Oh, So Now I’m Bangladeshi?

Zia Haider Rahman in The New York Times:

Rahman-superJumboTWENTY years ago, when New Yorkers asked me where I was from, all I’d say is that I grew up in Britain. Mentioning that I was born in Bangladesh drew only more questions, and New Yorkers simply wanted confirmation of what was to them the distinctive cultural marker: my British accent. That accent was learned from imitating BBC News announcers on a cassette recorder. As a boy, I read about the destruction of millions of Jews and was gripped by fear: If white Europeans could do that to people who looked like them, imagine what they could do to me. So I adapted, hoping to make myself less alien to these people so ill at ease with difference. I grew up not so long ago in a Britain that spat at nonwhites, beat us and daubed swastikas on walls. Britain frightens its natives with the specter of a fifth column, and exhorts immigrants to integrate better and adopt British values. Do it and you’ll earn your stripes. But the promise is hollow, for Britain has no intention of keeping its side of the bargain.

…If you’re not going to call me British when I grew up in Britain; when I hold a British passport and don’t hold a Bangladeshi one; when I don’t even speak Bengali; when, good citizen that I try to be, I help an elderly neighbor with his Ikea bed, or dig out the old lilac that another cannot uproot; when I was educated in Britain, worked in Britain, was “a body of England’s, breathing English air/Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home”; when I wash the dishes at the local church’s fund-raiser for the homeless (because regardless of faith, we surely all believe in the idea of community); and again — it bears repetition — when I hold a British passport “without let or hindrance,” then you can’t be surprised if, doubting your good faith, I grab my bags and get the hell out.

After all, how much more can I integrate? What more is it you want from us? To be white? To be you?

More here.