Michael Luo is deputy Metro editor at the New York Times. He has been with the newspaper since 2003.
He was born in Pittsburgh in 1976 and graduated from Harvard University, which means he is a “born and bred – and employed – in the United States” American.
Yet, when he was out with his family in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, a woman told him to “go back to China.”
Well dressed woman on Upper East Side, annoyed by our stroller, yells: "Go back to China...go back to your f---ing country." #thisis2016— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) October 9, 2016
"We were over to the side of the sidewalk but this woman was walking past and aggravated we were in her way," Luo recounted the disturbing encounter on Twitter and later in a powerful open letter. “That's when she first yelled, "Go back to China!"
After initially ignoring the insult, Luo went after the woman to tell her that he was, in fact, born in the U.S.
I ran after the woman and confronted her and said I was born in this country. But I felt silly. How to prove this country is mine too?— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) October 9, 2016
Far from appearing apologetic for her bigotry, she, instead, threatened to call the cops on him.
Now my 7 year old, distressed by what happened, keeps asking, "Why did she say, 'Go back to China?' We're not from China."— Michael Luo (@michaelluo) October 9, 2016
"Maybe you don’t know this, but the insults you hurled at my family get to the heart of the Asian-American experience,” he wrote in his poignant account for the NTY. “It’s this persistent sense of otherness that a lot of us struggle with every day. That no matter what we do, how successful we are, what friends we make, we don’t belong.”
He then asked other Asian Americans to share similar experiences on Twitter, using the hashtag, #thisis2016.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the response was overwhelming.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also addressed Luo’s encounter:
The incident occurred less than a week after Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” – one of the most-watched news shows in the country – ran a shockingly racist segment set in Chinatown that ridiculed Asians and their cultures. It was aired in the wake of anti-China rhetoric adopted by the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Instead of acknowledging the inappropriateness of the repulsive clip and apologizing for including it in his program, host Bill O’Reilly played victim, saying the backlash is “an organized campaign” against his show.