Economic scarcity is actually a myth leveraged by the powerful in order to pit white English working class people against racialised and migratised communities. Migrants end up doing the many jobs that white British people don’t actually want to do.
Even though it is true that migration actually boosts the economy, it is important to remember that our acceptance of migrants should not be conditional on their economic productivity, nor on what they “contribute”, because this plays into narratives of deservingness that are often underscored by racist assumptions and frameworks.
Read on to find out more about why we reject narratives of deservingness:
Deservingness defines who is worthy of respect, safety, refuge and dignity, and who is not.
Based on deservingness, migrants are then characterised as either “good” or “bad”, as “welcome” or as a “threat”, as “poor, innocent civilians” or as “dangerous people who have brought this upon themselves”.
Deservingness is often mapped out along racial, religious and class lines. It is therefore a proxy for whiteness, economic affluence, and Christianity.
Though well-intentioned, narratives that center the economic productivity and career achievements of migrants often play into respectability politics, and reaffirm that migrants should only be accepted if they fit into white affluence. Otherwise, they are denied the refuge and respect that is afforded so frequently to whiteness.
These narratives center the question of whether or not a migrant is economically productive or a “drain” on state resources, and in doing so also deliberately divert our attention away from the austerity policies that are responsible for so much of the poverty and homelessness that we see today.
Narratives of deservingness also underpin the “model minority myth”, which explains how certain migrant communities achieve higher levels of economic affluence than other migrant communities. This myth implies that “model minorities” are more deserving, since they have worked “harder” than other communities, and therefore have “rightfully” earned their place in our society.
What this then insinuates, is that other migrant communities are not as affluent because they are lazy, or because they have not worked hard enough, and that if they too worked hard, they would achieve “model minority” status: select Black and Brown people in the government and media are then tokenised and held up as examples of success, boosting the myth that “if the rest of this community just worked hard enough, they wouldn’t be poor”.
This narrative is toxic. We all know that some people work so hard but keep being pushed down by a system that was never meant to serve them in the first place.
Narratives of deservingness pit racialised groups against each other, and hinder our understanding of the ways that anti-Blackness, colourism, Islamophobia, and proximity to whiteness all affect one’s chances of economic success.