Resource: THE UNGRATEFUL COUNTRY MUSA OKWONGA

As part of my research into migration, I have found an extract from a piece given to us on Moodle that talks about an experience of growing up in Britain.

Having moved to the UK at a very young age, the text talks about how Okwonga felt having made the move.

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In the first section of the piece, Okwonga talks about how he became an ‘unofficial ambassador for black people’ in a very dominantly white place. Having been successful enough to get into Sunningdale on a bursary, he felt like he had to give something back to the country that had taken him in. He wanted to prove that he could be ‘just as good as our white counterparts’ showing that not all migrants are here to use benefits of the UK system or to take over from those already here. In fact, Okwonga is much more willing to give back to the country than to take anything from it, and the whole first section here has really made me think and challenge the ideas that so many people think of migrants.

There are a small number of British people who think that migrants are here to take jobs, use the NHS and to all round cause trouble for those already living in the UK. But truth be told, many migrants are looking for a better way of life, or the chance to enhance their quality of life and running from a country they no longer feel safe in or prosperous. Of course, there are many reasons why someone may choose to migrate, but it is also important to consider the reception that these vulnerable people receive upon entering their new host country.

In terms of the reception that Okwonga got upon his time it Britain, it sounds like in places it was a lot to be desired.

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The difference in his treatment due to being black was significantly different to the way in which white people would have been treated. Although he managed to get a good education, it didn’t stop his treatment within the different class systems.

What I found most inspiring about the story told here, was the fact that despite the treatment and the clear divisions in the UK, Okwonga clearly tried to make the most of his time here and felt that he had to give something back to the country that had taken him in.

“And I saw then, after several years, that I had absorbed many of the racial stereotypes that I had feared others would see in me. Raised without a father, lacking many black male role models -most of whom were probably quietly struggling away just like me – I was left only with media portrayals of what black men were, and most of those were overwhelmingly negative. “

The fact that the portrayal of black men is so negative, is likely to have had a negative effect on the stereotypes that people would have had and still may have on those migrating into the country.

The fact the whole piece is called ‘The Ungrateful Country’ emphasises his opinions and feelings of the country that took him in but didn’t make him feel like an equal member of the community. In fact, it sounds like the country was so ungrateful for everything that he put into it, even down to the fact that he felt he had to behave as properly as possible, despite his white counterparts often being worse in terms of behaviour and contribution to society. This is a stigmatisation that should have been stopped because it is not fair for him to have felt he had to behave in a certain way or risk being stereotyped for one slip up, whereas the white man wouldn’t be. This is quite shocking to me that despite the fact he was aware of what people thought of people like him, he still remained so kind and willing to give back to a country that already had so much more than him. This is something that I as a white person feel awful about because it is my opinion that no one should have to feel like that when all they’ve done is seek help and have been giving more back to a country than majority of actual British people do.

Although majority of people are so much more accepting of migrants and refugees nowadays, it wasn’t always the case as is highlighted in the piece by Okwonga. However, racial mixing and diversity is so much more common and accepted now than it has been in the past, yet there is still so much discussion around the topic.

I’ve found reading the story here has enhanced my understanding more of what it is like to be a migrant coming into the country and the reception through their eyes that they receive. Often their experiences are too traumatic to want to tell anyone so we often don’t find out what it is like to be a migrant, unless we are one ourselves.

Through the module, I am hoping to explore the lives of migrants and get to understand what it is about migration, why people migrate, their reception, their understanding of the move and what implications it has had for them because I feel that it is an important topic to discuss.

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