Last night, Univision and Fusion reporter Jorge Ramos attempted to ask Donald Trump a question at a press conference. Trump shouted him down and told him to “Go back to Univision”; Ramos was escorted away by security.
The encounter hit a nerve, perhaps due to the violence and hatred associated with the phrasing of “Go back to [X].” Indeed, the construction has popped up in the news several times over the past few years, usually as a violent threat or a demeaning, dismissive slur against a person of color.
We combed through the archives and found that news stories noting the “Go back to [x]” construction really kicked into high gear in the mid-1990s. The phrase has certainly been used before then, however; Jackie Robinson was often told to “Go back to Africa” while playing baseball in the 1940s, as was black basketball player Earl Lloyd in the 1950s.
Here, however, is a brief, incomplete, and generally racist and xenophobic catalog of recent times that a white man has told a person of color to go back to somewhere.
1. Councilman Chuck Stites talking to a teenager
In May, 17-year-old Kali Chatmon was driving in Edwardsville, KS and narrowly avoided a collision with a fellow driver. At the next stop light she attempted to apologize to the other driver but was met with a string of expletives like “go back to Baltimore black n—-r bitch.”
The driver yelling at Chatmon was Chuck Stites (above), a man who happened to have just joined the Edwardsville City Council. Chatmon filed a police report and the Kansas Bureau of Investigations stepped in and said there was probable cause to file charges. None have been filed as of yet.
2. Sandra Bland’s jailer talking to a local pastor
After the death of Sandra Bland in a Waller County (TX) jail cell, Hannah Adair Bonner, pastor at United Methodist Church, began holding prayer vigils outside of the jail. During one of the vigils, Sheriff R. Glenn Smith told her to “go back to the Church of Satan that [she] runs.” It was caught on video.
Bonner also reports that the “Sheriff then went to my car, took pics of license plate and my face and threatened he is going to do something with them.”
3. U.S. Ambassador James Lilley talking to Tibetan protesters
In 1990, while on his way to a trade exposition and symposium on U.S.-China relations with the Chinese ambassador, former CIA man and then U.S. ambassador James Lilley approached a group of anti-Chinese government protesters.
As the diplomats arrived, the demonstrators chanted: “China — human rights!” “Tibet for Tibetans!” and “Remember Tiananmen Square!” Mr. Berman said.
Mr. Zhu ignored the demonstrators and went inside.
But, Mr. Berman said, and the KIRO-TV videotape corroborated, Mr. Lilley suddenly shouted, “Were you at Tiananmen Square? I was there.”
“So what?” Mr. Berman said he shouted back.
The ambassador then yelled to a Tibetan man, “What are you doing about it? I’m doing something about it. You should go back to China and serve China.”
“You’re cowards,” Mr. Lilley told the demonstrators before entering the building.
Lilley retired from government service in 1991.
4. Councilman Lindel Toups talking about Spanish-speaking Louisiana residents
Lindel Toups was on the Lafourche Parish City Council, in Louisiana, in 2013, serving on a committee tasked with raising $25 million to build a new jail. Toups had a bright idea: divert money from the library system and add it to the budget for the new jail since he could “point to the library’s budget, continually growing, as evidence that the system is collecting more money than it needs.” The move would also not affect the tax payers. Except the ones who use the library. It went on the ballot.
Toups didn’t stop there though:
“They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English,” the council chairman said in reference to Biblioteca Hispana, a Hispanic-language segment of the Golden Meadow library branch. “Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico. There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with. … Them junkies and hippies and food stamps (recipients) and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps (on the Internet). I see them do it.”
“They’re teaching Mexicans to speak English,” Toups told the Tri-Parish Times and Business News. “Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico.”
The ballot measure failed.
5. A Teacher of the Year in Texas talking to one of her students
Two-time “Teacher of the Year” Shirley Bunn was suspended by Barrett Junior High School in Arlington, Texas in 2012 after she told a “disruptive” student to go back to Mexico.
The student had requested a Spanish-language version of a form from the 8th grade math teacher. Bunn told the student that she didn’t have that form but the main school office did. The student, either being disruptive or not understanding, replied “but I’m Mexican.” Bunn then delivered the famous line.
Late Wednesday, the examiner, Jess Rickman III, recommended that the school board allow Bunn to return to her post. In his 23-page opinion, Rickman determined that the district did not provide sufficient grounds for termination.
“Under the circumstances when taken in the context of the moment and the lack of intent for ‘Go back to Mexico’ to be a racially or nationality-based pejorative remark, I find it was not a remark of an egregious nature,” Rickman said.
Bunn ultimately kept her job.
6. New York Department of Transportation officials talking to one of their employees
Michael Moshier, a black man working for the Department of Transportation, had asked the DoT for a transfer due to racial discrimination. In response, he found a handwritten note in his mailbox.
The note contained racial slurs and told him to “go back to Africa” and that he shouldn’t have “started this investigation.”
When he complained to his supervisors, he was allegedly told he needed “thicker skin” and to “ignore” his tormentors. His request to be transferred to a Westchester office closer to his home was then denied. Needless to say, Moshier filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2011 and he claims the harassment intensified after that. So he filed a lawsuit in federal court. It’s still pending.