When a kid told me to “Go back to China,” I used my limited English to reply to him, “I no from China.” Then he said, “Go back to wherever you came from.” That was twenty-seven years ago when I first came to this country at the age of twelve. The unwelcomeness hurt me deeply. I wanted to cry and I wanted to go back. I didn’t know why we came here. My mother never explained to me. I just came for the ride. I missed Vietnam terribly. I missed the familiar language, places, and faces. I was comfortable in an environment where I was not bullied, singled out, or laughed at. I missed my home, neighbors, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and most of all, dad.
My childhood was robbed. I turned from a happy, social kid to a sad, lonesome boy in a new, strange place. Fortunately, the adults stepped in to turn things around. From my ESL teachers to my Upward Bound mentors to my friends and family members in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, they gave me a different perspective on America. Through their kindness and opening arms, they showed me that America was built on immigrants. Whether you are new to this country or you were born here from parents or grandparents of immigrants, we are all here together as a nation. I began to understand the land of opportunity and freedom.
As much as I missed my home in Vietnam, I officially found my new home when I became a U.S. Citizen. For almost three decades, this is my home. I went to school, got married, and built my family here. I worked hard and paid my taxes. This is where I belong. Vietnam is still part of me and will always be, but America is my home. It is where my kids were born. They speak English, Vietnamese, and some Spanish too. Diversity makes America great.
Sadly, America is deeply divided when the most powerful man in the country used the kid’s language toward his political advantage. I never took him seriously. He’s a con, joker, and puppet. Unlike the kid who told me to “Go back to wherever you came from,” the puppet has a base of millions of followers behind him. Are his followers racist? I hope not, but they are supporting a racist and his racist comment. When the kid said it, adults stepped in to teach him how to behave. Where are the adults now to stand up to this bully? When one kid said that to me, I am glad that other kids didn’t chant, “send him back.” Again, the puppet does not bother me. He just brings the true racism out of America. It is disturbing and disheartening to witness in our own home.