Why I Got Rid of All my Ostrich-Friends

The thing I hate most about living in America is the politics. And I don’t mean discussing politics; I mean living in it. I am the wrong gender, race, nationality, and class for almost every new policy that has been proposed; and worse, comes into place.

My everyday reality in America fares no better. Every week, I endure at least one incident of racism, xenophobia, or just plain racial-ignorance… in ATLANTA. If I threw in incidents of misogyny, especially male entitlement, the number climbs drastically.

Naturally, over time I find myself most comfortable in the company of other immigrants. There are many Americans I consider friends, but most are First Generation Americans with immigrant parents.

One of the things I’ve noted in this social circle — whether I meet immigrants from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, or Latin America — is that if I ask them, “What do you think of America so far?” almost all of them answer with:

I love the country, but man, these people…

Why I Stayed

When I came to America in the summer of 2015, I was supposed to be here for summer vacation. But my husband essentially told me if I left, that was it. No more relationship. My so-called brilliant plan of going back and forth several times per year just wasn’t going to work for him.

When I spoke to my mother about it, outraged that I had essentially been handed a cloaked ultimatum, she told me he had a point. “I just know these Americans are going to vote in Trump,” she told me. “You might as well stay, or you might not be able to come back.”

And so, I stayed.

I’m glad I did, because Mom was right. He was voted in, and a lot of immigration and travel laws were either quietly or conspicuously changed. While the media remained outraged about the travel bans, a few smaller changes also took place.

In the past, immigration only required that you not stay more than 6 months on a visiting visa, after entering the country. These days, immigration has also been cracking down on people re-entering anew, after already spending 6 months during that calendar year.

Whether this is in all states, or differs on a case-by-case basis, it happened often enough that we opted not to invite my long-retired grandma up for her routine trip this year.

The Struggle Is Real

There are times when I wonder if it might not have been better to just remain in Jamaica. Sure I would be broke, and Alexis Chateau PR might not exist, but there is no price on freedom and being treated like a decent human being.

In Jamaica, I was treated as an upper to upper-middle class citizen because I was educated, gainfully employed, lived in a nice neighbourhood, and spent a great deal of time around the  professional immigrants and expats. And in places where no one knew me, I was at least given the benefit of the doubt.

In America, I am still educated, own my own business, live in a great neighbourhood, have a spotless record — and it doesn’t mean a thing. I am still often treated as an uneducated hoodrat who should probably go back to where she came from.

At least once per week, I call one of my best friends back home to rant and rave at 2 in the morning about some new incident. Then, I clear my head, remember why I’m here, re-focus, and get back to work.

The Irony

The irony is that, like all the other immigrants and expats I’ve come across, I love America. I have a great life here. I love my work, the home I renovated from scratch to meet my exact preferences, not having to budget my meals, and being geographically close to my family for the first time since 1999.

I love the woods in the east, the desert out west, and the city skyscrapers when they’re lit up against the night-sky. I enjoy the hiking trails, the food, and even the sub-par beaches (by Jamaican standards, anyway).

But the people here can make America a very difficult place to be an immigrant — especially in 2017. So what did I do about it? And how did I adjust? I started by getting rid of all my Ostrich friends, and family members.

What is an Ostrich?

Every time I talk about “Ostrich people”, I’m met with either laughter or a cocked eyebrow. Some already know what I’m referring to, but others will ask, What on Earth do I mean?

It’s simple, really. Ostriches are the people who like to bury their head in the sand, and wait for the world to right itself. You can rarely count on them to stand their own ground, much less stand for yours.

These are the people who say and do the following.

  1. Doesn’t care what happens on the news, because it doesn’t affect them anyway, and they “don’t need that negativity” in their lives.
  2. Refuses to discuss any hard topics, because it makes them uncomfortable and doesn’t directly affect them anyway.
  3. Mutes politics and social justice issues on their social media, because Game of Thrones and Kim Kardashian are easier topics than dying Puerto Ricans and dead Las Vegans.
  4. Insists racism does not exist, and that the media brainwashed minorities into believing otherwise.
  5. Witnesses acts of prejudice and discrimination against minority groups (including LGBTQs) and turns a blind eye.
  6. Thinks NFL athletes might have a point to protest, but should shut up and play ball, because that’s what they’re paid to do anyway. (Not to be confused with the ones who only hold the opinion that it’s disrespectful to the flag and anthem)

Why Ostriches Like the Sand

One of the things I noticed about most of the Ostriches I knew personally, is that they were all passionate about at least one issue close to them. However, they did not care about issues that didn’t directly affect them, even when it sometimes affected immediate friends and family members.

