First time he heard ‘go back’ is seared into memory
Re Zoe Greenberg’s “A call to ‘go back’ echoes dark times of America’s past” (July 15): We shouldn’t ignore the psychological impact of racist and anti-immigrant comments. Research confirms that discrimination-related stress is linked to mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, particularly in children.
I will never forget the first time I was told to “go back” to my country. It happened when I was 10 years old — within a year of living in the United States as an American citizen — in an amusement park.
I was excited to ride the Tilt-a-Whirl, and I saw an empty seat in one of the cars next to a white boy who appeared to be around my age. I sat down, but the boy was suddenly yanked away by an adult, who said I couldn’t sit next to his son. Confused, I asked, “Why?” The adult’s response was my first introduction to racism and xenophobia: “Go back to your country, spic.”
As a young Latino kid, this was difficult for me to process, and I immediately blamed myself. I thought I did something wrong — a breach of American amusement park etiquette — and beat myself up about it for weeks. It took a long time for me to realize that my only cultural transgression was enjoying the amusement park just like any other kid.
Criticizing policy of the US not same as criticizing the US
Re “ ‘Love it or leave it’ tests patriotism’s definition” (Page A1, July 18): In what is otherwise an excellent article about the roots of Donald Trump’s recent “Love it or leave it” assault, Liz Goodwin gets a key point very wrong. Referring to the history of the slogan, she writes, “That pithy response to antiwar and civil rights protesters is emblematic of a larger tension throughout US history: Is criticizing the country unpatriotic and disloyal?” What’s wrong is that she conflates criticism of US policy with criticism of our country — a disconnect that we who have engaged in protest against US policy have tried to make clear.
When I protest against Trump’s immigration policy, or when I protested against the Vietnam War in the 1970s, I was not criticizing my country. I was criticizing the policies of those currently in office, and in so doing, I was standing up for my country’s best self.
‘Love it or leave it,’ rebranded
If you don’t love this country, you can leave.
Don’t like that we accept immigrants and asylum seekers? Leave.
Don’t like that the press is free to print the truth? Leave.
Don’t like that we are a pluralistic society? Leave.
Don’t like that we can practice any religion we like? Leave.
Don’t like that we can criticize the government and our leaders without fear of being intimidated by them? Leave.
America! Love it or leave it!
I was only 11 years old in 1953, the era of Joseph McCarthy. I was on a picket line with my parents, protesting the Jim Crow policies of a local retailer who refused to employ any but white staff. Passersby yelled, “Go back to Russia,” which was difficult to understand, since we’d been living in this country for three generations. What I did understand was the look in their eyes and the vitriol in their voices.
I find it shocking to hear it again. I thought we had evolved further as a nation.