Go Back To Where You Came From

The parking garage attendant across my street in Brooklyn, was cross with me as my car was protruding a few inches into his space. He approached me aggressively asking me to instantly remove my car. I asked him to calm down. He started verbally berating me. My temper got the better of me and I hurled back some epithets and the situation escalated. He then deliberately backed his car into mine and said he would “cut me up”.

And then in anger he asked me to “go back to where I came from”. And I responded with equal anger, “you f….ing go back to wherever the hell you came from”. Things were getting a bit out of hand so I decided to stop and call the police. Just in case they would know who to suspect if physical harm were to come to me.

Being an African-American I guess it would be hard for him to find out where his ancestors were taken from. But he decided since my color was a shade lighter than his and since I had moved to the block after him, I was the foreigner and I needed to go back.

A few years ago while biking along a green manicured sidewalk in suburban Minneapolis, a car drove past me and someone stuck their neck out of the window and shouted, “go back to where you come from”.

As a student in Bowling Green, Ohio, in the early nineties, while walking down a downtown street, my friends and I noticed eggs land at our feet. Some white kids shouted from their car “go back to where you came from”.

If one were to follow this logic of sending people back to where they came from, the United States of America would have to be emptied and the land returned to the native people who inhabited it long before anyone. And from whom it was snatched on the heals of a genocide this country still has trouble acknowledging.

There is no question the first Europeans who landed here were ingenious at navigating the seas. But “The Pilgrims” had no visas. They were not willfully granted entry. They just showed up and decided they would make this land their own and spread from coast to coast, usurping whatever they could find with violence and deceit.

There is no question the ingenuity of the early Europeans laid the foundation for the nation that we know today. But it was done on the backs of slaves and cheap migrant labor. Great wealth was generated through exploitation and continues to be created to this day on a global scale, following some of the same principles.

So when the president of this nation says to some congresswomen who got under his skin to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….”, he clearly has no understanding of history or reality and is an ignorant “negationist”. A person who refuses to acknowledge history, or rather wishes to buy into a version that only glorifies his kind.

This attitude is nothing new to America. Through out history the natives and people of color have always been seen and shown in popular culture in a demeaning manner, as people “less than”.

Even though through struggle, many have risen to the highest reaches of power in industry and politics, they are seen as a threat. Many saw the election of President Obama as a wake up call. Which lead to the energizing of Fox News and its catering to the racist fears and apprehensions of a silent white majority, which translated into electing the president we have today.

So when the president engages in racial diatribes, he is merely speaking to all those who elected him, as they agree with what he believes, fears and says. As they feel that their time of supremacy is coming to an end as the demographics of this nation are shifting. Even though it is abundantly clear, that the concentration of wealth and real power will not change hands anytime soon.

When they see people of color running companies and entering government they see defeat and that is why they refuse to even censure the president. The Republicans banded together to oppose a symbolic motion on the floor to call out the president’s racism. Some even made public statements in support of the president’s views, stating that they were misconstrued.

This delusional fear is nothing new. Through out American history, the white fear of the immigrant has always been very real. The Chinese Exclusion Act, a United States federal law signed by the president on May 6, 1882, prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. The very people who built the railroads of this nation connecting coast to coast were castigated out of fear. The law was the first of its kind to be implemented to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating. This law was then widely applied to prevent many other groups from coming to America. The current administration’s recent “Muslim ban” is a version of this same law, with a similar intent.

Those who use the phrase “go back to where you came from” or even think it, feel that this nation belongs to them by virtue of their skin color, status and the age of their ancestry. Even recent immigrants acquire this attitude, as soon as they become citizens and feel American enough to go to a sports bar and root for a favorite football team.

America belongs to everyone. You may want it to belong to your tribe, but that does not make it so. The tribes who came before you, feel the same as you do, as they languish on reservation land decimated by alcohol, drugs and casino cash. They contemplate an America that was taken from them and wish we all, white, black, brown and of every other shade, “went back to where ever we came from”.

The parking garage is now gone, waiting to be torn down to make room for condominiums. And with it is the parking attendant, as will Donald Trump.

You can deny history all you want, it eventually catches up on you.

Anand Kamalakar is a Brooklyn based documentary film director, producer and editor. His latest film SALAM can now be seen on Netflix.

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