Some legitimately could not see outside their bubble of privilege, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Some could, but found it easier to pretend the boogie man wasn’t hiding in the shadows. And others saw, understood, and even accepted it, but didn’t care, because it didn’t affect them anyway.

For all these types, the sand is a great place to tune into, to tune out everybody else’s problems. Why? So they can enjoy the privileges provided by a biased and divided society without distraction, of course.

Not surprisingly, all of these Ostriches were White American Males in their 20s and early 30s. After all, who else is less affected by recent political changes in America now — or possibly, ever?

Not Drawing a White Blanket

This is not to say that all White Males are rolling around in their hamster-bubble; or wearing sunshades of privilege, while they dig their toes in sand. Most of my friends here are still White men, and some are American.

So what makes these set non-Ostrich-like? Not one of them are — or have ever been — blind to the inequalities present in not just America, but the rest of the world. We may not agree on everything, but I value the fact that we can peacefully disagree, while sharing the same common values.

Those common values are:

  1. Inequalities exist, whether they specifically affect me, or not.
  2. Something must be done.
  3. It’s impossible that everyone will agree on what that something is.
  4. It is not our right to tell another group how to protest the inequalities that affect them, as long as they do so peacefully.

The Danger of Ostriches

So what dangers do Ostriches pose, particularly to minorities and immigrants?

The answer to that is simple. Minority-citizens constantly have their voices suppressed, and their opinions and personal narratives of life in America, discredited by people who have never lived a day in their shoes.

Meanwhile, immigrants and expatriates do not have the freedom of speech to the extent that citizens do anymore. Protesting is not something we can do without fear of retaliation that could extend to deportation. We are not here by right; but by privilege. A green card does not mean what it once did prior to 2017.

Thus, to continue to surround ourselves with people who refuse to understand our everyday reality, who constantly discredit our personal narratives, who try to make us feel guilty for speaking out, and who will not stand up and lend their voice on our behalf, not only erodes our mental health, but our perception of America.

I settled into a deep, dark hole in 2016, and if I never got rid of Ostrich No. 1 and all the others that followed, I’m sure I would still be there. I hinted at this transformation in a very popular post on this blog: How to Build a More Positive You.

I wrote:

If you put negativity in, you’ll get negativity out… 

The negative inputs I mostly pay attention to are people. 

After all, if you want to be a better and more positive you, surrounding yourself with jaded people, won’t get you very far.

So if you have Ostrich friends — even if you’re not a minority, immigrant, female, LGBTQ, or one of the other many systematically oppressed groups — it’s time you got rid of them before you become an Ostrich, too.

Don’t Be an Ostrich

Rather than police other Ostriches, however, our focus should be on policing ourselves. Don’t wait until an issue affects you, to make it your cause. It isn’t philanthropy, if you only care when you or someone close to you is the victim.

  • I have zero student loans and a total debt of about $300, but I agree that something must be done about the student loan crisis burdening millennials.
  • I am not an African-American, but I can see where the people and the culture that binds them together have suffered immensely, while I was in Jamaica basking in the glory of never having to be conscious of the fact that I’m of African descent.
  • I have never suffered police brutality, or lost a family member to race-baited violence, but I am not blind to the fact that it exists and the desperation that leads to controversial means of protesting on public platforms.
  • I am not an LGBTQ, but I support them, because like they rest of us they are human beings with a right to exercise the privileges of mutual consent.
  • I do experience regular prejudice as a Black woman (emphasis on woman!) and an immigrant; and I reserve the right to speak out about that, too.

You don’t have to be affected by a cause to support it. You just have to care.

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46 thoughts on “Why I Got Rid of All my Ostrich-Friends

      1. I’m from the philippines originally dear, and I went to america just for a vacation but ended up lving there for 4 years so that’s what I observed when I was there. It’s like we’re the outcast of the place. Only the other immigrants understands.

  1. “Rather than police other Ostriches, however, our focus should be on policing ourselves”. I think this pretty much sums it up for me. I think change can only come from within — it cannot be otherwise. Nice post.

    1. Thank you, Clare. We all have to take personal responsibility for change. Unfortunately, not many of us are but hopefully by leading through example, this will change.

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to leave a comment. 😄

  2. Terrific article.

    Your analogy of Ostrich-people led me to reframe something I have witnessed that contributes to all of this too.

