Michael Luo 迈克尔·罗 「‘Go Back to China’: Readers Respond to Racist Insults Shouted at a『New York Times』Editor」

Posted on October 10, 2016
It certainly felt like something of a moment for Asian-Americans in this country: an article about racist insults flung at one of their own, featured prominently in『The New York Times』, shared, posted and commented on thousands upon thousands of times.

Admittedly, it was a little hard for me to tell, because I wrote the article and was in the middle of the torrent of responses to it, trying to do my day job as deputy Metro editor for『The Times』, while also managing my Facebook and Twitter feeds, which were blowing up.

What seemed indisputable to me, though, on Monday, was that my open letter published online on Sunday, addressed to the woman who had told my family to go back to China, tapped into a deep reservoir of emotions held by many Asian-Americans about the racial prejudice they have experienced and a hunger for it to be recognized more broadly.

Readers of all backgrounds, but especially Asian-Americans, responded in droves with recollections of their own encounters with racist taunts and with reflections on the nature of the supposed American melting pot.

Some comments have been edited for clarity.

Memories of Racist Attacks
Many Asian-American readers recalled their own painful experiences with racist attacks.

“When I was 7, my father had to explain the word ‘chink’ to me bc our neighbors had spray painted it on our front steps. (I am also Korean)”

“Uncle’s car vandalized ‘Go back to China’ while parked in his own driveway in Dallas. I was 8. I cried a lot.”

“My drill sergeants used to tell me in the US Army we are not white black brown or yellow, we are all Army green. Yet when a fellow soldier called me “Private Ching Chong” I had to fight tooth and nail to even convince my superiors that this was a racist comment. I was willing to fight and bleed for my country, was born and raised in this country, yet had to fight to convince them I was as American as they were.”
CeFaan Kim

“A Caucasian lady approached me while I was on my way to my car and said to me, ‘I hate to see your kind taking the jobs away from real Americans. Go back to your own country where you belong. We don’t need second rate teachers in America educating our youth. Your kind must go back or get shot in the head.’ Yep. That happened to me too. I am a US citizen and a certified teacher. Sad but true. Racism still does exist... and this election seems to somehow blow it out of proportion.”
Lui Yuri Lai

“This has also happened to me on the UES outside my own apartment building. A woman walked right up to me and told me to go back to my own country — a country I’ve lived in my entire life. I couldn’t even believe it and for people who say ‘they’re just words,’ guess what: Words hurt and I went home and cried that day even though I didn’t deserve to feel sad for being American.”
Rachael Moin

‘Where Are You Really From?’
Sometimes, the racism is more subtle, a question about where someone is really from, a backhanded compliment about a person’s English skills. The implication is that an Asian-American is somehow foreign and not quite American.

“Introduced myself to a neighbor and she asked, ‘what’s your real name?’ elizabeth is my real name.”

“I met a celebrity a few years ago at a book signing. She is an actress, director, and producer. When my turn came up to have my book signed, she and I chatted. She asked me where I was from. I replied that I am from Queens. She responds, ‘No...I mean, where are you from? Where were you born?’ I said I was born in Manhattan. She continued on, ‘What is your nationality?’ I said I’m American. I sensed her frustration with me. She would not let it drop. ‘Where are your parents from?’ she continued. I replied, ‘They are from Shanghai and Xiamen.’ ‘Ahh....’ she replied to me, ‘so you are Chinese.’”
Lisa T, New York, N.Y.

“As an Asian-American physician, sad to say, I still get this in California: ‘No, really, where are you FROM?’ But at least no one asks me what I routinely got asked on the East Coast: ‘Where did you learn to speak such beautiful English?’ In the NY public schools, just like you. It is a continual reminder that despite being American, in many ways, we will always be ‘other.’ The nastiness of the current presidential election only serves to emphasize this difference and heighten our anxieties.”
GeriMD, California

“I’m a fourth-generation Chinese-American. My father and his father were born in the U.S. I grew up in Queens and have lived in a co-op on the Upper East Side for 16 years. Soon after our twins were born my wife, also Chinese-American, was in the elevator with our children one day and a woman asked her, ‘Oh, who in the building had twins?’ This woman assumed that my Ivy League lawyer wife was the nanny. A couple of times after picking up take-out food I have been admonished by people in my building for my taking the regular elevator instead of the service elevator — with the assumption that I am a delivery person, not a resident. We have a long way to go.”
Andrew Wong, New York, N.Y.

All Too Common
The obvious question about the incident that I experienced on Sunday was just how representative it was of the Asian-American experience. Readers made clear that it was all too common.

“Being Asian means putting up with ‘acceptable’ racism in America. I experience an incident a week.”

“Routinely asked ‘Where are you from?’ Screamed at, CHINK. Where’s best Chinese restaurant? Ni Hao, Konnichiwa.”

“It happens to Asians on a daily basis, but we’re generally not outspoken and the population is relatively low, it’s often overlooked.”
Yi-Chen Lee

Political Climate
Many readers drew a direct line from the current political climate and, in particular, the harsh rhetoric of Donald J. Trump’s campaign, to what happened to me.

“Herein lies today’s tragedy. Donald Trump has touched a vein in a population mourning a world where their superiority (and entitlement) went unquestioned. His not-so-subtle coded message is one of ‘If you just put “those people” in their place, then all will be well again.’ And it’s just so much more easier to feel this way than to put in the sacrifice and hard work needed to actually improve your own situation.”
BLM, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

“While this type of overt racism you experienced was not invented by the current GOP nominee, his endorsement and validation of this sort of tribalism certainly validates it. The sad irony of this type of attitude is that it further isolates these types of people from different cultures and the benefits of globalization, which further reinforces their tribal attitudes!”
Jeff, New York, N.Y.

Michael Luo is deputy Metro editor and an editor on the Race/Related team at『The New York Times』. He can be reached on Twitter @MichaelLuo.

Adeel Hassan and Talya Minsberg contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on October 11, 2016, on Page A20 of the New York edition with the headline: 「Readers Respond to the Racist Insults Shouted at a Times Editor」.

Michael Luo 迈克尔·罗 「“滚回中国”?时报读者讲述曾遭遇的种族攻击」









“我的教官跟我说过,在美国陆军没有白黑棕黄,我们都是陆军绿。可是当一个战友管我叫‘大兵清穷’(Private Ching Chong)的时候,单是让上级理解这个词的歧视含义就费了好大劲。我愿意为我的国家去战斗,去流血,我在这个国家出生、长大,但我还是必须奋力向他们说明,我是跟他们一样的美国人。”
CeFaan Kim

Lui Yuri Lai

Rachael Moin



Lisa T,纽约州纽约市





“经常会被问,‘你从哪儿来?’被喊中国佬。那家中国餐馆最好?Ni Hao,Konnichiwa(日语你好)。”

李义晨(Yi-Chen Lee,音)


BLM, 纽约州纽约市尼亚加拉大瀑布城

Jeff, 纽约州纽约市

Michael Luo是《纽约时报》都市版副主编,也是种族相关议题的编辑。欢迎在Twitter上关注他@MichaelLuo

Adeel HassanTalya Minsberg对本文有报道贡献。