ this country. I suddenly thought of myself as ‘less’. As someone who didn’t belong anywhere because I now live in a country which isn’t as inclusive as it was the day before yesterday. Where people have voted to place the UK (and the world) in a less inclusive position. This upsets me. It hurts.

I grew up understanding no matter what a person was on the outside, it was what was on the inside that really mattered. I still believe that.

It’s my hope people will try to understand and be as caring towards others as they would expect to be cared for and treated themselves. That this referendum will actually initiate a coming together of people from different worlds to state clearly and calmly that we are actually one family on this precious blue marble called earth. That we promise more than ever to connect and look after each other and the inhabitants, lands and oceans to the best of our abilities.

Is that too much to ask?

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