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Is “Expat” Racist?

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Is the term expat racist? Journalist Laura Secorun argues that the word expat implies a value judgment, suggesting that Westerners who move to another country are adventurous, while the term immigrant suggests someone who likely moved out of necessity or may be a burden to society in their adopted country. This is part of a complete episode.

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  • I had already read and heard other suggestions that the term “expad” is racist before hearing you talk about it on your show. This notion doesn’t ring true with me because in my expat club here in France we have white, black, Hispanic and other ethnicities represented. As an American who originally moved to France with a plan for 3-5 years and is still here 11 years later, I completely agree with Grant’s distinction between expat and immigrant. Notice my handle for this site which I picked years ago: FAUX Frenchie. 🙂 I’ve lived here for years and speak the language well enough to occasionally pass for a Frenchman, but I’m American. I’m living outside of (ex) MY country (patria). I have not obtained French citizenship. I don’t vote here. I still have holdings in the US and return frequently for work and pleasure. My parents, siblings and all of their children live in the US and enjoy visiting us here but have no intention of moving. Although I’ve stayed here longer than originally planned, I’ll certainly go back to the US someday.

    So it’s not about my race, I don’t think, but it might be about my financial situation. In other words, I don’t think it’s a racist term, but it might be a bit classist. I’m not rich by most definitions, but I do have holdings in both countries and can go back and forth whenever I wish. When I think of the notion of immigration, I think of people who are looking for an opportunity in a new country that they couldn’t get at home. They want to become American or European or whatever and create new opportunities for themselves and their children. I have had an interesting career opportunity here in France, but it hasn’t afforded me a completely different standard of living than I would have had in the US. In fact, by some standards I have somewhat less (smaller houses and cars and such). Some immigrants I know are so focused on their new lives that they don’t teach their children their native language or culture! I’ve never known an expat to do that.

    So I don’t think either word is really racist, and I think there are distinctions that make having two separate words useful. If a person always calls white foreigners expats and all non-white foreigners immigrants, then that person is definitely racist!

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