For some immigrants racial discrimination can be a struggle. It can take a toll on one’s mental health. Sometimes discrimination excludes individuals from accessing certain opportunities. Here are some strategies for dealing with racism as an immigrant.
The spectrum of racism
There are different levels of racist acts. The Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre classifies racial discrimination into two main types. The first is individual racism, which happens when one person expresses their racist beliefs to another. The other is systemic racism, which is when institutions implement discriminatory practices. Each type requires a different response. Immigrants deal with the first type of discrimination by speaking up against it, and with the second type by seeking legal action.
Respond calmly. A psychiatrist on Psychology Today, a blog on psychological topics, gives some tips for responding to racist comments. They write that it is important to respond calmly. Racists often want to “push your buttons.” Keeping that in mind you can respond in many ways. You may choose to express your discomfort with a racist comment. Let the person know why it makes you uncomfortable. Another option is to deflect such remarks. One immigrant said that they respond to discriminatory comments by complimenting the person, saying something like “nice sneakers” for example. Such responses can help diffuse the situation.
At times immigrants don’t have as much protection in their new home as native-born citizens. However, certain constitutional protections are universal, irrespective of their citizenship status. These include the human rights guaranteed by signatory nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among these are the right to be treated with dignity and respect, and the right to own property. As an immigrant you can file a lawsuit if your human rights are violated.
Therapy and counseling
Discrimination can have adverse effects on the mental health of victims. One researcher from the University of Arizona showed that those who regularly experience racism are at a higher risk for a number of mental illnesses. Risks include depression and generalized anxiety disorder. The victim is also at risk of heart disease and other health conditions. Immigrants can take therapy to manage stress and anxiety. A psychiatrist helps patients find effective strategies to deal with their experiences. Speaking about issues is also useful because it is cathartic.
Fight against racism
We fight against racism so that immigrants don’t have to deal with it in the first place. There are many ways to do this. You can take part in peaceful protests organized in your city. Migrants can send money online to nonprofits and charities that support this cause. Amnesty International is one example of a nonprofit that seeks to end human rights violations on a global scale.
The power of social media cannot be underestimated. Social media activism can be a very effective way to expose injustices against immigrants and other racism-related issues. Social media is also an important platform to organize peaceful protests, fundraisers for the nonprofits that support immigrant rights, and other high-impact events.
Xenophobia is a reality. However, positive reform in immigration policies is taking place all across the world. Canada’s open immigration policy sets a great example. In 2018 Canada welcomed 310,000 immigrants. Americans also view immigrants favorably. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, an American think tank, 65% of respondents said that immigrants contribute to the country because of their “hard work and talents”.
Discrimination can exist in many forms. With legal recourses and awareness the impact of racism has diminished considerably. Today we celebrate the fact that “all men are created equal”. If you aspire to migrate, don’t let the fear of racism influence you.
About the author
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.