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)”
@melaniekdu

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

“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.”
@curiousliz

“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.”
@hipguide

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

“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」


对这个国家的亚裔美国人而言,这无疑是个不同寻常的时刻:一篇有关他们中的一员遭到种族侮辱的文章醒目地刊登在《纽约时报》上,被成千上万次分享、张贴和评论。

诚然,这话让我来讲有点困难,因为文章是我写的,我正处在外界对它的反应的漩涡之中。我得尽力履行自己作为时报都市版副主编的职责,同时还要管理自己的Facebook和Twitter账户的动态,两个地方都已经炸开了锅。

不过,到了周一,对我来说似乎无可争辩的是,在给那位让我们一家滚回中国的女士写了一封公开信,并在周日发表在网上后,此事已经激起了许多经历过种族歧视的亚裔美国人郁结多年的情绪,也激发了他们想得到更广泛认可的渴望。

各个种族的读者纷纷做出回应,尤其是亚裔美国人。他们带来各自遭遇种族歧视的回忆,也带来了对所谓美国大熔炉本质的反思。

为便于阅读,以下一些评论经过编辑。

遭受种族歧视的回忆
许多亚裔美国读者回忆了自己遭遇种族歧视的痛苦经历。

“在我七岁的时候,我父亲跟我解释‘chink’(支那佬)是什么意思,因为邻居在我们门前用喷漆写了这个词。(而我是韩国人)”
@melaniekdu

“叔叔的车停在他的达拉斯家门口的车道上,被人涂上了‘滚回中国去’几个字。当时我八岁。经常哭。”
@larryluk

“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

“在我去自己的车的路上,一名白人女子走到我跟前说,‘我讨厌看到你们这种人从真正的美国人手里抢工作。滚回属于你们自己的国家。我们不需要二流老师在美国教育我们的年轻人。你们这种人必须滚回去,否则就要挨枪子儿。’是的。我身上也发生过这种事。我是一名美国公民,是一名经过认证的老师。这一切令人心痛,但却是事实。种族歧视的确还存在……这一届选举似乎以某种方式将它不成比例地放大了。”
Lui Yuri Lai

“我也遇到过这种事情,就在上东区我住的公寓楼外面。一个女的径直走到我面前,让我滚回我自己的国家,但我一辈子都生活在这个国家。我甚至都无法相信。至于那些说‘他们就是说说而已’的人,猜猜怎么着:话也能伤人,那天回到家后我哭了,尽管我不应该为身为美国人而感到伤心。”
Rachael Moin

“你到底来自哪里?”
有时候种族歧视是很隐晦的,比如问一个人到底来自哪里,或是假惺惺地夸奖一个人的英语水平。这其中的隐含意思是亚裔美国人从某种程度上来说是外国人,不是真正的美国人。

“向一个邻居介绍我自己的时候,她问,‘你的真名叫什么?’伊丽莎白就是我的真名。”
@curiousliz

“几年前,我在一个图书签售活动上见到了一个名人。她是一名演员、导演和制片人。轮到给我的书签名时,她和我聊了起来。她问我是哪里人。我说我来自皇后区。她的反应是,不是…...我的意思是,你来自哪里?你出生在哪里?我说我出生在曼哈顿。她接着说,你是哪国人?我说我是美国人。我感觉到了她对我的不满。她就是死咬着这事不放。你父母是哪儿人?她接着说。我回答说,他们来自上海和厦门。‘噢…’她对我说,所以你是中国人。”
Lisa T,纽约州纽约市

“作为一名亚裔美国医生,很不幸地说,我在加州至今还会遇到这种事:‘说真的,你到底打哪儿来?’但在这里好歹不会像在东海岸那样,时不时就有人问:‘你英语这么棒,在哪里学的?’在纽约的公立学校,跟你一样。这不断在提醒我,尽管身为一个美国人,在很多方面,我们将永远是‘他者’。目前这场下三滥的总统竞选无非是突显了这种差异,加重了我们的忧虑。”
GeriMD,加利福尼亚州

“我是第四代华裔美国人。我的父亲和祖父均出生在美国,我在皇后区长大,在上东区一座合作公寓住了16年。在我们的双胞胎出生后,我妻子——也是华裔美国人——有一次和孩子们在电梯里,一个女人问她,‘噢,这楼里有人生了双胞胎?’此人以为我的这位藤校律师妻子是保姆。有几次我去拿外卖,公寓楼里的人会训斥我,说我应该搭货梯而不是客梯——他们假定我是送餐员,而不是住客。我们还有很长的路要走。”
安德鲁·黄,纽约州纽约市

太稀松平常了
对于我所经历的那件事,一个显而易见的地方是,它在亚裔当中具有大多的代表性。读者的反馈清晰表明:它太常见了。

“作为一名亚洲人,就意味着你得忍受美国社会中‘尚可以接受的’种族主义。我每周都会碰到一次这样的事情。”
@hipguide

“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)。”
@marsdiane

“这种事情每天都发生在亚裔身上,但我们通常比较缄默,人口数量相对较少,经常被忽视。”
李义晨(Yi-Chen Lee,音)

政治气候
很多读者认为当前的政治气候——尤其是特朗普的竞选——与他的经历之间有关联。

“这就是当今的悲剧所在。特朗普打动了一个群体的心弦,他们为失去了一个自己曾经拥有毋庸置疑的优越感(以及权利)的世界而难过。他的隐秘信息近乎直白,‘如果你让“那些人”各归其位,那么一切都会又好起来。’比起通过做出牺牲和勤奋工作来改善自己的处境,怨恨别人要省事得多。”
BLM, 纽约州纽约市尼亚加拉大瀑布城

“你所经历的这种赤裸裸的种族歧视,并非目前这位共和党提名候选人造成的,但他对这种部落意识的支持和认同,的确是起到了推波助澜的作用。具有悲讽意味的是,这种态度将把这种人进一步与不同的文化隔绝开来,使他们无法从全球化中受益,而这又反过来进一步强化他们的部落意识!”
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。


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