Conditional Citizens

I stumbled upon Laila Lalami’s book Conditional Citizens, which was released in September 2020, while reading reviews for another book on race relations in the U.S., a few months ago. Being Muslim and Moroccan, and having been educated in Morocco, the United Kingdom, and here in the U.S., Laila Lalami has an interesting and in depth perspective of what it means to be an immigrant in this country and to somehow always still be considered “other” and “conditionally American” despite having citizenship status now. In her short but well-thought out book, she weaves personal stories with facts from throughout human history, and it’s almost like you’re listening to a thoughtful lecture when reading the book.

I think this is also on the list of books everyone should read. It’s for people who believe that people “choose” to see race in everything. It’s for people who believe that racism no longer exists. It’s for people who believe that it’s a choice in this country to be rich or poor. It’s for individuals who think that if you work hard, you will achieve everything your heart desires, and if you do not, you will live surrounded in roaches and squalor. It’s for people who have chosen to turn a blind eye in the role that U.S. government has actively played in past, present, and future, in continuing the disempowerment of poor people. It’s for those who believe in the national myth that poverty is 100 percent in an individual’s control, and that the concept of “living paycheck to paycheck” is an actual choice. It’s for those who believe that for the most part, everyone treats everyone else equally regardless of race, sex/gender, religion, yet has no problem asking a non-White person, “Where are you really from?”

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