“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.”. Or put more simply, “send them back” and “go back to your own country”.
It’s a rhetoric that’s dangerous, poisonous, toxic, and has infested everyday society. Day after the day, the gap widens between people of different viewpoints about topics such as immigration, health care, and essential policy. There’s a sense of “us vs them” in the air that we breathe and the actions that we take.
This one hits a little bit harder to home. As a first-generation Vietnamese-American, this rhetoric is something that I’ve experienced multiple times in my life. I’m sure similar to many children with immigrant parents, a focus on English is created in the household and a loss of the foreign language and culture is embedded into the minds of youths since childhood. Yet this results in a strange predicament, the children of immigrants have been “whitewashed” by American society and can’t ever fit back into the cultures in which their parents came from, but yet they’re “too ethnic” for the American society that refuses to accept them.
Many of these immigrants have citizenship and the cause for their ancestors no longer residing in their country of ethnicity varies; there’s economic problems, war, famine, among many others. For most, it’s the pursuit of the American dream that drives people to come to the land of opportunity. Think about it for a second, what push would you need in order to leave everything you’ve ever known and loved, to be forced to learn another language, adapt to a new culture, and struggle through all the growing pains these changes come with. Our nation’s history with immigrants has been mixed, while we pride ourselves for being a country of diversity, one unlike what anywhere else in the world has to offer, we often marginalize and criminalize those who differ from the norm. At first it was the WASP (White Anglo-Saxan Protestants) in power, using their power to create advertisements and rhetoric such as “Irish need not apply”, this then shifts to the Japanese-American internment camps, and now current day, the rise of domestic terrorism in correlation to immigration, but via homegrown terrorism against said immigrants. You can read more about that here.
Throughout my time in college, and even post, I’ve been deeply entwined with the concepts of immigration, migration, refugees, and the concepts of life in America as someone who seemingly represents everything that the nation stands to represent. A fresh start, an ability to use your talents and gifts to contribute to this harmonious society where all cultures blend, mix, and fuse to create what we call America. Must we forget our heritage and how our nation started out? We were founded by people who stood for religious freedom, people who were segregated for various reasons found a place of asylum, this pinnacle of freedom. There’s a certain sense of blissful and selective ignorance that comes from this, with chants and claims of sending people back while standing on grounds which were not originally ours.
This land is your land, this land is my land. As a proud American citizen, I want to use this right to speak up about these injustices, not because I dislike this country, but because I want to make it better. To create policy, to create a more inclusive America, and exercise my right to freedom of speech. We can simultaneously love something and also have the ability to critique and want to make it better. After all, isn’t that the true American way?