Awareness is something that cannot be bought with money, but sometimes it is given to us for free.
Some time ago, I met a man who showed great perseverance and dedication in helping migrants and refugees who needed support. Every week he was there to teach English with patience and kindness, always giving his best. We used to talk about different topics, and one day, when we were saying goodbye, I asked him, why are you committed to helping migrants and refugees? He replied, smiling: “I like being with the ‘underdogs’ We, Irish, had a tough time in England; I can put myself in their shoes, the underdogs’ shoes”.
His answer forced me to look at myself from a different angle because if he was conscious of the reasons that had led him to be there, was I too? Were our reasons similar or different? Were we refugees, asylum seekers and migrant ‘underdogs’? Was I an underdog in my own eyes?
Then I realised that one thing is to migrate, to move from one place to another, changing your language, habits, culture, likes, etc. But, still, another thing is to be aware – we could say to wake up – to what that means concerning one’s social class, exclusion, racism or Otherness in a different country.
This friend gave me that afternoon an external view, a “perspective” on us migrants. Because beyond the relationship with our subjective experience of migration (whose epitome is “homesick”), we are all part of a much larger phenomenon happening right now: the movement of people due to poverty, violence, climate change and war. We, migrants, can forget that because we are driven by our own motivations, dreams and the sheer need to survive. But we find ourselves in a world society where we are not part of the “favourite team”.
As underdogs, we started the race of life when some were three minutes from the finish line while we were 300 meters behind the starting point. However, the so-called “American dream”, or the idea that migrants can become winners due to individual hard work, can end up numbing the most combative leaders, as we know. This neoliberal vision could leave us isolated but paradoxically brings us closer. As “underdogs”, we migrants share that space with other marginalised minorities of the host society where we find ourselves. Marginalised minorities, Travellers, Black youth, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees share the agenda of the struggle for recognition but also the struggle for a just society on a global scale.
And what better way to gauge the chances of social change in a society than the ability of “underdogs” to ask themselves questions!
Photography: Sebastian Silva: https://a-visual-diary-for-tomorrow.tumblr.com/image/656463065059082240