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#6 Five Empowering Ways to Tackle and Understand 'Go Back to Your Country' Comments

After sharing a post about my children's book "Aurora la Doctora" on social media, emphasizing the importance of equal representation, I received an upsetting comment: "The solution is simple, go back to your countries!"


I had to decide how to respond. In a nation already strained by division, I chose not to engage in conflict but to reflect and learn from the encounter.


As a minority or recent immigrant, it's almost inevitable that you'll face such comments. Over the next five minutes, I hope to provide insights and ideas that may help you deal with similar remarks.


We will explore the motivations behind exclusionary behavior and explore the history of immigration that has shaped the United States.


As we approach the 4th of July, it's an appropriate moment to remember our past, express gratitude for this incredible country, and honor our ancestors' contributions.


Lesson 1: Help others understand the Historical Context of Immigration

From the Irish to the Hispanics: Centuries of Immigration Forgotten or Ignored


Why do some individuals feel compelled to make such hurtful statements? Have they forgotten our shared history?


I wish people could recognize that unless they’re Native Americans, their ancestors were also immigrants who likely encountered exclusionary behaviors and discrimination at some point. This understanding could help some people promote empathy and inclusivity.


Millions have come searching for a better life. From the Spanish in the late 1500s seeking to expand their empire; the British, Dutch, and Swedes in the 1600s searching for civil and religious liberty; the Irish in the 1800s escaping hunger during the potato famine; the Italians and other Europeans in the 1900s fleeing the horrors of war; the Mexicans during WWII addressing labor shortages; to more recent waves of Asian, African, and Latin American immigration due to law changes like the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965. Latin American immigrants happen to be the majority among the most recent waves of immigration, and naturally, we are the ones facing the most pushback.


Max Galka's famous video provides a detailed account of two centuries of immigration in the U.S. from the 1800s to 2013.


“What makes someone American isn’t just blood or birth but allegiance to our founding principles and faith in the idea that anyone –from anywhere—can write the next chapter of our story.” —President Barack Obama

Lesson 2: Understand their perspective by learning about acculturation


As generations pass in a new location, families are less likely to identify as immigrants, maintain their original traditions, or speak their native language. The process of changing behaviors, culture, and values to adapt to a new culture is known as acculturation.


Acculturated individuals may feel uncomfortable or threatened when new waves of immigration occur, as the new land has now become theirs. While this does not justify their behavior, it helps understand why they do it. Needless to say, racism plays a major role.  





This is severely aggravated by racial and linguistic diversity. Individuals of the dominant race i.e. White would be able to assimilate more quickly and effectively to a new culture of predominantly White people. In contrast, individuals of color, and those who speak other languages are much more likely to experience discrimination and exclusion, making integration or assimilation more difficult.


“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt


Lesson 3: Accept that immigration is a complex and controversial topic


Engage in Constructive Dialogue


Immigration is a complex topic that I don’t want to oversimplify. Immigrants have contributed to the growth of this country for centuries, but it’s always been clear that a process must be in place to ensure that everyone coming to the country is accounted for, and appropriate resources are provided. All attempts to address the issue have failed to design a process that is both just and efficient.


While I do not condone illegal immigration, as a physician I advocate for compassion and acceptance. Everyone, regardless of their origin has the right to adequate healthcare and education, especially the youth. Children who immigrate because of their parents' choices face a difficult and often traumatic process of acculturation.

 

A scene of diverse immigrants arriving to New York City generated with AI
This image was generated by the author using Microsoft Designer

Lesson 4: Learn tactics to cope with discrimination and microaggressions


Racism is alive and well and if you are an immigrant, you know that we are likely to experience microaggressions and discrimination fairly frequently.


Many scholars who study race trauma and microaggressions have shared tactics that help people cope with these events.


Effective Strategies Include:


  • Challenge stereotypes: For example, highlight that crimes are committed by people of all races and backgrounds. Immigrants have a similar or even lower likelihood of incarceration than native-born Americans. For more data to help you go here or here.

  • Make the invisible visible: Often, perpetrators of microaggressions are unaware of their offense. Saying something like: “That is a racist remark!” can help them understand and discourage future occurrences.

  • Understand the Perpetrator's Perspective: Recognizing that their ignorance of immigration history or acculturation doesn't justify their behavior, but helps you understand it.


  • Reverse the microaggression: A famous Columbia researcher says that when someone comes to him to tell him: Dr. Sue, you speak excellent English,” he responds, “Thank you. You do too.”


  • Don’t be afraid to share your accomplishments: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome can empower you to assert your education and credentials when faced with discrimination. 


  • Don’t dwell: Learn from the experience, share it with supportive people, and move on.

 

Lesson 5: Focus on Gratitude for This Country


Emphasizing Positivity

 

Telling people how grateful I am and how much I love this country, reminds them that immigrants are not enemies but contributors to the progress of our nation.


Every year, as the Fourth of July approaches, I reflect on my profound love and gratitude for the United States of America and the opportunities it has given me. These are opportunities that I could not have in my home country. Isn't that the reason we all come to the U.S.?


“I believe in America because we have great dreams, and because we have the opportunity to make these dreams come true.” –Wendell L. Wilkie

Conclusion


Handling exclusionary comments requires understanding, acceptance, strategic coping, and gratitude. These strategies not only help manage hurtful remarks but also promote a more inclusive and empathetic society.


Time to move on! See you on social media or in my next newsletter.


Happy Fourth of July!



 

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