Just as I was drifting in to a soundless slumber, the shrill screech of my ringtone jarred me back awake. I snatched my phone off the charger, ready to give whoever was calling an ear-full for waking me up at one in the morning. I answered the phone and snapped an angry “what?” in to the mouthpiece.
I heard a familiar voice quickly shout in my ear – “Ariel, you need to pick me up, my cab driver ditched me in the middle of New Berlin and my phone is about to die.” And just like that the call was cut short as the line died. Still half-asleep and trying to process what was going on, I jumped out of bed, threw on a pair of flip-flops and grabbed my car keys.
I nearly missed my husband wandering down Sunnyslope Road in the pitch black, still wearing his navy blue work jacket and black pants. When he got in the car he was dripping sweat and absolutely livid. My husband is a fairly well-tempered man and rarely raises his voice, so it was extremely surprising to see him in a complete rage. I let him vent for a few minutes and calm down before I asked him what the hell was going on.
Apparently, he had requested an Uber to pick him up when he finished his second-shift engineering job in New Berlin. The driver arrived, heard his accent and promptly told him to get out of his car and find a different ride. He left my dumbfounded husband nearly seven miles away from home in the middle of the night with a dead phone.
You see, my husband Blake is a legal, British immigrant. We spent nearly six thousand dollars to get his green card. He has worked since the day he got that card, and would have worked earlier had he been able to. And yet, he still deals with ignorance constantly; people lashing out at him because he has an accent, others assuming he must have terrorist ties because certain world leaders keep claiming that Britain is overridden by terrorists. It is become an almost daily occurrence since relocating to Milwaukee.
He is no stranger to threats of violence, intolerance and bigotry since moving to the United States. Blake has had people threaten to follow him home and burn our house down because he had his country’s flag hanging from our porch railing. People try to pick fights in bars, threaten to beat him up, call him names and ask him not to bomb our country. He even had somebody threaten him at his own job, who was (thankfully) promptly fired. None of this is new to us.
“I’m constantly attacked and called a socialist prick when people find out where I’m from,” said Blake. “Most of this comes from old white people. Younger people don’t seem to care that I’m from a different country, but older white men really do.
So, where did this come from? This stigma against people from England? Has the United Kingdom, one of our staunchest allies, suddenly done something to warrant such treatment to somebody here legally, working and contributing to his community and being a genuinely law-abiding, tax-paying, functioning member of society?
The answer is no. There is no reason for the hate and intolerance, toward Blake or anybody else for that matter. It’s just bigotry and ignorance at its finest, continuously perpetuated by fear. The current political atmosphere in America doesn’t bode well for any immigrant at the moment, regardless of where they are from.
Mother Jones online magazine publication describes Milwaukee as one of the nation’s most segregated cities and the second poorest city in the United States. In retrospect, Milwaukee’s segregation leaves the cities inhabitants reeling against one another daily, with black vs. white, cop vs. civilian, and immigrant vs. nonimmigrant. The man who left Blake in the middle of New Berlin was an African American man, which surprised Blake even more.
“I couldn’t believe that somebody who’s been on the receiving end of this same type of intolerance would turn around and do the same thing to someone else,” said Blake. “You’d think he wouldn’t want to perpetuate those same principles.”
Seeing the intolerance that Blake has dealt with here in Milwaukee had me wondering if this is type of treatment might be more prevalent here, or if it was just as bad in other large cities around the country toward immigrants from Britain. I reached out to an old friend from high school who lives in Minneapolis and happened to also be married to a Brit and spoke at length with her husband Jonathan; he said he has dealt with some petty remarks, but nothing as extreme as what Blake has experienced here in Milwaukee.
“I have had a couple issues, got into a couple fights in bars, and I’ve been denied service in a bar in southern Illinois,” said Jonathan. “I heard some nationalist slander, but Minneapolis is quite open-minded, so I don’t usually come across anything besides a little banter here and there.”
Both Blake and Jonathan agree that, though they have both dealt with some intolerance in the United States, it is far worse for other immigrants, specifically those who aren’t Caucasian.
“Immigration into the U.S. is a lot rougher for anyone who isn’t white,” said Jonathan. “Ignorance runs like wildfire in this country.”
Blake doesn’t feel like it is specifically because he is English that people lash out at him, but because he isn’t from the United States.
“I think it’s just because I’m not American,” said Blake. “I wasn’t born and raised here, so I’m not welcome. I’m lucky I’m white or I think it would be a lot worse.”
I understand that centuries of ignorance, intolerance and bigotry isn’t going to be wiped out overnight. But when people ask me if it surprises me that my husband is treated with so much hatred, it is unfortunate that my answer is always a resounding ‘no.’ No, it doesn’t surprise me, because I see it every single day toward people of all races, religions, age and sexual orientation. Why would it be any different for him?