Why "Go Back to Where You Came From" Is Hostile to All Non-White Americans
Politics and Activism

Why "Go Back to Where You Came From" Is Hostile to All Non-White Americans

A perspective on how rhetoric such as "Go back to ____", and "Send her back" is not only damaging to immigrants and new Americans in the United States, but ALL Non-White Americans as well.

Image by Pete Linforth (Pixabay)

Sidenote: This short story and its characters are fictional, however the news mentions in it are factual.

"US President Donald Trump tells 4 Congresswomen to go back to where they came from" was on the headlines this morning as I woke up for my morning class. As CNN had the contributors passionately yelled at each other about this issue as well as Immigration, I got ready, and walked out to class.

While I did care about immigration, and was against this type of "Go back to where you came from rhetoric", I didn't have time to dwell on it. Anyways, people will be people, you just have to avoid some of the bad ones.

After I finished my painfully long economics class, I took the subway downtown to West 4th street, and walked to this new hip barber shop. Luckily since it was a Friday afternoon, the wait was short, and sat in the chair almost immediately.

"Are you sure that you want to cut your hair so short?" the hair stylist asked me.

"Yes, since it's the summer and we're in NYC, it's too hot for me to keep it long". I replied.

"Aw, ok. It's just that you have such nice and beautiful long hair that it would be a shame to cut it" he said.

"Thanks, but it's too long, and it's too hot. Anyway, it'll grow back".

"I hope it will. Your hair is so beautiful, so ethnic".

I didn't know what to say to this, so I didn't respond.

After my weird haircut experience, I then went to the grocery store; I had a blind date tonight, and just wanted to pick up some things before meeting him.

As I was looking at different types of pasta noodles in the grocery aisle 5, I was talking to my friend Josefina on the phone in Spanish. I didn't speak it the best, but I always tried.

"Éstas nervioso para te cita esta noche?" (Are you nervous for your date tonight?) she asked.

"Si, un poco. Pero pienso que sera divertido" (Yes, a little. But I think that it will be fun) I replied.

As we continued to talk about the blind date for tonight, this one woman was staring at me for awhile. I ignored it and continued talking to Josefina for 5 more minutes.

"Tienes divertido!" (Have fun!) she said.

"Gracias" (Thank you!) I responded, and I hung up the phone.

"You know, in America we speak English" the woman said to me.

"What do you mean? In Latin America, most people speak Spanish and Portugese. In North America, many people speak English, French, and Spanish" I replied.

"I meant in the US" she replied.

"Well, English isn't the official language of the US so…" I said.

"I'm just saying, if you want to live here in our country, speak English. If you want to speak Spanish or whatever language you were speaking, go back to where you came from"

"I was born in San Francisco, California. I am 3rd generation American".

"Well, you sure don't look like it" she said, and walked away quickly.

I was too stunned to move for about 2 minutes, I couldn't believe that that just happened.

A little while later, as I walked to the Italian restaurant that I was meeting my date at, the words "Ethnic" and "you sure don't look like it" repeated in my head again and again. I was born here in the US, I am a 3rd generation American, yet because of my ethnicity and color of my skin, my Americanness was put in question. How is this ok? Furthermore, so what if I wasn't American?

The US was built by immigrants for immigrants; everyone is supposed to be welcomed here. Sure, while there can and are debates about illegal immigration, how does my appearance factor into that?

Why must Whiteness be the standard color of the American?

I mean, with Native Americans being here before the Settlers arrived, and African slaves being brought here shortly after the Settler's arrival, why can't the "Standard American" be various shades of Brown, or in fact, be any color?

I put this idea to the side as I walked into the Italian restaurant.

When I sat down at the table, I got a text from him, "sorry, subway was delayed, will be there in 5 min". I ordered a glass of water, and watched the TV that was in the corner of the restaurant, which was recapping the same news I heard from earlier today.

After 2 minutes of listening to the national coverage of the Trump rally in North Carolina, where the participants chanted "Send her back", I had enough, and looked away.

When doing so, I was able to get a good look of the rest of the people in the restraurant, most because they were staring at me. I tried with my best of efforts to look for one non-white person in the place, yet like in "Where's Waldo?" I couldn't find even one.

What made it worse was that they were all staring at me, and giving me the same look the women gave at the grocery store.

My date walked in 5 minutes later.

"So Michael, tell me about yourself. Where are you from?" my date, Nick asked.

"I'm from San Francisco, CA, but I studied and am working here in New York City" I replied.

"Nice! But let me ask again, where are you from again?"

"San Francisco, the West Coast"

"I know you said that already, but like where are you REALLY from?"

I took a sip of my tap water, cooling my inner rage, and replied "Mexico".

For Further Reading:

Dwyer "'Go Back Where You Came From': The Long Rhetorical Roots Of Trump's Racist Tweets"

Karanth "Federal Law Says 'Go Back To Where You Came From' Counts As Discrimination"

Mezzofiore "These Americans share what it feels like to be told: 'Go back to where they came from'"

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