Wasted Striving

The Ungrateful Refugee (Dina Nayeri)

Grateful. There was that word again. Here I began to notice the pattern. This word had already come up a lot in my childhood, but in her mouth it lost its goodness. It hinted and threatened.

But there were unspoken conditions to our acceptance, and that was the secret we were meant to glean on our own: we had to be grateful. The hate wasn’t about being darker, or from elsewhere. It was about being those things and daring to be unaware of it. As refugees, we owed them our previous identity. We had to lay it at their door like an offering, and gleefully deny it to earn our place in this new country. There would be no straddling. No third culture here.

The refugee has to be less capable than the native, needier; he must stay in his place. That’s the only way gratitude will be accepted. Once he escapes control, he confirms his identity as the devil.

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