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Being told to “go back where you came from” is a universal experience

Many have heard the hurtful insult to “go back to where you came from.”

Now Pakistani American attorney and media commentator Wajahat Ali has taken the racist slight and turned it into a new memoir not coincidentally titled Go Back to Where You Came From.

“Many of us who are born and raised in this country, or many of us who consider ourselves American are reminded almost daily that we don’t belong. You’re a suspect and an ‘other’ in your own country,” he said to KCRW.

He told NPR the experience is so common many minorities have internalized it and rarely discuss it.

Ali grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area raised by immigrant parents who he said emulated “whiteness” thinking they would achieve the “American dream.”

“You will feel anxious when any other person of color succeeds in your workplace and threatens to take away your coveted token status. You will invest in the narrative of scarcity and believe there can be “only one” from your community — you — who can succeed.”

He called it part of the “model minority myth,” a stereotype that pervades the entire Asian American community.

He said being Muslim American subjected him to the expectation of condemning terrorists and violent acts perpetrated by people he’s never met.

“You’re asked to prove your moderation in front of a very skeptical judge, jury, and audience that always holds you as suspect and indicts and convicts you anyway. And so the bar is really low,” he said.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Go Back Where you Came From as a “sharp-witted, reflective and utterly engaging exploration of his own family history — including a dark chapter in which his parents were incarcerated for their alleged role in a wire and mail fraud scheme — and the “perpetual tug-of-war” he, like so many Muslim Americans, has felt “between xenophobia and acceptance.”

(Editor’s Note: AsAmNews receives a 10% commission if you use the link above to purchase this book)

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