Thursday, 8 October 2009

Immigrant Songs


"I clench cold fists in my Marks & Spencer jacket
and secretly test my accent once again:
St. James's Park, St. James's Park, St. James's Park."
-from "Immigrant" by Fleur Adcock

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"You know how it feels, to tell your friends and family back home you're a postman?"
-A Friend

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"What am I, what am I, what am I?"
-from "The Bunyip Of Berkeley's Creek" by Jenny Wagner

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Yesterday I called an employment agency to get their new address, as their office just moved this week. The chick on the phone said, "We aren't hiring AT ALL for the next two weeks or so though." and I never did get that address out of her. Funny enough, when Sean and I were walking in town, we saw the sign and decided to pop in. We were greeted as professionals and given excellent advice and personal email addresses and phone numbers. Please, email our CVs to these people, and phone them as soon as possible. They need us.

Why the discrepancy?

I'm an old hand at this: Never ever call. Go in. I learned this years ago, job hunting in the UK and the US. On the phone, jobs were suddenly "No longer available". As a walk-in to the same office, a miracle! Yes, the advertised job is certainly available, and free to YOU!

On the phone, my listeners hear "Hi, I'm an immigrant. Hear my West Indian accent?" But when I walk in, they see "Ah. Expat." My accent is suddenly interesting and funny, a "lovely lilt". My upbringing suddenly exotic, In A Good Way. Years ago, at ICL, I had to make calls at times to warehouses all over the country and because of my position at the time, I was respected on the phone. I had a great fan in Wales, who would always take my calls with a sigh: "Och, ah can tell you're a dark beauty!"

I never corrected him, of course, I just laughed. I can laugh. I'm one of the beautiful white people. But I cannot, I will never, be able to judge a person by their accent or colour; and I am always surprised when I am judged in that way.


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"No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people,
Sharing all the world."
-John Lennon, "Imagine"

11 comments:

Grandmother said...

yes, imagine and pray that it may be so...soon.

Islandgirl said...

Think I am going to dig out my copy of Lonely Londoners!

Good luck with the job hunt love!

LceeL said...

I am just beginning to realize that you are one of the most interesting people I know.

Nan said...

Grandmother, soon.

Thanks Shar, the job hunt is ON!

Thank you Lou, but "What am I"? :)

planetnomad said...

Ah yes. Sigh. I get it in a whole new dimension. I'm blonde, Western, in Morocco--I get a certain amount of deference, mixed with a certain amount of opportunism and even dislike. But then people hear me stumbling with French or Arabic, so they assume I'm not very intelligent. Or they'll insult me to my face, assuming I don't understand--that's always fun too.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Brilliant insight, heart wrenching post. You HAVE to send this along somewhere.
Good luck.

Miranda said...

We are still not sure of the meaning of that bunyip book. Alex likes saying 'what am I, what am I?' though.

Zoe got the same response when she moved to London. Don't ever call.

Tash said...

My brother sent out resumes in abundance after uni and hot no responses, until a friend of my father's suggested that he attach a photo to his cv. Crazy that he should need to buy the trini connection was too much for the employers to get past.ridiculous but true, and this despite the fact that he was born in jolly old. So, worrying that it would look tacky, he attached a photo and hey presto.

Tash said...

Oops that wAs supposed to be 'got' not 'hot' and 'but' not 'buy'

Nan said...

Tash, yes, I've had that advice too. So far, haven't done the photo.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I will always remember apartment hunting in Toronto which isn;t easy at the best of times and being rejected over the phone time and time again. Finally, the final call, the guy gave me some excuse why the apt was no longer available. But then said don;t worry, its not because you are black. I remember being so shocked and surprised that I was totally wrongly judged and stereotyped due to my accent. No to mention that is shouldn;t have mattered one iota what color my skin is. Huh, Imagine is right.


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