"Go Back To Your Own Country!": When A Freecycle Excursion Ends with Xenophobic Threats

GoBackToYourOwnCountry

My family and I found a home. We took over a friend’s lease in a town right outside of Berkeley called Albany (right next to El Cerrito border).

During our first two weeks living here, I tried to Freecycle a rug. A woman and her granddaughters came to get it. They couldn’t find parking so the granddaughters got out of the car to get the rug while she waited, double parked on the road with her hazard lights on because there was no other parking. She and her granddaughters are Muslim (obvious to me because they were all wearing hijab). I went into our house to check in with my husband about the carpet and then took the baby and walked back down to the car about 2 minutes later to update the granddaughters (who were waiting at the bottom of our stairs) and then to the grandmother who was in the car. She calmly told me what had just happened while I was gone: A white woman had yelled at her that it is illegal to double park; told her that she wrote down her license and that she will call the police and then told her, “Go back to your own country”. The woman didn’t care that the Muslim woman said she was temporarily double parked so her grand kids could pick something up for her.

My husband came out of our home and I told him what had just happened. He asked what woman had threatened her and the grandmother pointed that she was walking down the street “over there”. It was obvious the grandmother was concerned/distraught over possibility of having the police be called. My husband decided that he would ‘handle it’ and went to speak to the woman who hurled these racist and Islamaphobic imbued threats. He was able to meet up with her down the street and ended up asking her about her threat to call the police on this Muslim woman when she was simply picking up a carpet and was temporarily double parked. He came back and told me that even though she admitted that she shouldn’t have said the “go back to your own country”, she had decided to continue with other accusations against the Muslim woman in which suggested to her, “Now is a good time to stop talking.”  

I am wondering if she was just embarrassed she got caught and that a white man (my husband) wasn’t silent about it but called her out… Was she regretful about her hateful thoughts about Muslim folk? Obviously, this was not about double parking. It’s vicious and mean to threaten someone with the hopes that the police officers who come will support Islamaphobia and will ‘gladly’ arrest this woman.

How many [mostly] white people call the cops on a non-white person simply because they think they “don’t belong in my country” or that they “don’t belong in my neighborhood”? How often does it end up that the non-white person is beaten, shot, jailed, etc once the cops arrive because they too believe their only ‘crime’ was “breathing while non-white”?

I often wonder about the person in an Alabama town that called the police about a ‘suspicious’ [non-white] man walking down the street. I wonder if they cared about what their actions did (see here, as it’s too traumatizing and triggering to display the police violence on this Indian grandfather walking down the street who is basically mistaken for a Black man and treated accordingly within the logic of anti-Black racism!).

In other news….

Since 2012, when I knew I would be completing my PhD in 2013 Spring, I started looking for full time employment– and in an environment that would appreciate my critical race feminist framing of social justice (well, of life in general). If you followed my posts, you learned I was stressed, frustrated, etc about being who I really am versus hiding it to “get a job”; that some folk I considered my mentors told me that I was ‘unprofessional’ or ‘too controversial’….while others felt differently and tried to help me fulfill my path in using an unorthodox route. I am thrilled to report that I have found what I think is the perfect environment to do the work I believe in and without having to sanitize it….

I have joined University of California-Berkeley’s Equity and Inclusion division. I started on October 5 2015 in the sub-division Staff Diversity Initiatives. Here is more about my role at Cal (Scroll down to the bottom to find me).

With anger and hate like “Go back home to your own country” happening in my own back yard (well, in front of our house), I am glad I can continue to do the work I enjoy doing with like-minded team of people.

Below is a photo of me after finding a new home and being told I was offered the position at Cal. I am smiling and stress free with my baby girl, Kira Satya, who will be 2 in November.

P1230781


Like what the Sistah Vegan Project Does? Find out about our 2016 upcoming conference “The Role of Foodie+Tech Culture in an Era of Systemic Racism and Neoliberal Capitalism”. If you missed our Spring 2015, “The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter” you can download the recordings with slides, here

Also, learn about our other projects and how you can donate to keep the Sistah Vegan Project alive and vibrant.

9 thoughts on “"Go Back To Your Own Country!": When A Freecycle Excursion Ends with Xenophobic Threats

  1. the story about the incident surrounding the woman waiting for her rug was just awful and i’m glad your husband called her out. super happy about your finding work after a stressful and exhausting search and that your family has found a place to call home!

  2. I’m very happy for you re the opportunity for work you’ve found. Congratulations!! Hooray for you!

    As for your “neighbor”…well…what to say? One thing I’ve become fairly certain about is that people who are racialized as having white skin (like me) are a pretty messed up group of beings. This past year of study and learning about the “white racial frame” (and of noting the behavior of many who have white skin) has convinced me of that. I just returned from a brief visit to New Mexico and during that time I overheard an anti-Native American remark and a derogatory remark directed toward Mexican peoples. Both of those sad utterances came from, of course, white people. Those of us with white skin are a pretty pitiful bunch…and we are mostly oblivious to that.

    There’s something absurdly deranged about the ancestor of the murderous invaders of a land to be squawking at someone to “go back to their own country”. It seems to me that many/most of the hurtful negatives we whites direct at those we arrogantly deem to be the “other” rightfully describe ourselves…but we’re too lacking in courage and comprehension to accept that.

    What’s scary to contemplate (for me) is how many white folks run around with harmful and negative viewpoints and thoughts who don’t say anything out loud. The ones who are brazen enough to openly voice their derangement are just the tip of the iceberg, I fear. I wish I could take all of us and sequester us somewhere until we evolved into half-way decent folks…but I can’t. However, I can, as your husband did….do my part to at least make it uncomfortable for those who overtly spew out their poison. It’s not much, but it’s not nothing.

    I look forward to hearing about your experiences in your new work. I genuinely and strongly hope that the job offers you chances to grow in your knowledge and experience as a trainer and as a compassionate Earthling.

  3. Just catching up on this. Congrats on your job! That looks wonderful for you and I hope it continues to be an excellent fit.

    I’m glad you posted this story. I do a lot of freecycle and free give aways on craigslist, as well as community coordinating on coop purchases etc, and I often wonder about how much my ability to do these things is dependent on white privilege. Driving into wealthy silicon valley neighborhoods and picking up something off someone’s porch, for example. Even going to a yard sale and having someone with a nice stroller relate to you and therefore sell it more cheaply. As a white woman I have the privilege of not having the police called, and then the material benefit of being able to get a lot of things for free from wealthy neighborhoods.

    It’s really sad how quickly this grandmother was threatened. Here in the South Bay I’ve encountered some scary racism from white people about Muslim and Indian people–that they are stealing jobs, or that it’s uncomfortable for these upper middle class white people to live in diverse neighborhoods. It’s interesting because people are more willing to say these things than to make any comment at all about the more stark wealth and race divisions in the South Bay, the poverty and homelessness and housing discrimination experienced more by Black and Latino people here. The rhetoric about Indian and Muslim communities here reminds me more of things I read from the nineteenth century about Chinese people–stealing jobs or being foreign/uncomfortable or getting paid less etc.

    1. This sh*t is everywhere, but for some reason, the most media attention is given to Texas and the USA south. But, as Malcolm X once said, “As long as you ‘re south of the Canadian border, you’re South.”….not to say Canada doesn’t have it’s problems with xenophobia and white supremacy.

Add a Mindful Comment (No Trolling Please)