No matter how couched, no matter how diluted or hedged or explained away, those two piercing words: ‘Go back’ are the gall and guts and gore of the immigrant experience. Let there be no forgetting of the embedded venoms, too. They are an ever-present reality of the honest, hardworking, committed, patriotic immigrant. There is a whole world of meaning, of anger, of endless anguish incorporated into the curse of ‘Go back!’
It is that no matter how much is achieved, regardless of how much respected and recognised, there is always that frightening, fateful spectre hanging over the heads of not the rapists and murderers and money launderers, who have betrayed opportunity and host. Rather, it is usually aimed at those poor and wretched who come and who lift up both themselves and environment.
The slaves and Chinese-built plantocracy and railroad baronetcy respectively, the colour of their skins readily trumped the colour of capitalist toil and money. Go back. To a lesser degree dismissed Slavs, Irish, Wops, and Polish evaded the colour coding. Like all the other perceived dirty unwashed, the hateful phrase was ‘Go back’. They form part of the crowd screaming today. Appalachian primitiveness soaring up to the Executive Mansion, and then launched with unbridled, savaging ferocity.
The Indians got started with HB-1 visas; it was then used to keep them out. The challenge is how to make those insisting on residing for the dream to ‘Go back.’ The nativist nightmare that forms part of an unmoving paradox, from where to get the scientists, engineers, mathematicians?
Especially, when, to a disturbing extent, the homegrown shudder at the mere thought, the prospect of minutiae and algorithms and profound complexities of the still unknowable. Those rockets need systems (NASA); those programs and visions need skills and talents (Silicon Valley) that are in short supply, very short supply.
Military adversaries and commercial competitors – unrelenting, imaginative warriors all-have the armies of men and women, who thrive on the challenges and harsh demands of equations, logic, and properties that would diminish many a lesser soul. Go back leaves vulnerable. Go back renders inadequate to retain the hegemony that has prevailed for an extended period now.
The brigades of lawyers and arts students and philosophical sages-in-waiting will not present with the keen, competitive leadership advantage, that decisive gap, which translates to unchallengeable supremacy, and so informs the whole, awed world. The West Indians and Hispanics and Asians and Africans – are now the detested of the times. Always lurking fears probed, pushed, and powered towards hysteria and spiraling, circling rage. Nordic and Eurocentric – are the ideal. That is part of the problem.
The many Guyanese who move from the mean streets of Brooklyn, the increasingly crowded precincts of Queens to the enclaves of arrival in Long Island, ought to be sensible enough to know that ‘Go back’ is stamped invisibly on passport and a very observable mark on the forehead. Real estate and civic standing do not give legitimacy. The Jewish people of long ago know that demeaning mark and fate; that is why they identify with causes liberal, why they are always inquiring into the unknown. For they, too, know of an unsettled, unwelcomed existence among rancorous strangers, even when success is lauded.
Guyanese should know that moving by the bootstraps from being a deli worker and domestic helper and down-in-the-basement presence to the classrooms of self-improvement, the corridors of higher endeavour, and the pinnacles of achievement reduce to the inevitability of one day or any one time of the jarring reminder patented and perfected in: ‘Go back.’
Credentials and advancement count for nothing across a wide cross-section. Now a different kind of threat: populating the job centres, shoving out the native unlearning and undeserving. Hence, required is this spiritual indentureship of what should be seasonal, temporary, averting the gaze presences.
Know your place! It is over there, right where you started from with nothing. Go back!
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