If I went to my bedroom, what do I expect? My bed. If I go to a war-zone, death; If I go to a prison, prisoners; if I go to a hospital, sick people and doctors trying to cure them; if I go to a palace, kings and queens; in churches, clergy and laity; in a school, teachers and students. If I go to homes I find families.
What do I mean by this platitude? If I come to the U.S., I find “Americans.” If I’ve come to a post-industrial society, I expect bureaucratic migratory grinding as a first welcome, from the cubicles of their human assembly line. I wish the random checks randomly got not-so-random–checking me every time because of me. But precisely there’s the beauty of it: it’s nothing personal. Precisely there is the catch: it’s not because of you, you brown, black, yellow, South American, Arabic, Indian, African, you; it’s the procedure, the guideline, the instruction, the manual, the flowchart, that will lead them to anyone like you. Non-resident: If I belonged here, I would not be here. Alienation is my laissez-passer.
Branded and packed off, the assembly line comes to its end: the Alien is ready for socialization. It goes to Williams College, what does It expect then? In a place where the greater population is white, does It expect to be comfortable, as a brown-skinned person? If It comes to a place where student-employees make as much or more money per hour than both its parents ever could, does It expect to feel similar to those who do not even need to have a campus job? Yet, wait! These all-too-bitter thoughts fly in the face of Williams’ tacit self-conception, its communal imaginary: “I am Williams”.
What about, then, “I too am Williams”? A tautological remark regarding those others implied by “too”. To say “I too am” what the other is, I first recognize that the other is what it is. Of course, they are what they are. However, the phrase’s redeeming flip-side is an attempted inclusive redefinition of the other’s self-image. I wish I could grin at the irony of being in need to even assert such a statement. It tells that its utterers are precisely those who are not Williams. Equality in otherness is no equality: That anyone can say that phrase is different from a reality in which nobody has to. The sentence is said because it has a function for its utterers. Its existence points at the slot that anyone-like-me will come to fill; my own capacity to utter it is one of many permits required to exist. “I am Williams” is the “Welcome” mat of a categorizing admittance. Welcome, to the migrations office, the immigrant center, the minority center, the ghetto, the interrogation room, the isolation ward, the bureau. We can now all point at it and feel all tolerant and multi-cultural inside. I’d unresentfully hear out someone other than my visas telling me: “go back home!” I could then reach out and give them solace: “I’m sorry, my non-Alien friend, luckily I have somewhere to escape! you are already home”.
But alas, I find myself, amongst the grace notes of advertisement leaflets, among the material coincidences and discursive superfluities of the institution. My being here is as an impression of being here, the Alien is a hard-working guy, and the squirrels are quite ok–they seem nice beings, one of them even stared at me once. All of them, they, too, are Williams.