I was thinking this morning about what it must be like to be my husband: a white English person who has never had his right to be in the country of his birth questioned. Within living memory, his family has probably never asked themselves: what happens if this country becomes no longer safe for us? How much notice will we have? How quickly could we get out? What would we do about grandma?
As a middle/upper middle class Chinese Malaysian, I have a lot of privilege. One thing I’ve never had, though, is certainty of a welcome where I am. My dad told me something about China once that really stuck in my head:
“Living in Malaysia is like renting a house,” he said. “In China you would own your house. But you get used to renting.”
His grandparents died in Malaysia; his grandchildren were born there. He’s still renting.
I can’t have a “healthy debate” about immigration. This is impossible for me. My personal history is too full of migration, flux, movement. Getting out while the going is good. Carving out a home on hostile terrain. But I know where I’m from and I know where I’m going, and I know where my loyalties lie: with the dispossessed, the roving, the eternally hopeful, their eyes fixed on a distant ever-moving point.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station