When you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, it troubles me because your understanding of race/ethnicity/culture/heritage doesn’t take into account all the shades of grey and richness that exist outside of your own. I appreciate your sentiment, but what you are implying without realising is that I should be pleased, and even flattered, because I would rather be like you than like me.
When you say to me, “I don’t see you as a foreigner”, I want you to see that we are different from one another, that we see the world through different eyes. That what bothers me perhaps doesn’t even faze you. That I do not want my culture/race/ethnicity/heritage to be erased by you to make you feel more comfortable; because we are not the same, but that’s ok – good, even.
When you say to me, “I see you as British”, it’s problematic for me, because your equation of ‘Britishness’ with ‘greatness’ is something to which you think I should aspire. I agree with your high regard for Britishness, but I want you to understand that I don’t see my ‘foreignness’ as a hindrance or a hardship, nor something from which to distance.
You may not even be aware of all the nuances and implications of your words, but I want you to acknowledge and appreciate the value of the complexities and the intricacies of the cultures that exist in the UK, that have formed the foundation of the country in which you and I live, and to know that foreigners are not burdened by their ‘otherness’ – quite the contrary! And neither should you be on our behalves. The UK that we adore is not homogeneous, and nor should we want it to be.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I love the UK and all its glorious Britishness: Sunday roasts, a stoic resolve, a stiff upper lip in times of adversity, not running for shelter when it rains, Pimm’s O’clock, James Bond, the 2021 England football team, a comforting cup of builder’s tea to solve even the world’s worst crises, Princess Diana, a meticulous politeness that never falters, the Harvester and even spotted dick.
So when you say to me, “you are not like the rest of them”, what I want to say to you is, “but unfortunately, you are.”