Over the last few weeks, the current resident of the White House tweeted a message indicating that four freshman members of Congress — all women, all women of color—should “go back to where they came from.” By every standard of decency, we recognize this as a racist sentiment, unbefitting anyone in public office, let alone someone occupying the highest office in the land. The comments on the left have been swift and condemned Donald Trump for his constant race-baiting. Many members of the Republican Party have twisted themselves into pretzels attempting to justify his words. How many passes does this rich, White, entitled male get?
The four Congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D.- NY), Ilhan Omar (D.-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D. – MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D.-MI) — were elected in the 2018 midterm election that allowed the Democrats to gain control of the House of Representatives. Three of the 4 women were born in the US. Congresswoman Ihan Omar was brought to the US at the age of 10 from war-torn Somalia and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 17. By every measure recognized in this country, these women ARE home. There is no need for them to go back anywhere.
If we were to use this “go back to where you came from” standard, most White people would find themselves heading back to England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and countries throughout Europe. And, since most of them came during the great European migration their tenure in the country is shorter than that of African Americans, many Latinx Americans, and of course, Native or Indigenous Peoples. But when people arrive is irrelevant to their standing as citizens in the US. A citizen is a citizen is a citizen. Even Donald Trump’s two immigrant wives are citizens!
Because the White House resident does not reflect a real knowledge of the U.S. Constitution, he seems unaware that critique and challenge of the powers that be are an integral part of democracy. It is in totalitarian regimes that citizens are not permitted to criticize their government. You cannot criticize the governments of Russia or North Korea or Iran. Apparently, Mr. Trump knew this when Barack Obama was President. He criticized him and the country incessantly. Now, the rules have apparently changed.
The more unfortunate aspect of this incident is that it has once again revealed the deep-seated racism and xenophobia that is rife in the nation. When this kind of vile language emanates from the highest office in the land it gives license to people throughout the nation to act on their racism. We saw this in Charlottesville and again in rallies with people shouting, “Send her back!”
As an American of African descent, I am so angered by this hate and venom. Does this man realize that we actually built this nation? The entire economy of the South and much of that of the North were built on the free labor of my ancestors. We are responsible for what would become the world’s most prosperous nation. If we go back to where we allegedly came from we are taking our “stuff” with us — our music, our art, our dance, our inventions, our language, our style, our athleticism, our championships, and our Olympic gold medals. We are taking it all. Indeed, we are taking the buildings and institutions we built — the White House, the University of Virginia, the Ivy League Universities, and the insurance companies that profited from money that lucrative cotton crops produced.
Of course, we really don’t have to worry about taking all of those things with us because we really are not going anywhere. We ARE home!