ArticlesWe All Know What “Go Back to Where You Came From” Really Means

We’ve lost all concept of the word ‘racism’. It’s weird because racism is all around us like air and we don’t argue about what’s air. Racism is now either everything or nothing. For example, if I say I prefer vanilla over chocolate, that could be construed as racist. Or, on the other side of idiocy, any incidents of racism are hoaxes, perpetuated by whiny people who seek attention. Racism is also now defined by only specific buzzwords. The N-word. The C-word. The S-word. If a sentence doesn’t contain a bad racist buzzword, it isn’t racist, right?

This is the cretinism of our society today. We’ve put so many loopholes to hide racism that it confuses us whenever there’s real racism. And ill-intended people have taken advantage of it.

Fear-mongering through passive-aggressive statements. Art by Mark Bryan.

We all know the words that Trump used when he told four congresswomen of color to go back to their countries, but what people argue about is what they meant. I shudder to realize that we live in a society where obvious things are left for interpretation, as though a simpleton like Donald Trump can utter sentences open for variation like a Jackson Pollock painting. People inanely argue about what is racism because they’re too focused on words and not contextualized background. To some, it’s not because they’re stupid, it’s because they nitpick and spin words (or lack of certain buzzwords) and use it to deliberately dress down meaning. They’re like shrewd lawyers.

Is telling people to go back to their country racist?

Perhaps we should ask what it sounds like to minorities.

Throughout their lives, minorities have been told to go back to their country, especially Asian, Latino and Muslim. Maybe the words weren’t always “go back to your country”; they can also appear as, “go back to where you came from” or “Hey, our kind was here before you, appreciate that you’re in our country.” It’s sneaky, a combination of the subconscious and conscious. There aren’t actual racist buzzwords in there but there’s malicious to the meaning that’s as worse as any N-word. It’s just enough to let minorities know we’re different and unwelcomed. You’d have to be a minority to know how often it happens and how embarrassing it feels when it’s said to you and your family in public.

So why are minorities assumed to be not from this country anyway? Isn’t there the internet? Do we not have enough diversity in movies to educate even the most rural of farmers? Well, as the oft-used saying goes: In an era of information, ignorance is a choice.

Division is this president’s brand. Art by Mark Bryan.

Some people tell people to go back to where they came from because it’s intentionally otherizing. They know the racial implications while pretending not to know why they said it. I’m still often being approached as someone who doesn’t know English. A banker did it to me. A Target cashier also. This was just in the last two weeks alone. People still sometimes talk to me in caveman grammar and even as I prove to speak fluently (with an American accent, no less) they’ll still presume I wasn’t born here. If that’s how people see me when things are okay and easygoing, what will they say to me when they’re pissed? Maybe: “Fuck off, chink. Go back to where you came from”?

When people ask what’s so racist about “Go back to where you came from”, it’s deliberately discounting the experiences of everyone who’ve had those words and phrases said at them in a very specific implied context. People who say it damn sure know why they’re really saying it. Telling us to leave this country is a spear, meant to “otherize” people, reminding them of their oppressed place. It’s a meaning that’s been experienced in a variety of forms to many minorities, sometimes even by other minorities. I’ve been told to go back to my country by all races, even Asian. It never feels good no matter who says it. I’ve been told that by random people in public places, often by cowards that are driving by or through anonymous vandalism. Would they say it if I or my family were white? When I was a kid, a white teenager smashed our backyard fence as my terrified mother shielded me. He told us to go back to Japan or China or wherever we came from. This, of course, really happened, but I know some people reading this will say that it’s fiction; a “hoax”. They’ll claim I’ve made up something to embellish my point. Well, logically, even if that were true, I’d argue that every accusation of every other person who ever made a similar claim to be also lying would be one hell of a conspiracy, right? You’d be living in a heck of a bubble to believe America is free from racism and that everything minorities ever complained about was only to raise the status of them and take over white America. However, I don’t believe anyone can be that stupid or naive. I think it’s likely that anyone who say they can’t believe any racism exists are heavily practicing it, trying to gaslight racism out of existence.

But racism can’t be gaslighted.

It can’t be narrowed to only sentences containing racial buzzwords, as if without those buzzwords it’d make an acceptable loophole to hide racial implications.

Racism is real, it’s common, it never left and it’s obvious. All you have to do is look at the context, the traits. Telling people who are not satisfied with the status quo, who want change, who are born here but who happen not to be white, to “go back to where they came from” is unquestionably a racially-inspired epithet. Trump wouldn’t say such a thing to a white rival like Biden or Bernie. So, it’s a shame that this sham of a president uses those phrases as a not-so-subtle pulpit to remind minorities that they aren’t considered American. He could’ve simply said “get out of the way”. Instead, he and others that support him want us gone. Presuming we were never from here to start.

Louis Leung

Louis Leung is a proud self-published author who enjoys writing novels that revolves around controversial Asian-American themes that normally wouldn't be accepted by mainstream publishing.

Asian Articulations 2018 © All Rights Reserved