I’m so very tired of people who think the right response to anyone they disagree with is leave.
Someone said that to me in an online discussion this week, as a way of voicing their disagreement with my political point of view. The fact that they said it to me in particular is irrelevant, though. The fact that they chose this particular form of insult is something else indeed. Something quite insidious.
It’s certainly no secret that there are plenty of Americans who believe that the solution to all our national problems is to send everyone who doesn’t look or think like them somewhere else. Don’t like my politics? Tell me to leave. Hate my color? Tell me to go back where I came from. In some circles, it’s a sure-fire way to prove what a true American you are.
It makes me quite sick to know that I heard these very words from my ex-next-door neighbor’s daughter, directed at mine, when they first moved to our neighborhood. She and a friend were playing in their back yard, when I noticed them throwing little pieces of paper over their fence into our yard. After throwing a note, they’d run away so we couldn’t see them, and laugh. My daughter picked one of them up and read it. It said, “Go home. We don’t want you here.”
My daughter was clearly hurt. I went over to the fence and asked the girls to come over, and told them simply that this was our home and that they had no reason to say this to us. They looked duly chastised, and I though that was the end of it. Several weeks later, though, our neighbor appeared at our door, daughter in tow, apologizing profusely for her daughter’s behavior, and trying to laugh it off. We listened politely, but were never fond of these neighbors after that, and had as little as possible to do with them. When they told us last summer that they were moving, we were frankly relieved. My fears about their attitudes were confirmed the day they left when, upon asking if their daughter would be continuing in the Spanish immersion program at our school, our neighbor rolled her eyes, smirked and said, “No, but after all, if I want to speak Spanish I can just go to any of the stores around here.”
I know where and why that little girl learned to tell a neighbor who looked different than her to go home. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when she read those words, and I regret that I didn’t push the issue then, that I wasn’t willing to risk creating a rift with these new neighbors to bring it into the light.
When I heard those words again this week, however, I went to the mat – and the back-peddling, excuses, and lukewarm apologies began immediately. So this time I stayed on the mat, in the hope that one person would think twice before spewing hate again.
We all have to make choices in life that will affect our relationships with those around us. When our neighbor’s daughter told mine to go home, I chose to let it go for the sake of peace in my neighborhood. Never again. From now on, I go to the mat every time with anyone who chooses to say the same, for the sheer pleasure of making the point.
Margie Perscheid is the adoptive mother of two Korean teens. She is a co-founder of Korean Focus, an organization for families with children from Korea with chapters across the country. Margie is on the Board of Directors of the Korean American Coalition DC Chapter, a former board member of KAAN, the Korean YMCA of Greater Washington (now KAYA), and ASIA (Adoption Service Information Agency). Margie writes about her intercountry adoption experiences at Third Mom. She, her husband Ralf, and their two children live in Alexandria, Virginia.