A couple of days ago while I surfed in Kibe’s blog I read this sentence above, an excerpt of a song from a Somalian rapper based in Canada. Then, I decided to take this opportunity to reflect a little about the condition of foreigners here in the United States.
Obviously I am not an exile, at least not in the classical meaning of the word, but a guy who by his own initiative decided to venture far for a while from his country. I always experienced a feeling of strangeness in Brazil, but not for the same reasons that I perceive here. There, my feeling of strangeness was more connected with the fact of being black in a certain process of social mobility that included, at the same time, the loss of a place of origin and the uncertainty of being accepted in a particular place of arrival.
The difference between my position as “foreigner” in Brazil and my position of foreigner in the United States is that over there I was inserted in the sociability of the ordinary people, able to anticipate the rules and subvert them or ratify them as soon as the situation demanded or allowed. Here I am abroad, previous to the existence of a reflexivity and without fully sharing the social norms.
I live under my skin what Simmel theorized about the ambiguity of the condition of foreigners, as being those who move between the indifference and the involvement. That is, I am both part of the sociability of this place and the opposite of that same sociability.
Almost everyone assumes as a first impression that I'm American, but only until the moment that it becomes clear, either through the accent, the gestures, and the way of walking that I'm not. It is interesting to note how this possibility of "passing" and the condition of traveler organize my interactions in the U.S. I don’t need to live the dilemmas of assimilation versus maintenance of identities that the permanent residents living, but, on the other hand, I cannot escape from them. Once more, as Simmel suggests, I live the condition of a foreigner more from the point of view of a certain positivity and creativity than from the point of view of being transferred to a different culture.
Although my foreign eyes ensure me more objectivity they also put me in front of a sphinx to be deciphered. When I look for both sides of the sociability (the side I share and the side I don’t) I feel myself increasingly near to the flag of the exile, in a kind of psychoanalytic axiom, since I only belong where I don’t belong, and even if I decipher the sphinx she will devour me.