Perpetual foreigner

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The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families that have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as foreign because they belong to minority groups.[1]

United States[edit]

It has been particularly applied as a negative stereotype of Asian Americans, but it has also affected other minority groups, which have been considered to be "the other"[2] and therefore legally unassimilable, either historically or currently. In personal interactions, it can take the form of an act of microaggression in which a member of a minority group may be asked, "Where are you from?" Also, it can take the form of an explicit act of aggression in which a member of a minority group may be told, "Go back to where you came from."[3] Black Americans are often told "go back to Africa" as a racial insult,[4] despite the fact that on average, they are more likely to have a multi-generational family history in the United States than white Americans do.[5]

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines workplace comments like "Go back where you came from" as a potentially illegal form of ethnic harassment.[6] The message conveys a sense that the person is "not supposed to be there, or that it isn't their place," and it is often encountered when the minority person is "speaking out in predominantly white spaces."[7]

Hate crimes, such as the murder of Vincent Chin, are described as the most brutal form of the perpetual foreigner syndrome.[8]

Post-Soviet states[edit]

Crimean Tatars are an indigenous people of Crimea with clearly established pre-Golden Horde Scythian, Greek, and Goth roots, but authorities and nativists long have treated them as perpetual foreigners. When Crimean Tatars who had been forcibly exiled in the Stalin era attempted to return to Crimea before perestroika, they were frequently met with severe hostility by officials who took violent measures to keep them out and had orders to prevent them from returning to their native land. Meanwhile, Russian publications literally referred to deported Crimean Tatars returning to the places of their birth as foreigners.[9][10]

Haitians in the Dominican Republic[edit]

Before 2010, the Constitution of the Dominican Republic generally granted citizenship to anyone born in the country, except children of diplomats and persons "in transit".[11] The 2010 constitution was amended to define all undocumented residents as "in transit".[11] On September 23, 2013, the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court issued a ruling that retroactively applied this definition to 1929,[12] the year Haiti and the Dominican Republic formalized the border.[13][14] The decision stripped Dominican citizenship from about 210,000 people who were born in the Dominican Republic after 1929 but are descended from undocumented immigrants from Haiti.[13] Many Haitians born in the Dominican Republic do not have Haitian citizenship and have never been to Haiti;[15] hence the decision rendered them at least temporarily stateless.[11][12][16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dei, George J. Sefa; Hilowle, Shukri (2018-12-04). Cartographies of Race and Social Difference. Springer. ISBN 9783319970769.
  2. ^ Jacobson, Robin Dale; Wadsworth, Nancy D. (2012-02-02). Faith and Race in American Political Life. University of Virginia Press. ISBN 9780813932057.
  3. ^ Sue, Derald Wing (2010-02-09). Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9780470594155.
  4. ^ Hines, Bea L. (July 19, 2019). "I was told to 'Go Back to Africa.' Here's why I'm not going anywhere, Mr. Trump". Miami Herald. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  5. ^ Inc, Gallup (2001-07-10). "Majority of Americans Identify Themselves as Third Generation Americans". Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  6. ^ Silverstein, Jason (July 17, 2019). "U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission specifically lists "go back to where you came from" as example of discrimination". CBS News. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  7. ^ Rogers, Katie (July 16, 2019). "The Painful Roots of Trump's 'Go Back' Comment". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  8. ^ Wu, Frank H. "Where are you really from? Asian Americans and the perpetual foreigner syndrome." Civil Rights Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, 2002, p. 14.
  9. ^ Zisserman-Brodsky, Dina (2003). Constructing Ethnopolitics in the Soviet Union: Samizdat, Deprivation and the Rise of Ethnic Nationalism. Springer. pp. 82–83. ISBN 9781403973627.
  10. ^ "Власти Крыма считают крымских татар диаспорой". Комментарии Украина (in Russian). 2012-05-30. Retrieved 2019-10-02.
  11. ^ a b c Semple, Kirk (17 October 2013). "Dominican Court's Ruling on Citizenship Stirs Emotions in New York". The New York Times.
  12. ^ a b Archibold, Randal C. (24 October 2013). "Dominicans of Haitian Descent Cast Into Legal Limbo by Court". The New York Times.
  13. ^ a b Rojas, Ricardo (12 October 2013). "Dominican court ruling renders hundreds of thousands stateless". Reuters.
  14. ^ Kushner, Jacob (4 September 2015). "Birthright Denied". Moment Magazine. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
  15. ^ "Haitians Face Deportation From Dominican Republic As Deadline Nears". NPR. 17 June 2015.
  16. ^ "DR Court Strips Citizenship from Dominican-born Haitians".