Why Are Asians, African, And Arabs Immigrants But White People Expats?

Ever found it strange to hear some people in Malaysia described as expats, but not others? Call out the double standard.

Cover image via Facebook

An expatriate (often shortened to expat) is someone who lives in a different country than that which he or she was born and brought up

"The word," according to Wikipedia, "comes from the Latin terms ex ('out of') and patria ('country, fatherland')".

Expats or immigrants?

Image via Matt Brandon/The Guardian

"Defined that way, you should expect that any person going to work outside of his or her country for a period of time would be an expat, regardless of his skin colour or country. But that is not the case in reality; expat is a term reserved exclusively for western white people going to work abroad," writes Mawuna Remarque Koutonin, a social activist for Africa Renaissance, in his article on The Guardian.

So when Africans, Arabs, Asians are all immigrants. Why then Europeans are expats?

"Because they (Europeans) can't be at the same level as other ethnicities. They are superior. Immigrants is a term set aside for 'inferior races'," writes Koutonin.

"In the lexicon of human migration, there are still hierarchical words, created with the purpose of putting white people above everyone else. One of those remnants is the word 'expat'."

And not just him, even the Wall Street Journal has a blog dedicated to the life of expats

In a recently featured story 'In Hong Kong, Just Who Is an Expat, Anyway?', Christopher Dewolf writes that "expats are free to roam between countries and cultures, privileges not afforded to those considered immigrants or migrant workers."

Hong Kong’s skyline.

Image via Getty Images/WSJ

Koutonin highlights the main conclusions from the WSJ piece:

“Some arrivals are described as expats; others as immigrants, and some simply as migrants. It depends on social class, country of origin and economic status. It's strange to hear some people in Hong Kong described as expats, but not others. Anyone with roots in a western country is considered an expat … Filipino domestic helpers are just guests, even if they've been here for decades. Mandarin-speaking mainland Chinese are rarely regarded as expats … It's a double standard woven into official policy."

And the reality is the same in Africa and Europe

According to Koutonin, top African professionals going to work in Europe are not considered expats. They are immigrants. Period.

"I work for multinational organisations both in the private and public sectors. And being black or coloured doesn't gain me the term 'expat'. I'm a highly qualified immigrant, as they call me, to be politically correct," says an African migrant worker.

So what's the reason behind this double standard?

Well, it's "directly related to an outdated supremacist ideology," Koutonin writes.

"Most white people deny that they enjoy the privileges of a racist system. But our responsibility is to point out and to deny them these privileges."

Netizens are echoing Koutonin's points all over:

To paraphrase Koutonin's concluding points:

"If you see those 'expats' in Malaysia, call them immigrants like everyone else. If that hurts their white superiority, they can jump in the air and stay there. This outdated worldview and ideology must be brought to its end!"

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