“GO FUCKING HOME”: Thoughts on Racism as an International Student

It was a breezy Friday evening when I was walking back to campus after an early dinner at Old Armory with my Mexican-American roommate in Decorah. It was the beginning of a weekend for us and we were on our way home after a satisfying meal outside, planning to later play video games the entire night. Just when we were about to cross the street in the intersection close to Casey’s, a dark blue sedan stopped rather close to us. There were four girls in the car who all looked nearly as old as me and seemed to be all American. They were being loud and talking among themselves, but one of them looked at me for reasons unknown. Suddenly, while glaring at me, she exclaimed, “GO FUCKING HOME!” The moment those words flew into my ears, the girls sped away with laughter, leaving both me and my roommate awe-struck.
It took awhile for me to digest that phrase. I was unsure of whether I heard it correctly, even though the words were as clear as day. And then, I had to make sure if she told me to go home because I was drunk (which I obviously was not.) When I convinced myself that I did hear what I think I heard, I was surprised by how, instead of immediate anger, I told myself, “Oh, I am used to this.” Although I felt hurt, I ended the day with a thought that they were all talk and no fight – that they had no courage to face me. Even still, it did bother me that I managed to tell myself I am used to this.
Being a Rakhine person (an ethnic minority) from Myanmar, racism and xenophobia are terms that are not strange to me. In a melting pot of a country with a rich history of countless groups, Myanmar is insanely diverse in culture, religion, and, my favorite part, food. However, there is always a majority people group in a society, i.e., in Myanmar’s case, the Buddhist Bamar people. When it comes to that, there is always bullying if you are not like them. For that reason, if you are not a Bamar nor, especially, Buddhist, you will, unfortunately, be on the receiving end of racism and xenophobia. Thus, with the aforementioned collective attitude, it is no surprise that we have endless religious and ethnic conflicts occurring in my country. If you have time right now, Google “country with longest civil war.”

Coming a long way from Myanmar to Luther College in the United States, I met so many new people with different traditions and I truly appreciate the opportunities life has given me to learn about humans from around the world. It hurts me beyond explanation that, while living in a foreign country, a group of local girls screamed at me to go home, but I will not go as far as to track them down and report them. Trust me, I want to go home, but I cannot afford my way back in this pandemic. I do not see any benefit in feeling hate for them, but it is important for me to state as a writer that this behavior is not right.
So please, learn to practice appreciation. Please do not tell international students to go home like this. Please thank them for even being here and showing you the world through a different cultural lens. For those reasons, please, ask an international student what kind of food they have at home or what their country is famous for. Please, stop talking about your favorite US-based TV shows for one moment and perform some culture-sharing. It is not likely that you will see people from all over the world, living and learning amongst you as equals in the Midwest, let alone Decorah. We are eager to learn about you, so is it really too much to wish and ask for the same?

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