How to: Confront your privilege while resisting overseas

I am a dual Colombian-U.S. citizen, with a U.S. born mother and a Colombian born father. At age 20, I have decided to move to Colombia, and live here for the first time in my life. The platform that we are creating serves to mobilize a population, U.S. citizens residing overseas, in the struggle for justice.

resizeIn doing so, we encourage a disparate group of people, a group of people who often do not associate as a collective, to come to terms with their common positionality. I believe deeply in the potential for U.S. citizens residing overseas to contribute to the resistance in tangible and crucial ways. I also know that for our efforts to be truly in the service of justice, we must first confront ourselves with some radical honesty.

U.S. citizens residing overseas often have a common set of privileges that will inevitably shape their political perspectives and actions. For example, many U.S. citizens overseas do not have to work, or work for less than they could make in the United States for the experience of living abroad. Most are able to cross the border with relative ease. Many do not face marginalization or stigmatization in their new homes. While privileges can at times be leveraged to resist against injustice, they can also keep people from understanding justice and their role in it for what it is.

With all of this in mind, I have created a short list of things Americans Resisting Overseas can do to help confront and reckon with privilege in their activism. My list is by no means a complete document or a foolproof strategy to work through every facet of your privilege This list, more than anything, is meant to start a conversation, an honest dialogue about a real complication of our efforts. I also in no way intend for this list to erase the very real oppression people of color, women, trans people, and other U.S. citizens residing overseas with marginalized identities face wherever they are in the world. Your struggles are real and some facets of this list may not apply to you. Discussions about privilege are decidedly difficult and messy. Hopefully, this list can at least help us cultivate a  more critical, sensitive, and honest collective ethos:

  1. Do not equate our migration overseas to the experience of immigrants in the United States. Migrating to a foreign country is always hard. The culture shock, the isolation, the pain of living in your a non-fluent language. All of these challenges are real, and our personal adversities in migrating overseas are valid. With that being said, U.S. citizens living overseas cannot and do not know what it’s like to be an immigrant in the United States. We have one of the most powerful passports and currencies in our back pocket. Often times, we can return home to see family and friends. Our degrees are valid. Our language and culture is not see as inferior, threatening, or criminal. Using our status as a U.S. migrant overseas to claim solidarity with immigrants in the United States erases all of the struggles U.S. immigrants have that we simply do not.
  1. Do not justify our activism through claims of U.S. exceptionalism. “This is not what America’s about!” “Our founding fathers would be ashamed!” These types of statements position Trump’s actions as antithetical to the United State’s legacy and ideology. But Trump is not an exception to the rule. Let’s not sugar coat things. The majority of United States present believed Black people should not vote; twelve of them owned slaves. The United States has a long and persistent history of oppression and state violence against marginalized populations. Some people in the countries where we are living may have been the victims of this violence, as countries around the globe have been the sites of a violent and abusive U.S. imperialism that has characterized our nation’s modern history. Resisting trump necessitates placing him in context. Sanitizing U.S. history erases the real violence and suffering many people around the world, some who may be your neighbors, have experienced.
  1. Recognize the risks and sacrifices of many activists in the United States. There have been, there are, and there will be people putting their bodies and lives on the line to resist injustice in the states. A lot of important work can be done to resist overseas. Most of this work will take the form of small, remote actions that do add up and that can make a difference. With that being said, we need to realize and acknowledge the safety of our overseas resistance. We will not be face to face with a historically racist and violent U.S. police force emboldened and empowered by Trump to suppress any activism at all costs. We should not heroize our own work without putting our efforts and our sacrifices in context.
  1. Amplify the voices and needs of others. American citizenship, in many ways, means the ability and the right to have a voice. There is privilege inherent to being able to protest. Many undocumented people cannot protest for fear of being arrested and deported. While people across the globe will suffer from the Trump regime, only United States citizens have Senators and Congressman legally sworn to represent them. We must use our privilege and our voice to make the opinions and concerns of others known. We should not center our own stories
  1. Do not tune out. American citizens living overseas have a choice. We can go to work without having to talk to their coworkers about Trump. We can stay away from U.S. news, scroll past our friends facebook posts. We may even justify our neglect as a commitment to “living in the moment” or committing to our lives in their new country. For many of us, we can do this because even though we may be opposed to what is going on, our lives will not be directly affected by it. But negligence is violence. Silence is violence. There is no neutral. We must fight. We are already starting too late.

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