I’ve always wondered, since I’ve been a migrant, if indeed I could call myself like that. Because being a migrant carries with it a burden of courage, sacrifice, resilience and humility which, perhaps, I am not so sure of having.
If I think of the history of the great Italian immigration , I think of a flow that has never stopped since the end of the 19th century. We are everywhere, in any corner of the world, and it is incredible because, after all, compared to other populations, we are certainly less numerous.
In the same way, if I think about today and the migration discourse that fill the headlines of our newspapers, I see people with the same baggage of courage, sacrifice, resilience and humility of those Italian migrants who landed in North America or Argentina years ago. Once again I recognize the same expectation that has marked our most fortunate journey, in the stories of all migrants who try, one way or another, to reach Europe. And I sincerely do not care about the definition that accompanies them: economic migrant, refugee, clandestine.
As if there were differences to escape from war or hunger or lack of work (which then leads you to hunger in the long run). The difference lies only in postponing the moment of death: if your country is at war you can die today; if there is no work in your country, you can die in a year. As if then the failure to live a dignified life was not in itself a dying every day.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if we too, as a family, can define ourselves as migrants, in the way this word is understood today. Then, suddenly, as if reawakened by an impetus of middle-bourgeois differentiation, a light comes on: expat! We are expat !
I’ve always hated this word. EXPAT. So I went to see what it means exactly, to understand if there is actually a difference between an expat and a migrant / immigrant. And so, on De Mauro Online Dictionary (of course in italian), the expatriate is the one who left the country forever or for a long time. Nothing more. I then looked for the word immigrant and its meaning refers to the one who has moved to a country different from his own to look for a job. The difference, if you really need to look for it, is in the last sentence “to look for a job”. In fact, if you are expat you may not even be abroad to work and there are many possible reasons, among which the most frequent we could list are family reunification and the desire to live the old age in a different place, possibly warm and sunny.
Ok. Then this implies that we, as a migrant family who came to France for job reasons, are in fact immigrants and not expat. And how many do I know that say about them to be expat but in reality they are immigrants exactly like me and other hundreds of thousands of people who land every day on the European coast? The point is that now the definition of expat is used to skim those expatriates having a wealth of knowledge (degrees, master, etc. ..) already consolidated and those who do not, or who are not supposed to have it. After all, what do we really know about people who arrives in Italy? Many of them are actually graduates or have specific knowledge, very often not recognized in the country of arrival. This difference is clearly made on the basis of a presumption of knowledge of the cultural background of the emigrants, which can not be verified. How many Italians without education wandering around Europe looking for random jobs? Many. Just take a ride on the various Facebook groups “Italians in .. (Belgium, Poland, etc. ..)”
If a differentiation is to be done, it would be more appropriate to lead it on the line of the HOW you are immigrant and on the freedom or not of the choice to emigrate. Because if it is true that we, as a family, we could still managed to live in dignity in Italy, it is also true that to the most of the immigrants who arrive on the Italian coast this possibility it’s given. And this is better to remember. Often.
So, to us immigrants 2.0, young Italian intelligentsia abroad , I suggest you to start ta different self-representation beginning from we really are, accepting the nature of our migration and ennobling it for the simple fact of not hiding it. Who knows that this can then, in the long run, avoid many, remained in their homeland, to fall into the rhetorical traps of fascist and racist politics disguised as national-popular paladins, ready to defend the borders and the “true” Italian people from the “foreigner invaders”.