Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to Where You (Sort of) Came From

My father is going back to Germany this week for the first time in 25 years or so. Seriously. He hasn't been back to Germany since there were two; since before the Wall fell. Yet he is (rustily) fluent in German, taught German, and lived there at various times in the 1960s and 1970s. I think it's going to be a strange, strange thing for him. Because where you live does infect you, become part of you. So it must be a strange trip up ahead, if wonderful, given the glorious things I've heard about Berlin.

But I thought about this, and it occurred to me how easy it has been to be a white person who moves around where she or he wants. When I lived in Barcelona, I just had to get a piece of paper filed with the police, then I had my numero de extranjeros and that was that - medical bills, no probs, taxes paid properly, bank account got. Of course, the little tarjeta that made me official took forever to come, but still - all relatively straightforward. And then I remember all the people who told me they hated immigrants, but that - after I pointed out little old me - I was "different." And so it probably was for my father in Germany, in a way it really would have been more difficult to do so if not white.

I'm not sure I would have taken this path of thought if it were not thanks to various pieces of anti-non-white things that have happened of late - Pat Buchanan's crazy rants about how white people's culture is under threat, Nick (shudder) Griffin on Question Time at home talking about how London isn't really British because so many non-white people are there. So I've been thinking a lot about this sort of thing. And I am grateful that Boris Johnson and Andrew Sullivan represent conservative thinking that stands up to this nonsense about how the English and Americans are so flipping "white," when, really, that doesn't mean anything given our nations' histories.

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