Being told to return to my country of origin was a mind-numbing, soul-crushing experience when it happened to me, a second-generation American citizen, many moons ago.
It occurred when I – and others who made up the Marching UTEP Miner Band, many of whom were Latino – entered University Stadium in Albuquerque, NM. It didn’t take long for a group of opposing fans, the majority of whom were white, to start flinging slurs our way. Some said for us to show them our papers or green cards. Others said for us to go back to Mexico. A few said some things not fit for print.
We tried to take in stride. But all of us, minority or otherwise, were frustrated and angered at what had happened.
Many of us, me included, were natural born or naturalized American citizens seeking a piece of the so-called “American dream” our parents and educators told us about.
None of us wanted to believe there were people who hated the thought of us even trying, all because the color of our skin was different.
But there we were, on the receiving end of the racism and discrimination that, for all intents and purposes, has never really gone away in 21st Century America.
That memory, and those feelings, immediately flooded my mind when our President told four minority congresswomen, three of whom were born in the U.S. or its territories, to “go back where they came from” in a series of imbecilic Tweets last weekend.
Reading it all sickened me. Equally disturbing was the amount of support and celebration from many within the President’s base championing that blatant, racist attack on their fellow residents.
Make no mistake about it – if you support what our President wrote in any way, no matter the color of your skin, you are racist. There is no gray area on this.
Worst of all is how the moment encapsulated a fear many minorities have been worried about for some time.
How our President’s calls for “protecting” our borders or making our country “great” is a veiled front of nationalism encouraging attacks against people of color and those who might be different.
Proof can be found in the squalid conditions many migrants are facing at detention facilities along the border. Or how migrant children are forcibly being separated from their parents for months at a time along the border, often in equally horrid conditions. Strangely, I’ve yet to come across similar situations involving those who emigrate to the U.S. from predominantly White nations.
Those who support such detention measures have no soul, quite frankly. They also, more often than not, are eager to thump a book that ironically preaches tolerance, equality and kindness toward those of other nations.
The steady drumbeat of “nationalism” disguised as racism should worry us all. It should also embolden us to stand together and battle its toxicity.
After all, many of us who live in America, our President included, are descendants of migrants and immigrants, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.
It was through their efforts that we’re able to enjoy the life we take for granted today.
Doesn’t that mean anything anymore?
Because if it does, then there’s hope for us yet.
The hope that we realize the language of opportunity should be universal for all and not just the few, no matter if their skin is a different hue.