“America — Love It or Leave It.” I haven’t heard that sentiment since the 1970s, when the Vietnam conflict and the mandatory draft were in full swing. This was the sentiment expressed against anyone who dissented or objected to that conflict.
“Go back where you came from.” The rallying cry of the threatened during the civil rights and Black Power eras in response to the justified push for societal, judicial and legal equality by African-Americans in the struggle to overcome the original sin of slavery. As though African-Americans, whose bloodlines descended from slavery, had “somewhere” to which they could return. “Go back to Africa” was a common twist on this racist cry. Again, an objection to any dissent to the status quo by an oppressed minority.
People spout racist epithets whenever there is a threat against the status quo; it’s nothing new. No matter that there is a constitutional right to dissent, to protest, to express in peaceable speech objection to government and societal oppression. This is the go-to place for the intimidated, fearing loss of power and prestige.
Elected officials have a higher standard
When an elected official leads the cry, it is disturbing. When the president of the United States of America leads the cry against four duly elected congresswomen who express objection to government policies (i.e., separating refugee families, detaining children and adults in unhygienic concentration camp conditions, revealing and speaking out against unjust law enforcement and government practices), it is not only disturbing but sets a tone that threatens to divide us.
I made America my country: Bullies told me to go back to my country. At first it silenced me, now it spurs me on.
These sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump over the weekend were repeated in a campaign rally Wednesday. The crowd cheered, chanting, “Send her back,” as he continued to harass a congresswoman. And, for all their expressed patriotism and the red, white and blue filling the conference hall, Trump supporters seemed to forget basic tenets of American law and society. They seemed to forget, in their unbridled fervor of hate, that these elected congresswomen are U.S. citizens, three of whom are native born, one of whom is an immigrant; all of us, unless we are 100% Native American, originated somewhere else.
Paraphrasing President Ronald Reagan, only in America can you come from somewhere else and become an American. They forgot the words of their proclaimed political hero.
There's nowhere to go 'back' to
I laugh when people tell me to go back to Mexico — I’m not Mexican; my mother was black and my father was white; on one side, I’m descended from slaves, on the other side, I’m descended from a signatory on the Mayflower Compact (Gilbert Winslow). Yep, look it up — I could be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. So, I can’t go back to Mexico.
Due to the numerous sales of my enslaved ancestors, I can’t track the origins of my family’s forced migration to the South on my mother’s side. So, I can’t go back to Africa — it’s a huge continent and I don’t know which country I would go to. And I guess I could go back to Ireland or England, but I have no desire to do so. I am a 100% bona fide American cocktail.
As are most of us.
So, now we are educated, thanks to the progress implemented in the civil rights era. We are leaders in our communities. Our children and grandchildren have grown up in a multicultural society where a black man (whose father was a foreigner) has served two successful, scandal free terms as president. Congress is beginning to look like us.
We will not be silent. You can throw your slurs. Trump can try to incite his followers. But we are the many; you are the few. Your evil thoughts and attitudes are dying out.
America is advanced citizenship. The time for these chants and rants has passed. Viva la lucha!
Ouisa D. Davis is an attorney at law in El Paso. This column originally appeared in the El Paso Times.
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This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: 'Send her back' chant at Trump rally: Racist rants show insecurity