On the train to the trail on Sunday, when we went on our bike ride, my husband and I were pretty much the only ones on the train. Then, two guys got on. At the station, there was an Indian family also waiting for the train. We live in a diverse area, so I didn’t think anything of it. Apparently one of the guys thought differently.
As they got on the train, his friend was berating him for making racist and xenophobic comments to the Indian family. Apparently the jerk told them to, “go back to f*cking Egypt.” The friend was saying, “first of all, how do you know they’re not from here?” and then added, “they weren’t even Egyptian!”
There were a few more choice comments, like, did you know that India is why we’re at war? And everybody should go back to where they came from, but if they were born here, that’s fine. And if their babies were born here, well, that doesn’t count.
I really wanted to say something, but his friend was already reaming him out (and we didn’t feel like getting into it). At some point, the guy was complaining that they would have to walk all the way to their friend’s house, and the jerk asked to borrow my husband’s bike. I think this would have been the perfect point to say, “I’m sorry, he needs to ride it back to where he came from, since he’s not an American, according to you.”
And I should have. I hate that I didn’t. I tell myself it wasn’t worth it, but I think this guy needed a reminder that oh yeah, white people who speak perfect English and grow up here are also immigrants. My husband doesn’t have an accent, and he was raised here from the time he was in elementary school. He’s white, with brown hair and blue eyes. He’s also now a citizen, as is his sister and his parents. But nonetheless, they are immigrants. Legal, yes, but who is to say that the Indian family standing at the bus stop wasn’t legal immigrants, aren’t citizens, and don’t have children who are being raised here to speak perfect English?
So maybe it’s time the whole, “if you see something, say something” doctrine applied to ignorant people as well. I don’t even know how to argue this though. I don’t know where I really stand on illegal immigration – I support the DREAM act, I support helping illegal immigrants become legal immigrants, I support creating better global policies to create good jobs and stable governments in foreign countries. I believe we were all immigrants once, that my ancestors were persecuted French Huguenots, and that they are no different from anyone else who flees a country to be able to practice their religion. But I sometimes think illegal immigration is a real problem, for a lot of reasons, and that our cities and job markets are overcrowded already. So where do I fall, and what do I tell to ignorant people to get them to shut up and think about it?