    I’d describe it as Former Ostrich-people with side blinders on.

    These would be people that have experienced, one, and just one of the negative experiences that too many people in American experience every day.

    They stop being Ostrich-people, some at an early age in life and some at a later age in life, but they stop and realize there is a problem and a BIG problem at that.

    What they don’t see is that the problem they see is not the ONLY problem.

    These are often the ‘single-issue’ voters.

    They remain ostrich people for all other issues, except the issue they experienced directly.

    Up I-85 from Atlanta(where I used to live), I now live in Charlotte, NC.

    We have a few too many folks up here that are caught in the singularity of their one problem.

    This includes the people who ONLY see LGBTQ problems.
    This includes the people who only see unfair racial problems.
    This includes the people who only see unfair immigration problems.
    This includes the people who only see unfair class problems.

    In most of these cases, all of these single issue folks, rally and fight hard for their single issue.

    They often fight against each other, especially the folks experience class(financial or opportunity problems) fighting against the other three.

    This is not everybody.

    There are many of us that are out and voting and marching and working for all of these issues and more.

    But people often are only capable of reacting to the immediate pain they are feeling right now. They are not always woke enough to see the causes instead of reacting to the symptoms.

    For those of us that are woke and have our heads completely out of the sand, we have to keep cross-pollinating all of our experiences and helping all of these groups see the bigger symptoms and connect with each other to find common cause to solve all of them together.

    …..

    Thanks for evoking my comments and providing a great analogy and perspective to fuel me through the day!

    Hope you have a wonderful day as well! We can make this better!!!

    1. Hi Brett! I love your mention of the need to cross-pollinate as non-Ostriches. My friends back in Jamaica tell me that’s my “big purpose” whenever I share one of my weekly incidents and how I handle it. I always try to talk a bit of sense into the person before the interaction is over. It may not convert them, but hopefully it leaves them with a question mark that provokes thought. I hope my blog posts on these issues assist with the polination, too.

      It’s interesting that you’ve also noticed the one-sided Ostriches who only recognise the issues that affect them in some way. This is an unfortunate side-effect of a culture that has almost completely lost its sense of community in favour of individualism. It’s truly becoming a dog-eat-dog/every-man-for-himself scenario.

      This election, however, while it stirred up a lot of the mud and silt sitting at the bottom of the river, also stirred a lot of previously quiet Ostriches into action. Unfortunately, it also stirred a lot of people into burial mode, which is how Trump won. A lot of Democrats simply refused to act, at the time when their actions (ie voting) would have counted most.

      Here’s to hoping it all amounts to something positive sooner rather than later.

      Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment. This really made my day. 😊

  3. Yes! Never thought to apply the term Ostrich to people who are policing others but not themselves. I have too many of those people clogging up my social media so I have been avoiding it. Time to take charge and clean house. Thank you!

    1. Hi Koolaid Mom, thanks for dropping by, but I think you may be mistaken!

      The term isn’t used in the article to describe people who are policing others, but not themselves.

      The definition provided in the article: “Ostriches are the people who like to bury their head in the sand, and wait for the world to right itself. You can rarely count on them to stand their own ground, much less stand for yours.”

  4. Point(s) well taken. We live in a remote corner of Hawaii Island, so we don’t participate in the mainland US madness. I too had a weird prescience that Trump would win because, as a child of the sixties and seventies, I knew the latent (and overt, to be certain) racism in the US. And I knew how angry these people were that we voted Obama in – twice. Though I might have hoped the trend toward Oneness would continue, I knew the undercurrents as well. So we do what we can in a global humanitarian sense. And we have not had a TV hookup in over a dozen years, though this is not new – except when the kids were watching college basketball and such, we have not participated in national media.
    Anyhow, great post, all too well understood. Aloha.

    1. Hi Bela! Do you have room for me over there in Hawaii? 😂 I breathe so much easier when I’m out west, in general.

      I agree with you. I also believe Obama stirred up a lot of racism for no other reason than that he was of African Descent. So you’re right, this new president was revenge.

