Yet another video of a person telling immigrants to “go back to your country” and threatening to kill them has emerged on social media — and this one has sparked a debate on how to respond when confronted with racist comments and death threats in public.
Mahsa Mehrdad, a 32-year-old Iranian Ph.D. student at New York University, was riding the C train in Manhattan with her friend Masih Rehmati when a man with a bike sitting across them started to verbally abuse them. According to Mehrdad, the man got on the train at 42nd Street and when he caught sight of them, began to curse them loudly.
In the video, the man can be clearly heard telling the duo to “go back to your own country.” But that’s not all he said. He then triumphantly declared “Donald Trump is in the house” and stood up to tell the the two Iranians “I’ll kill all three of you at one time. You’re no f***** good. Go back to your country, my man.”
It’s not clear who the third person is that he’s referring to but Mehrdad thinks it may be the man sitting next to them.
“Talk, talk, talk,” the crazed man continued his tirade. “Will you talk when I put a f****** bullet in your head?”
On the following Sunday, the couple went to the 145th Street station and showed a police officer there the one-minute video on their cell phone. But they were met with a disappointing response.
“[The officer] tried to calm us down and explained to us that he can file a report but that the guy looks mentally ill and that there are a lot of them around, but we shouldn't expect the police to go after him and arrest him,” Mehrdad said. The two eventually decided they would not file a police report but they did choose to post the video online.
They also sought advice from social media users on what to do if they experienced a racist incident.
“What should we do in a situation like this? Should we remain silent or should we do something? what is a proper action to shut down racist comments while not escalating the situation?” asked the Facebook post.
The post quickly became inundated with responses from people, many of them form Middle Eastern countries who themselves had experienced discrimination and hatred.
“I don't know the right answer here,” said one commenter. “I always just try and distance myself from the threat.”
Some people told her that getting off the train would have been better.
“There is nothing that you can say in order to peacefully teach someone like this a lesson,” Amir Hossein Hosseini responded. “If you ask me, switch to another train car.”
Others told her they were sorry the police couldn’t be more helpful.
“My experience contradicts some of previous suggestions. A few years ago I encountered a similar experience in DC; called the policed and they responded very quickly,” Hamed Ghoddusi said. "The police officer asked me if it was just a verbal insult or included treat or physical assault. They explained to me that a pure verbal insult (as long as it does not include a real physical threat) can NOT be prosecuted in the U.S. due to the freedom of speech laws. This is very different that European (and even Iranian) mentality, where a hateful or racist verbal expression can be (at least theoretically) prosecuted.”
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Lucas Jackson