Where should I go when I’m told ‘Go back where you came from?’


Sanjay Fernando

Racially exclusive comments have no place anywhere, let alone somewhere as diverse as Montgomery County.

While walking down the benches of a junior varsity soccer game, I heard someone yell, “Go back to where you came from!”

I turned around and saw the girl who screamed such words at me. She was sitting with a group of friends, all students, laughing at me—a woman of Hispanic descent. I didn’t break eye contact to make her know how racist and pathetic her attempt was to bring me and my friends down.

Such a short sentence with so much ignorance and hate behind it. Where did I actually come from? I know that I was born in the United States, but why would it matter if I wasn’t born here? Being born somewhere else doesn’t take away the fact that I’m still human. It is mind-boggling how people think this is acceptable in this day and age.

Such a short sentence, whose only purpose is to belittle someone. I’ve heard this multiple times throughout my life, and I know I will continue to hear it. My immigrant grandmother, who has lived in the US way longer than I have, told me stories about her racist experiences with people. I look up to her, and admire the fact that she did not let any racist comments bring her down.

Why should I fear this happening to me even though I’m a US citizen? Am I not “American” enough for you? I’m not sorry I don’t have blonde hair, blue eyes, and pale skin; it is out of my control.

I could honestly argue that nobody gets to say “go back to where you came from” besides Native Americans.  There’s a certain irony in the descendants of colonizers being unable to comprehend that this isn’t even their own land, nor were their ancestors here first. But I know from experience that arguing with ignorant people takes us nowhere and only causes more conflict. Nothing I say or do will convince them to see past my skin.

Watkins Mill High School is different from many other schools in the variety of cultures that make up the majority of the student body. This diversity brings us closer, as we learn about each other’s cultures and appreciate the differences rather than judge them as inferior. It makes me sad when I leave my diverse and inclusive community to remember that there are teenagers who grew up in the same county as me, yet are a world away and think it is not only acceptable, but funny, to mock someone’s heritage.

Montgomery County Public Schools has shown they are willing to address issues of racism and hate as they arise, but further action is needed. An education in cultural sensitivity shouldn’t be a punishment for a racially tinged incident—it should be used preventatively to stop these incidents from happening at all. In a district as diverse as ours, we need the school system to be proactive—not reactive—in making sure all students feel safe and welcomed.

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