Tag Archive: immigration codeswitching identity respect admiration


By: Leena Beddawi

America has been expanding its laws surrounding refugees and immigrants crossing its borders for decades, the most drastic set of expansions being created after the attack on September 11, 2001. Throughout these border security and law expansions, one thing that never changed is the law granting asylum for any refugee seeking protection from a country which defines a refugee as a “person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country, and cannot obtain protection in that country, due to past persecution or a well-founded fear of being persecuted in the future ‘on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.’”.

Frankenstein’s creature insists on proving the “truth of my tale” in order to show that there are wildly different perspectives in this world and the means are just as valuable as the ends, how they became who they are, what they overcame to get here, is just as important as their very existence. I could only assume that in giving these letters to Victor, the creature hoped to change his mind about those who he considered being “other”.  One thing we see in many refugee or immigrant story is that they usually perfect models of W. E. B. Du Bois’ double-consciousness.

Double-consciousness is a concept in social philosophy which explains the presence of two apparently unconnected streams of consciousness in one individual, usually having to do with race, ethnicity, or originating country. This is something many refugees go through in order to search for a better life, they learn a whole new language, accustom to another culture, and try to peacefully integrate themselves in a space that is completely foreign to them because this is their only hope.

Safie is a Muslim Arab migrant from Turkey, but very much became a citizen of the world in accordance with Felix’s locations. Wherever he went, she wished to follow, and she made that place her home because they were together. I believe the creature’s pride in “learn[ing] from the views of a developed social life, to admire their virtues, and to deprecate the vices of mankind” helped him to empathize with the conquered native Americans and to see himself in the immigrant or refugee status because they each had felt that same sense of double-consciousness (114).

caravan

The president of the United States of America has chosen to demonize, criminalize, and verbally dehumanize the thousands of asylum seekers currently coming towards the border from Central America, most escaping Honduras, which many news organizations call “The World’s Deadliest Country”. Many of these people are young men, women, children, and elderly. Before they enter, they hope to apply as asylum seekers, which should technically aid them in a legal route of asylum. In the U.S., however, the immigration systems are severely out-of-date and meant to delay asylum to refugees for many small reasons, the main of which is just the subjectivity of opinion which goes with who gets asylum and who doesn’t.

I think if we were somehow able to share each individual story from the thousands of asylum seekers and hardworking individuals looking for a better life, searching for any life, we can actually start changing minds of politicians who see them as nothing but invaders. But if the president was presented with individual stories of the humanitarian crisis the refugees have been running from, one would hope that he would welcome those people with open arms, and allow asylum to those who need it.

In Frankenstein, I believe it was best summed up by Safie when describing why she never want to go back to Asia, where she was “allowed only to occupy herself with infantile amusements, ill-suited to temper her soul, now accustomed to grand ideas and a noble emulation for virtue” (112). This showed not only her desperation to go to another country where she could be herself without constraints, but showed how this alone should be enough to pass through and see if you can make a better life in another country. The very idea of borders exudes a racist, xenophobic ideology which has yet to be updated after many decades of fear mongering anything “other” to us, much like how the creature is treated by everyone they come in contact with, as well. It is no surprise they see themselves in the refugee story since their own double-consciousness must be deafening within themselves.

Code Switch

In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein  it is obvious that the creature is considered “other” which, unfortunately as studied this week, is a practice commonly done to immigrants. In the book the creature seems to struggle with their “otherness” – especially after witnessing Safie’s situation.

I believe the struggle that is displayed in the novel can be directly correlated with what Gloria Anzaldua believes about identity. She believes that  “mestiza consciousness” (or as I understand it: code switching between several identities) plays a role in who we present in any given circumstance. The creature in the novel is excluded “from birth” they are never given the feeling of love or a sense of belonging which influences how they allow themselves to be seen. I would argue that the creature finds difficulty in finding their identity and therefore becomes someone new in every situation. This is evident because we see different sides of the creature throughout the novel – we see them sad, we see them angry, we see them in need of companionship and each time they communicate it differently making it feel like we are dealing with different characters every time. I think everyone has been “othered” at one time or another…luckily I don’t feel that it’s ever been to the severity that the creature faced but I sympathize because I think for a long time that is who my dad had to be. I can’t imagine not feeling like I belong, I can’t imagine being forced into loneliness, I can’t imagine being the creature.

I would like to end this post about immigration by paying and giving all of my respect to all immigrants and refugees around the globe. I myself am the proud daughter of Jose Fidel Rivas, a Salvadorian immigrant who has never let me feel “othered” to the extent I know he felt when he first arrived to this country (and sometimes even still does). 29 years later he still remembers every step of his 5,000 mile journey to “los Estados Unidos”. I get upset with him often, I tune in and out of lectures he gives me (you don’t understand this man can talk forever!), and I rarely watch the youtube videos he sends me (then I lie about it later) but one thing is for sure – he is the foundation on which I am allowed to build and he has all of my respect and gratitude always. He will never see this but I just want all of you to know how grateful I am that he took all of the “othering” on his back so I wouldn’t have to – he’s hella real and I think I’ll hug him for just a second longer tomorrow morning.

-Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua

–  Maricruz Rivas