HomeAsian AmericansAmerican't: Why President Trump can't accept me as an American.

American’t: Why President Trump can’t accept me as an American.

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By Sam Louie, Originally published in Psychology Today

President Donald Trump‘s tweets this week telling four ethnic Congresswomen to essentially “go back to where you came from” should be an affront to all Americans.  But it’s not. He has many supporters who actually find his tweets a clarion call to defend and perpetuate this level of overt racism.

As an Asian American psychotherapist, workshop presenter, and speaker on issues related to culture and trauma, the level of concern from clients related to his remarks has been overwhelming.  

Beyond my clients, I’ve been grappling with race, ethnicity, and acceptance in the United States myself. First off, as immigrants, it was hard enough to feel “good enough” knowing we weren’t born here. Many of the other Asian kids I grew up with were also teased for being Asian, but they at least could rest in the knowledge they were born in this country. Being an immigrant can make you feel like a second-class citizen. Even though I became a naturalized citizen, I still felt like an “other” due years of being the target of ethnic micro-aggressions.

In addition, the teasing you heard in school such as, “Chink”, “Jap”, “Go back to China!” and a host of other deplorable sayings only reinforced the notion of the “perpetual foreigner” perception. This belief deals an indelible wound to the heart of ethnic minorities who will always be seen as a foreigner no matter how “Americanized” they try to be in terms of assimilation and integration into mainstream society. Your family roots in America can go back four of five generations, but due to your ethnic background, some people will always view you as a diluted version of their version of an American.

In addition to the emotional trauma of feeling rejected by your own country is the real fear of being the victim of a hate crime based on your ethnic background. There are a number of recent cases where Asian Americans or South Asian/Indian workers on a U.S. Visa were targeted, but you may not be aware of them as the stories often don’t make it on national or even your local mainstream news outlets.

As recently as 2017, 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed outside a bar in a Kansas City suburb. Kuchibhotla worked as an engineer for GPS-maker Garmin headquartered in Olathe, Kansas when witnesses say the gunman, Adam Purinton, yelled at the two Indian men to “get out of my country” and opened fire. Purinton was sentenced to three consecutive life prison sentences. 

In that same year, at the Orange County Night Market (California), a Vietnamese American man was told to “go back to Asia” where he could “go eat dog” after refusing to allow two White women and a White man to cut ahead of him in line. The trio later gave him a severe beating that required stitches and temporary fillings, but the police did not consider the attack racially-motivated.

All this to say, Trump and his supporters are showing their true colors in defending his remarks and denying that they’re racist. But in so doing, they’re also telling us in no uncertain terms, ethnic minorities are not wanted here in the U.S.

Sam Louie is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in addictions, Asian American issues and Christian counseling. Prior to therapy, he worked more than a dozen years as an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter where he researched and reported on a number of stories related to addictions, culture and psychotherapy. You can reach him at www.samlouiespeaks.com.

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