A guest post by Jefe:
“Y’all can go back. We can’t.” is a common refrain expressed by Anglos and Blacks to other Americans perceived to have ongoing ties to a foreign sovereignty with an open door policy to welcome them in. Whites use this when they bemoan the loss of their ethnic heritage or become displeased with the current state of politics. Blacks use it to frame their plight of racist oppression in contrast to Asians who are perceived to have a permanent back door.
It is a vacuous broken record argument and a corollary to the perpetual foreigner stereotype.
Asians arrived to post-Columbian North America in the 1500s and began arriving in large numbers in the 1800s, the same time as the Germans and Irish. They are just as much a part of the fabric of American history, culture and people as Africans and Europeans. Even the descendants of post-1965 immigrant stock are now passing into their 3rd and 4th generations.
The greater majority of Asians in the US are citizens. Most Asian American citizens were born in the US and received the same whitewashed education as blacks and whites.
Unlike the USA, most countries in Asia (eg, China, Japan) disallow dual citizenship. US citizens born in those countries lose their prior nationality upon naturalization. They would reenter their birth country as foreigners. US-born citizens are foreigners from birth.
Some Asian Americans have close ties, family, money or otherwise to foreign countries. So do some white and black Americans. Some immigrants (eg, refugees) had to cut off ties with their birth country; so did some whites and blacks.
By the 3rd generation, most Asian Americans are as cut off from their “ancestral homelands” as whites or blacks. Multiracial or multiethnic Asian Americans may lose this connection in a single generation.
Asian Americans hold the same US passport as white and black Americans. All are free to go to the same countries and require the same visas.
Some Asian Americans, even those in the 3rd or 4th generation, decide to leave the US to try their luck abroad, perhaps in response to racist oppression in the USA. If they settle in an Asian country, this leads to fallacious confirmation bias of the broken record argument. Most, however, stay home.
Blacks and white Americans are free to leave the USA to try settling elsewhere. They can and do establish cultural, financial and kinship connections abroad. If some Asian Americans feel compelled to do this, it may be more reflective of the nature of racism back home in the USA rather than ties to a foreign country.
Some of the belief that Asians can “go back home” is a projection of American racism to whitewash the expulsion of Asians during the Exclusion eras.
Asians face a threat rarely encountered by whites or blacks. They can be simultaneously viewed as disloyal to the USA and traitors to their ancestral countries, targeted with hostility by both. No example illustrates that better than the Japanese American internment experience or the case of Wen Ho Lee.
- Welcome to Asian American History Month
- Broken Record Department
- perpetual foreigner stereotype
- Asian Americans
- Black Americans
- multiracial frame – another way of looking at US society