Bullies at May Li’s school tell her to “go home” because they view her as someone who doesn’t belong in the United States. In other words, they are telling her to go back to her country of origin. What they don’t understand is that May Li is a refugee. A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. May Li and Grandfather came to the United States from Myanmar, and are part of a community called the Rohingya. Myanmar doesn’t recognize the Rohingya people and thus provides no protection for them.
The Rohingya people are Muslim, while most of the people who live in Myanmar practice Buddhism. The Rohingya are persecuted, or experience hostility and ill treatment, in Myanmar because of their religious beliefs. As a result, May Li and Grandfather were not safe in their own country and were forced to leave Myanmar. The United States is their only home.
Bullies also tell Jorge to “go home,” despite the fact that Jorge was born in El Paso, Texas. The United States is the only home Jorge has ever known. Because he looks different from them and speaks Spanish when communicating with his family, the bullies assume Jorge’s home is in another country but that is not true.
The bullies pick on May Li and Jorge because they look or act differently than the bullies do. In other words, they are not “American.” But unless you are Native American, you or your ancestors are from somewhere outside the United States. Therefore no one, other than Native Americans, can claim to be more “American” than anyone else. As Jorge aptly noted, “Everyone belongs here.”
It is sad to see May Li and Jorge bullied, but it is heartening to see people like Dar stick up for May Li and be a true ally to her friend. Bullies will always exist, but they won’t win if we all stand up for each other.