Some of us have talked about this before. I am not always nice about it. Sometimes, I pretend obtusely to misunderstand. “When do I go home? At about 5 o’clock,” I say (that’s a lie; it’s never 5 o’clock), forcing friendly faces to explain, “No, I meant when do you go back to Britain.”
I knew that, I do not say, but your assumption seems to be that I have no home here, only in the land I left behind. “We’re visiting family in July,” I offer.
There is no animosity in their question, which is why I feel almost guilty for playing with them. But when I have crossed oceans, taken oaths, paid plenty of taxes, and filled in a forest full of paperwork to make a home here, it is a little galling to be asked on a regular basis when I am leaving.
These exchanges are prickly only on my side. And the ones that come with thorns, telling me to “go back where I came from,” arise only when I have said something offensive, such as that gun violence in this country is out of control, or that children deserve to go to schools that do not need armed guards., for example I have decided that I do not owe those anonymous callers an explanation of my citizenship status. I do not ask them for theirs.
My White skin and English-accented sentences protect me from being ordered away by strangers in the parking lot, or at the supermarket. I am privileged that way, which is why I sometimes get to play the innocent.
On my better days, I might take the time to explain that it would be more appropriate not to choose any person’s story for them, assuming a whole lot about their history, their identity, their family, their future.
I may try to persuade you that it is impossible to tell, at a glance, whether the child of God waiting at the bus stop is fleeing for Egypt, or seeking the Promised Land, or petitioning Rome, or is simply heading home.