- Andrew Renneisen/Getty Images
A New York Times editor was recently told to “go back to China” when walking down the sidewalk on New York City’s Upper East Side neighborhood.
Michael Luo, an Asian-American journalist, wrote about the experience in The Times on Sunday, saying he was with family and friends after leaving church. As the group moved down a sidewalk, with a stroller in tow, a woman who was apparently annoyed that the group was taking up a large portion of the sidewalk, lobbed a racist remark at the group.
When Luo sprinted to confront her, he wrote, she pulled out her phone and threatened to call the police, screaming “go back to your f—ing country.”
“I was born in this country!” Luo recalled yelling back, saying it was the only retort he could muster in the moment.
Well dressed woman on Upper East Side, annoyed by our stroller, yells: “Go back to China…go back to your f—ing country.” #thisis2016
— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) October 9, 2016
Luo wrote that, disturbed by the confrontation, his 7-year-old kept asking: “Why did she say, ‘Go back to China?’ We’re not from China.”
“Maybe you don’t know this,” Luo wrote in The Times, addressing the woman in an open letter, “but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience.”
“It’s this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day,” Luo continued. “That no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don’t belong. We’re foreign. We’re not American.”
Asian-Americans who were moved by Luo’s story are using the hashtag #thisis2016 to share their own experiences with racism.
introduced myself to a neighbor and she asked, “what’s your real name?” elizabeth is my real name. #thisis2016
— Liz Lin (@curiousliz) October 10, 2016
Was told once I was “intimidating” b/c unlike other Asian women, I wasn’t afraid to state my opinions #thisis2016
— Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing) October 10, 2016
Colleagues have asked, without malice, “When does your work visa end?” I was born here. #thisis2016
— Nina Lin (@nlinphoto) October 10, 2016
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York weighed in, denouncing the harassment.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) October 9, 2016
A Harvard alumnus who now edits for one of the world’s most prominent publications, Luo said he still often feels like “an outsider.”
Compared with other minority groups, Asian-Americans tend to remain silent on issues of identity politics, but that appears to be changing.
Last Thursday, Asian-Americans protested outside the Manhattan headquarters of Fox News after a stereotype-filled segment about Chinatown – produced by correspondent Jesse Watters – aired on the cable network.