Perpetual foreigner

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The perpetual foreigner stereotype is a racialized form of nativist xenophobia in the United States in which naturalized and even native-born citizens (including families which have lived in the country for generations) are perceived as non-American because they belong to minority groups.[1] It has been particularly applied as a negative stereotype of Asian Americans, but it has also affected other Americans who have been considered the "the other"[2] and therefore legally unassimilable (either historically or socially). 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?", or 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, despite the fact that on average, they have a longer family history in the United States than white Americans do.[4]

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.[5] 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".[6]

Hate crimes, such as the murder of Vincent Chin, are described as the most brutal form of the perpetual foreigner syndrome.[7]

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. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Rogers, Katie (July 16, 2019). "The Painful Roots of Trump's 'Go Back' Comment". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  7. ^ 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.