About Reverse Immigration

During the first two waves of Chinese immigration to the United States, Hong Kong was the major point of departure for Cantonese speaking emmigrants seeking a better life in the U.S.  This wave of immigration from Hong Kong to the U.S. has largely subsided, and the majority of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. are now Mandarin speakers from the mainland.  But there is another immigration pattern between the two countries these days, and it’s going in the other direction.

I’m a U.S. citizen who recently immigrated to Hong Kong to work for two years.  I work for a company that helps people in Hong Kong get into U.S. universities; unlike previous Chinese who have moved to the U.S., these students generally intend to get their education, and then come back to Hong Kong.  This blog is about my experiences as a “reverse immigrant” in Hong Kong and my interactions with Chinese students hoping to study in the U.S. and then return home.

“Reverse immigration” is an allusion to “reverse racism.”  “Reverse racism” is a term used primarily by racist white people in the U.S.  It implies that racism has a correct direction and an incorrect, or “reverse” direction.  Likewise, many Americans think of immigration as having a correct and incorrect direction.  I just went the wrong way.

Some may argue that “reverse” immigration would be for me to return to Ireland/Scotland/England/Europe, since that’s where most of my ancestors came from.  But that’s still not backwards the same way “reverse racism” implies backwardness.  It’s not that I actually turned around and went back East. By crossing the Pacific instead of the Atlantic, I went backwards conceptually.  I left the New Word for the Old World, and I went to an old world where I don’t appear to belong.   Though my ancestors have been moving West for hundreds of years, at some point moving West lands you in the East.

I assume my readers are adults, and as such I assume they can use the internet to verify any factual claims I make.  I encourage debate, and I don’t even require that it be civil.  So if you don’t like what I say, or think it’s just wrong, you have two options: 1. don’t read my blog anymore, that’s how freedom of speech works, or 2. argue with me, call me out on it.  I may then argue back, or even agree with you.  Sounds like fun to me.


5 responses to “About Reverse Immigration

  1. W,good post,again. I’ve always thought that the word immigrant had more than an hint of racism behind it. It seems a person doesn’t belong because they immigrated to a place where they supposedly don’t belong, or is different from the majority. Who determines this? God? Government? In the US we call people “immigrants” who come from other countries, but all of our ancestors were “immigrants”, weren’t they? Why do we even use this word? To label people or put them in a category? Thanks for posting. Keep it up.

  2. Nate, I don’t think the word “immigrant” is inherently racist. Of course, much of the time it’s used in the US, it is uttered by racist anti-immigrant rednecks. So you’re right, there is often more than a hint of racism behind it. But I don’t think the word itself is racist. It’s a pretty objective term, really. In the US, I was not an immigrant because I was born in the US; this has nothing to do with being in the majority, many minorities are not immigrants. In HK, I am an immigrant because I wasn’t born here. Everybody’s ancestors come from somewhere else, if you go back far enough, except maybe some East Africans living in East Africa (since that’s where our species originated).

  3. W, I completely agree that the word immigrant is not inherently racist. I think you got my somewhat convoluted point though. I simply have a problem with how it is used as a way to label people, or to demean (i.e. rednecks). It’s always enjoyable to pick on rednecks when talking about racism, isn’t it? 🙂

  4. Well, I think it’s ok for me to use the “r-word”. I am part redneck after all. Isn’t that how these things work?

  5. Yep, it’s definitely ok. R-word…that’s funny.

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