More Indian Americans, other immigrants share their go-back stories.
President Donald Trump’s Twitter message Sunday that four dissenting Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to the countries of their origin instead of lecturing America did not go down well with millions of immigrants in the nation reminding them of a siren ahead of enemy bombing during the war.
Besides the noise it created on Capitol Hill, immigrants are visibly shaken by the echo of “go back” that they heard ever since they were children, but this time coming from the White House.
Ever since Trump tweeted his remarks, many first generation immigrants have been sharing their experiences of such racial slur on the streets, play grounds and even public places like Times Square.
Recollecting her childhood experience, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi said, “‘Go back to your country’ is a taunt immigrant kids hear on the playground, it’s a threat I get from unhinged people in my DMs, and it’s also something the President of the United States says to strong women of color who oppose him.”
Lakshmi, who was born in India, was not alone. Even the US-born children of immigrants have faced the trauma since their childhood. Echoing similar experience, Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, recalled: “In 2016, for the first time, I was told by people on twitter to go back to India. They -all white nationalists-sent me images of poverty in India, told to return. I was born here. But they saw me as less American because I am brown. Now Trump parrots them. That is what we fight.”
But not everyone was hiding behind the computers and sending pictures anonymously.
Political activist Linda Sarsour recounted the horror on the streets of New York City three years ago, when she was walking with her kids in the Times Square. A man shouted at them, “Go back to your country you stupid terrorist b*^%h.”
Sarsour said her youngest child, then 12, was visibly shaken. She had to re-assure the child that “this is your country and it absolutely is and it’s yours too. I will never forget that,” said Sarsour, a Palestinian American.
In Los Angeles, actor Kumail Nanjiani faced similar experience just a month ago. “I’ve heard ‘Go back to your country’ many many times. Most recently was about a month and a half ago in LA. It hurts my feelings every time,” said the Pakistani American comedian, who often recounts his past about growing up as an American immigrant.
Joining thousands of others in sharing their stories of encountering racism and anti-immigrant bias on Twitter, Indian American Supreme Court lawyer Neal Katyal, who served in the Obama administration, said he was familiar with the shout — “go back to your country” — since he was three and still gets it to this day. But determined Katyal retorts, “I’m here!”
Kamala Harris, daughter of African and Indian American parents and one of the front-runners in the Democratic presidential race, acknowledges the emotions running high among the immigrants saying, “I’ve personally been told, ‘go back to where you came from’. It is vile, ignorant, shallow, and hateful. It has to stop.”
Reshma Saujani, a New York Times bestselling author and CEO of Girls Who Code, who returned from a CIA presentation last week on how to empower women to enter the tech world and how to embrace a culture of risk acceptance, tweeted: “Thinking about everytime I was told to go back to my country” and expressed her solidarity with the Twitter hashtag #istandwiththesquad.
S.K. Ali, India-born author of debut novel, “Saints & Misfits” and “Love From A To Z,” which describe growing up as a Muslim immigrant, tweeted: “Too many of us grew up with ‘go back to where you came from’ hurled our way in the playground, on the street, in public spaces — the source of it always bullies… Racist one who didn’t want us living with dignity too. And then we grew up to see it bellowed from the White House.”
Even the Japanese Americans, whose forefathers were brought in as prisoners in an internment camp during World War II, face similar backlash asking them to “go back.”
Star Trek actor George Takei, when faced with such racist remarks, quickly responded saying, “What, Los Angeles?” He was in news recently defending the term “concentration camps” used for migrant detention centers at the border. “I know what concentration camps are. I was inside two of them, in America,” he said.
Trump’s attack on four women congresswomen — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — had the effect of rekindling the fear in every immigrant in the nation of immigrants. Though Trump sought to defend his tweet saying they were not racist, he quickly added, “I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!”
One of the congresswomen targeted by Trump, Ocasio-Cortez, retorted saying, “You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head.”