I’ve been told to “go back” ever since 1977, when I enrolled in an extravagantly racist all-boys Catholic school in Queens, N.Y. — birthplace of President Trump, who recently became the biggest, loudest mouthpiece for this line of rhetoric when he tweeted that four congresswomen of color should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The idea is, white Americans get to decide who is allowed to come in and what rules we are to follow. If you come here, don’t complain. Be grateful we took you in. “Go back” is a line that’s intended to put immigrants in our place — or rather, to remind us that our place in this country is contingent, that we are beholden to those who came here earlier.
To this I say: No, we are not. I take my place in America — an imperfect place — and I make it my own; there’s a Constitution that protects my right to do so. I will not genuflect at the white American altar. I will not bow and scrape before my supposed benefactors. I understand the soul of this nation just as well, if not better, than they do: a country that stole the futures of the people who are now arriving at its borders, a cacophonous country, an exceptional country, but one that seems determined to continually sabotage its journey toward a more perfect union. Nobody powerful ever gave the powerless anything just because they asked politely, and immigrants don’t come hat in hand. I am an uppity immigrant. I am entitled to be here. Deal with it.