March 14, 2015

Getting Away from the USA

The Next Great Migration - NYTimes.com

Watching what happened in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island and knowing that blacks are 21 times more likely than whites to be shot by the police constitute a heavy psychological tax.

In this piece, Mr. Williams suggests that perhaps black Americans should consider some time apart from their home country. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have the exact same thought during those bleak months ending 2014.

Replies arrived of varying types, petering out as Twitter discussions usually do, but I’ve never stopped thinking about whether my time in the United States has reached its expiration date—a thought that had never entered my mind, even in my time living abroad. On the surface, it is about escaping that psychological tax. But that’s the beginning; where the impetus starts. Moving from that central theme outward, we find, as James Baldwin wrote (and the author quoted), “the sanction, if one can accept it, to become oneself.”

“The race situation back home occupies so much space in your mind, even just safety-wise, I actually never fully understood what it meant to be American, and all the advantages that come with it, until now.” There are subtler satisfactions, too: “You immediately remove that affirmative action target from your back. A work visa gives you the validation that you’re good at what you do.”

What prosperity of the black American can be realized in an environment steeped in ostracization, fear and inferiority? Such an environment, paired with the oft-heard call to repair one’s own reputation, create the most vicious of cycles. What if we could break that by just…going away? Stepping further, how could there not be benefit from black Americans seeing the world—not just Paris but Caracas, Rabat, Seoul, Warsaw, Jakarta—and returning, indelibly changed?

I currently cannot imagine a better way to both free a black American from cultural stigma and expand their global perspective than to leave the US—not permanently, but longer than a vacation. And I wonder what negative effect could possibly lie beyond that horizon.