Go back home

I’ve been hearing a whole lot of news about the racist garbage people have decided it’s ok to spout since Tuesday confirmed there are enough poor, pissed-off white folks here to put a reality TV celebrity in its highest office just to prove a point. One thing I keep hearing about is said white folks telling people they think might be of non-Euro decent to “go back to [their] country.”

This is a weird thing to say in LA. It reminds me of my friend Lo, whose family is from Texas and California and has been since before either of these were part of the US. They have dark skin and eyes and speak Spanish at home, and if you ask where she is from, Lo will say “here.”

If you ask where her family is from, she will say “here.”

If you ask where her ancestors are from, she will sigh and tell you, “We’ve been here for hundreds of years, asshole, you annexed us.”

You can’t tell her to go home. She is more at home here than you, pendejo.

I know that earth logic doesn’t apply to bigotry, but still. Huge swaths of what we call the United States was part of Mexico until just over 100 years ago. In fact, working in the restaurant industry, it’s really, really hard for me to understand Americans’ vitriol about Mexicans. People come here as refugees, from violence, from poverty, for a lot of reasons. They are looking to work and contribute. Latino immigrants are the backbone of so many US industries, and not just because they are frequently exploited–this is not always the case. As Anthony Bourdain will tell you, Mexicans rock. They come from a culture of awesome energy and creativity, not to be monolithic about it, but yeah, I doubt my job would exists without the immigrant labor upon which the industry depends.

Immigrant history IS American history, obvious reasons aside, because it’s always been those most willing to take risks to improve their lot that come. They’re explorers, whether they came in 1608 or 1920 or 2012.

But then, I remember my own roots. Being from the rust belt, it makes a little more sense. Mexicans DID take the jobs from my hometown. Just not in the way President-elect Voldemort’s rhetoric would have you believe. Mexicans took their jobs because their American bosses decided higher profit margins were more important than employee wellbeing. Mexicans took their jobs because American CEOs and Boards of Directors moved their factories to Mexico. Because the labor laws Mexicans seek the protection of made manufacturing here too expensive to have the kind of upper-management salaries they felt they deserved. And somehow, we don’t blame the businesspeople for their greed…we blame Mexico. So yeah, these working class white folks, they have a beef with Mexico. But like most racist shit, it’s misdirected.

You can’t tell a Mexican in California, New Mexico, Arizona, or Texas to go home. They already are, you extranjero.


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