  5. Wow, great mind, strong article, powerful will, and above all one who has destine to make it irrespective of the challenges surrounding one’s progress of the ostriches, life is not always fair sometimes. you get it good today it turn round to be bad for you. but i like your will power to see success in the midst of obstacles. really you are well educated with constructive article.welldone for this article, wish you well

    1. I agree with all above and I completely enjoyed reading ur post above. But I must say I might be an Ostrich… I’m sorry but I am Amerciacn mixed-race woman who never picked a side but her own since I grew up in the south where being mixed race was worse than being black. On top of it. I had a cultured upbringing in the arts and LGBTQ community from birth so this so did not help matters in the late 60’s & the 70’s… with all that being said I grew up having my back since everyone else wanted to kick me in it. Going back to me being an Ostrich (perhaps). My mother is a very extreme political artist and my little sister wanted to be president since birth it seemed. I was just a flower child and loved the world, as I got older (in so. Fla) I experienced racism, abuse, and drugs and was a very angry teenager/runaway. I learned if I did not start to look out for myself there would be those out there who will beat me down and break my spirit. So for self-preservation, I said fuck the world and worked on self to adjust in the world. My mom is still ranting on the politics of the good ole u.s.a. and my sister is not the president but an angry black woman who voices it with posts a million times a day on FB.
      I, on the other hand, am living my life to my design with love and happiness and (here comes the ostrich part) Since Trump was elected I went back to the states in March, New England area. I was outraged by what America has become, I felt gutted by the overall feel of the people. Don’t get me wrong everyone was wonderful but so angry, disappointed, sad, speaking out the side of their necks and just hateful. Being a human who feels others pains and joys this new feeling of America affected me like an infection and I began to feel myself rot inside. I could not wait to leave and come back to my new home. I am so outraged on how America to me seems to love to be in such anger, it reminded me of a woman I knew once who she was only happy when talking bad about someone. This is what America has become to me like this woman. Everyone wanted me to stay and not return home because they said it was refreshing having positivity around, but I knew I would become a freaking angry mixed-woman in no time. So no, I cant watch the news, protest, make a political post on FB, and rant till I have no more voice. It is like the saying goes, “You can bring a horse to water but can’t make them drink, no matter how much you try and force it.”

      So I live in my bubble world not in the sand because I don’t like sand in my eyes and mouth. But I have created my own world and just love living in it being an expat.
      As my sis would say, YOU NEED TO STAY WOKE!
      I am woke, but I would also be killed so I prefer to stay alive.
      sorry, this was so long, but you evoked it out of me. ::WINK::

      1. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond though you’re on the other side of the fence.

        I did refer to Ostriches as living in a bubble once or twice in this article and another, so to me, the bubble life isn’t too far off from the sand.

        As a Mixed Black woman myself and the other half of an interracial relationship, I’m well aware of what Mixed people go through not just in the States but elsewhere. I wouldn’t say it was “worse than being Black” though.

        It’s very easy to personalise our own struggles as the worst, but historically, Mixed people have always received better privileges than the darker-skinned Blacks. I’m willing to admit that, flat out. I call it “brown privilege”. I have a light-skinned maternal side and a dark-skinned paternal side, and especially for the men, there’s a huge difference. Darker-skinned Black women have also always been treated as less beautiful than the exotic lighter-skinner mixes within both Black and White cirlces. You don’t have to look further than corporate ads and rap videos to see that.

        I believe it’s also important to differentiate venting from standing up for social justice. Anyone can update a Facebook status or complain, but not everyone is doing something about it. And sometimes, complaining is the first step to raising awareness with the right people who had no idea the problem even existed.

        All the best to you on your journey!

  6. I live in a state where the NAACP has a travel advisory for people of color due to the normalcy of pulling over and jailing people of color as well as the normalcy of mistreatment in jails of people of color and this is 2017. I am glad your experience has been good, but for others, not so much. I have friends that want me to leave this country because they don’t think I’ll thrive here. I want to get a PhD and because my father is ill and suffering with Alzheimer’s he wants me to find a school here, but even he is aware that things might return to the way things were when he had to fight to sit at a lunch counter. To each his own but because one experience is good doesn’t mean all experiences are good or will have a happy ending. My father and his siblings rose above through hard work but not so their children to be shot in the street just for looking suspicious or to have discrimination laws repealed (MO). I was born and educated in America. I had it good, but I also know that for every good life, there’s 10 bad ones and I would ashamed to ignore that fact because I didn’t want to admit it—or become a victim of it. Sometimes you have to leave to make a change at home.

    1. Wow! What state is that? Arizona instantly came to mind! But I don’t know any states had advisories like that. That’s crazy. My goodness!

      I’m truly sorry to hear of the hardships you’ve faced so far. I say focus and get that PhD, and if America hasn’t become a better place by then, plot your escape.

      You are right that sometimes you have to leave to make a change at home. But in this madness, I know many who leave will not come back.

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