Migrants and Refugees Experience American Racism

This project explores the difficult task Black migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers have to navigate the nicheness and nuances of American racism. The way in which American racism is inextricably interwoven in America’s birth and has systematically bled into every crevice of society is unlike that of any other nation. Therefore, the unique nature of American racism is challenging for foreigners to grasp and makes a migrant’s transition to American life that much more complex—particularly for Black migrants. This project features the journey of a young adult Somali migrant who throughout his transition to living in America is forced to reconcile with the discrepancy of the America he had dreamt of for decades and the racist nation he ultimately met. His transition to living in a country which rejects his skin color is exacerbated by the fact that he moves to an upscale town in southern Maine, which is ranked the whitest state in America with 1.7 percent of the population belonging to Black bodies.

However, Maine continues to sustain high numbers of predominantly Black refugees and asylum seekers. As racism in America is rarely discussed or displayed in other countries, particularly in African states, there are slews of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers who are oblivious to American race relations and how America’s current race dynamics and race-based inequality can affect them. Due to Black migrants’ lack of knowledge around American racism, upon arrival individuals create varying views of American racism based on their first-hand experiences in America and the exposure they receive or seek out. Two gentlemen featured in this project clearly demonstrate that without entering America with a preexisting understanding of American racism Black migrants struggle to comprehend racism’s existence and its implications. One gentleman, a refugee from Gabon, expresses a strictly positive view of white persons, struggles to comprehend a white individual ever doing wrong, and strains to view senseless deaths, such as George Floyd’s, not abstractly. The second gentleman, an immigrant from Rwanda, although never understanding the concept of racism fully or experiencing it prior to becoming an American citizen, is a fervent Black Lives Matter supporter as he was wrongfully arrested due to racial profiling a few years into his American experience.

The story speaks to the disconnect that exists between Black Americans and Black migrants that fuels Black migrants' occasional inability to fully grasp what it means to be Black in America, particularly at a time of heightened racial tensions. The young Somali immigrant who drives the direction of the story, contends that now, more than ever, the lacuna between Black persons in America needs to be filled in order to form a unified people for the betterment of all Black persons in America. He also espouses that due to the lack of education about Black people’s life in America the U.S. is essentially beguiling Black immigrants.

Coming to America: It's Not Like the Movie

Navigating the nuances of American racism is difficult for anyone, and especially so if you are a Black foreigner. In the context of Maine, the whitest state in America, it's even harder.