Maybe We Immigrants Should Just ‘Go Back Home’

“Pardesi Pardesi” from Dharmesh Darshan’s Raja Hindustani (1996)

I’m not inclined to take orders from people who commit hate crimes and I am also not inclined to let my community suffer for the next four years.

Over the weekend, a Sikh man near Seattle was shot in the arm after being told to ‘go back to his country’ (the shooter is still at-large). Sadly, the Seattle shooting was preceded by the deadly shootings of an Indian man in Kansas and another Indian man in South Carolina.

‘Get out of my country!’ appears to be the common sentiment amongst the white shooters in these three cases. While many of us might wonder how a white man can say such a thing to anyone while standing on the body of land that was taken from non-white communities in the first place, plenty of people truly want brown people to ‘go back.’

But not all of us have a place to return. For most us of us, “going back” is not practical or feasible. Many brown people in America do not even have the necessary language skills to “go back” to their countries.

And yet, I still find myself wondering: well, maybe some of us should start going back? Maybe PM Modi’s support for Trump was really just a ruse to get a Great South Asian Homecoming in motion?

Jokes and paranoia aside, a mass return of Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to India might be the next stop for Indian migration.

Migration does not have to stop on American soil.

The urgent motives for migration are a result of political turmoil, unrest from colonial hangovers, environmental deterioration, and/or the threat of immediate danger.

Are we not feeling some of these threats in the United States?

The other and more positive motives for migration are usually rooted in opportunity and wealth, both of which are possible in India’s booming economy.

What is stopping us from coming here to the U.S. for a generation or two and then migrating back to India? I have vivid memories of my grandparents saying their plan was to return to India after my grandfather finished his doctorate in the United States. I remember the longing for Punjab in my grandmother’s eyes when she reminded everyone that their plan was to ‘go back home.’

My family, like so many others, have not yet carried out their original plan to go back. I’m not sure if my grandparents had the money to buy the plane tickets for everyone to go back to Punjab in the late 1960s. Perhaps they were just financially stuck in carrying out their American adventure. Or perhaps they realized that ‘going back’ is impossible and nostalgia is just a mind game.

I do know that their desire to return ‘home’ was never forgotten. In fact, it was passed down to their grandchildren with memories and reminders of better times.

To those of us who can go back home, I ask: do we go? It is time to consider that return. It is not as though we need the United States for anything…India has Starbucks and avocado toast too. Some say it is not safe for women in India, to them I say ‘it is not safe for women anywhere.’ Others say there is too much poverty in India, to them I say ‘come live near Skid Row.’

The question is: do we go back as a political statement, as a form of protest?

So long as James Comey and the FBI claim the ever-growing presence of a ‘terrorist diaspora’ or Department of Homeland Security programs such as VOICE continue to get support and funding, the more we brown immigrants are going to be under direct threat. The current language used to describe brown immigrants indirectly exposes us to harm, violence, and death; those words and programs are a rejection of our existence.

As the three shootings of Indian men in 2017 reveal, it does not matter how educated or how much money we make. South Asians — engineers and shop owners — are under attack in the United States.

Do we stay here and fight? Or do we go back home? For decades, Bollywood has been reminding us that the villages are waiting for us to return.

All we have to do is get on a plane, right?

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