"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.

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