Alien: 1. Belonging to a foreign country
2. Unfamiliar and disturbing or distasteful
Immigrant: A person who comes to live permanently in another country
Expatriate: A person who lives outside their native country
I moved to the United states in 2005 under the status of an Immigrant. A “Legal” Immigrant. Although I had no plans to live in America permanently, I carried that title. An Immigrant. Other. Foreign; a Permanent Resident. I was even given a number to identify as such. My Alien number.
Now, if we refer back to the above definition, we see that, as according to the Oxford dictionary definition, an Alien can be seen as either belonging to a foreign country, or something that is unfamiliar, disturbing, or distasteful.
My Alien Number. How proud was I to carry that number. I had status in America. I could move in and out freely, without needing a visa. Oh, the glory of that Status.
In my country, the number given to permanent residents is known as “Resident Identification Number”. Immigrants, or Aliens are not words we use on our foreigners. So, it leads me to question, why was I so proud to be referred to as an Alien in this land? A land that ensures I am constantly reminded that I do not belong. Form after form, question after question; “Alien Number”.
White, Black Latino/Hispanic, Asian…… Other. Why the forced labels. Why must I have to conform into one of these? Every time I select “Other”, I am forced to reaffirm that “ I am not from here. I do not belong here. I am not welcome here. There isn’t even an option for who I am in this land. I am Black. so that must be the option I must select.” But no. I am more than my Blackness. I am an African. Why is that not an option?
Liberia is one of two African nations out of the 54, to have never been colonized by the West. That fact, is a pride I carry with me wherever I go. This small piece of land full of strength and resilience, never gave in the the White man. Though this is a great part of Liberia’s history, Liberia’s present does not reflect it. Whites who live in Liberia are known as Expatriates. Not Immigrants, not Aliens, not Other. When the every day Liberian meets a White person, we subconsciously put ourselves in a position of inferiority by calling them “Bossman, or Bosslady”, no matter what their career status is. Why? When a White man/lady and I walk into a restaurant at the same time, they will get the best seat first, the smiles from the waiters, all the attention. I get a seat, delayed service, and maybe on a good day, a smile from the waiter. Why do we do this to ourselves? In their land, we are automatically in a seat of inferiority, why in our lands too? And they love the treatment, you know? I see it on their faces. The carefree walk of superiority. I see it. I see it in their behaviors, and how they only associate with who they deem as the “successful” members of our societies, or people who are offering them a service of sort. And we too, revere in it. That “Made it” attitude because the Whites deem us acceptable to admit into their circle. They come in our land to “save us from ourselves”, while enjoying the royal treatment, the amazing natural resources, the cheap labor, and the automatic high status in our societies, simply because of their skin color. Not colonized my ass!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not here to advocate for treating Whites in our land with the same maltreatment they afford us in theirs. What I am here to advocate for, is to place ourselves, in our own societies, higher than we do them. We must prioritize ourselves. First. I cannot continue to go through my entire life living in a societal position of inferiority to White people as a Black African wherever in the world I find myself. I refuse to. While I do not have a choice but to accept their labels of insults in their lands, after all, I am the foreigner; I refuse to bring myself down in order to lift them up in my own land. I believe in an “Africans for Africa” mindset. Despite all of their brainwashing in having us believe that we need them for our survival, we do not. They need us more than we need them. We must see this. We must understand this. We must begin to live this.
In that light, with this post, I chose to highlight French photographer, Francois Beaurain’s latest photo series in Liberia, the Mr. Bossman series, which provides a glimpse of how things could look if the scripts were flipped and White Expatriates in Liberia were working the same Jobs of every day Liberians. Francois previously worked on the Monrovia Animated gif series here in Liberia, which can be seen, along with his other amazing works at fbeaurain.com.