Michael Luo 迈克尔·罗 「An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told My Family to Go Back to China」

Posted on October 09, 2016
Dear Madam:

Maybe I should have let it go. Turned the other cheek. We had just gotten out of church, and I was with my family and some friends on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. We were going to lunch, trying to see if there was room in the Korean restaurant down the street. You were in a rush. It was raining. Our stroller and a gaggle of Asians were in your way.

But I was, honestly, stunned when you yelled at us from down the block, “Go back to China!”

I hesitated for a second and then sprinted to confront you. That must have startled you. You pulled out your iPhone in front of the Equinox and threatened to call the cops. It was comical, in retrospect. You might have been charged instead, especially after I walked away and you screamed, “Go back to your fucking country.”

“I was born in this country!” I yelled back.

It felt silly. But how else to prove I belonged?

This was not my first encounter, of course, with racist insults. Ask any Asian-American, and they’ll readily summon memories of schoolyard taunts, or disturbing encounters on the street or at the grocery store. When I posted on Twitter about what happened, an avalanche of people replied back to me with their own experiences.




But for some reason – and, yes, it probably has to do with the political climate right now – this time felt different.

Walking home later, a pang of sadness welled up inside me.

You had on a nice rain coat. Your iPhone was a 6 Plus. You could have been a fellow parent in one of my daughters’ schools. You seemed, well, normal. But you had these feelings in you, and, the reality is, so do a lot of people in this country right now.

Maybe you don’t know this, but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience. It’s this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day. That no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don’t belong. We’re foreign. We’re not American. It’s one of the reasons that Fox News segment the other day on Chinatown by Jesse Watters, with the karate and nunchucks and broken English, generated so much outrage.

My parents fled mainland China for Taiwan ahead of the Communist takeover. They came to the United States for graduate school. They raised two children, both of whom went to Harvard. I work at『The New York Times』. Model minority, indeed.

Yet somehow I still often feel like an outsider.

And I wonder if that feeling will ever go away. Perhaps, more important, I wonder whether my two daughters who were with me today will always feel that way too.

Yes, the outpouring of support online was gratifying.


But, afterward, my 7-year-old, who witnessed the whole thing, kept asking my wife, “Why did she say, ‘Go back to China?’ We’re not from China.”

No, we’re not, my wife said, and she tried to explain why you might have said that and why people shouldn’t judge others.

We’re from America, she told my daughter. But sometimes people don’t understand that.

I hope you do now.

Sincerely,

Michael Luo

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.

A version of this article appears in print on October 11, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: 「An Open Letter to the Woman Who Told Us: Go Back to China」.


Michael Luo 迈克尔·罗 「一封公开信,致那位让我们滚回中国的女士」


亲爱的女士:

也许我应该释怀,选择容忍。我们当时刚刚从教堂出来,我和家人以及一些朋友走在曼哈顿上东区。我们正找地方吃午餐,想要看看街边的那家韩国餐厅有没有位置。你行色匆匆。天空中飘着雨。我们的婴儿车以及一群叽里呱啦的亚裔挡了你的路。

你从不远处朝我们大声嚷嚷:“滚回中国去!”说老实话,当时我颇为震惊。

我迟疑了一下,随即冲到你面前。这个举动肯定把你吓到了。你在Equinox健身房前掏出iPhone,威胁说要叫警察。回想起来有些滑稽。应该是我叫警察才对吧,尤其是当我走开以后,你高叫“滚回你那该死的国家去”的时候。

“我生在这个国家!”我嚷了回去。

感觉挺蠢的。但还有什么办法能证明我属于这里呢。

当然了,这并不是我第一次遇到种族侮辱。问问任何一个亚裔美国人,他们都会立刻回忆起在校园里被嘲讽的情形,抑或在街上或杂货店里的恼人遭遇。我在Twitter上发帖讲了事情的经过,许多人在回帖中提到了自己的经历。

但出于某种原因——没错,或许是和当下的政治氛围有关吧——这一次的感觉有些异样。

后来走回家去的时候,一阵伤感涌上了我的心头。

你穿着一件很好的雨衣,你手上的iPhone是6 Plus。你或许已身为人母,你的孩子或许和我的女儿们同校就读。你看上去,怎么说呢,挺正常的。但你的内心却潜藏着这样的情绪,事实上,这个国家的很多人都是如此。

或许你并不知道,但你对我的家人的侮辱直指亚裔美国人日常经历的核心。我们许多人每天都在竭力应对这种无处不在的异已感。不论我们从事什么职业,有多么成功,和谁交朋友,我们都不属于这里。我们是外来者。我们不是美国人。福克斯新闻(Fox News)的杰西·沃特斯(Jesse Watters)前些天在唐人街进行实地采访的电视片段——涉及空手道、双节棍和蹩脚英语——之所以引发了那么多愤怒,也与此有关。

我的父母在共产党夺取政权前从中国大陆逃到台湾,又到美国念了研究生。他们养育了两个孩子。我们俩都毕业于哈佛。我在《纽约时报》工作。算是人们口中的模范少数族裔了。

可我依然常常觉得自己像个外人。

不知这种感觉会不会消失。或许更重要的是,不知今天被我带在身边的两个女儿会不会永远都有这种感觉。

没错,网上如潮的支持令人欣慰。

但我的一个女儿只有7岁,目睹了整件事的她后来不停地问我妻子,“她为什么要说‘滚回中国去’?我们不是从中国来的呀。”

是呀,我们不是从中国来的,我妻子回答。她竭力向女儿解释你这样说的可能原因,以及人们为什么不该随便评判他人。

我们来自美国,她告诉我女儿。但有时候人们并不理解这一点。

希望你现在理解了。

此致敬礼,

迈克尔·罗(Michael Luo)


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