Been Heres and Come Heres

Who Are The Bumiputras Of The Eastern Shore? The “Been Heres” and “Come Heres”

by Metty Pellicer

Having just returned from visiting Malaysia, Indonesia, and Borneo, where the inhabitants are classified according to nativity, culture, language and religion, I immediately saw a parallel, in the way I was asked by new friends who were attending the Palace Theater’s engaging production of Arsenic and Old Lace, “Where are you from? Why did you choose to come here?”

In the course of this getting-to-know-you conversation, I learned about the Been Heres and the Come Heres , an intriguing classification that calls for understanding.

And so just like any curious arm-chair scholar, I went to Google for further information. I found very little on the subject involving Cape Charles. An article in the Cape Charles Wave by George Southern titled Shore Thing, described the distrust and arms length treatment of outsiders by those whose families had been in the Shore since Jamestown. An article by Mary Strock, referred mostly to the unbridled welcoming of corporate big money development Come Heres by County leaders vs. the non-recognition of the contributions of individual Come Heres, who buy property, pay taxes, support local business, and inject vitality to town life by introducing  a new life style. But the illuminating information came from the heated discussion of the article in the comments section, by readers who touched on similar themes as the Bumiputras. 

A Bumiputra, (son of the earth) in Malaysia, Indonesia and Borneo, are inhabitants who are born in these countries, whose parents were Indigenous, or who were Malays. To be a Malay, a legal definition, one must have ancestors who are ethnic Malays, descendants of Astronesians who predominantly inhabited these countries in ancient times, who traces genetic origins with Taiwan indigenous people and Negritos, who must speak the Malay language, adopt the Malay culture, and must be Muslim. The Bumiputras enjoy a privileged legal treatment under the Constitution. Everyone else, such as the Chinese, and Asian Indians, who had ancestors in the country brought in by the colonial rulers to labor in the tin mines and rubber plantations, are not accorded this legal privilege and must fight politically to be classified Bumiputra. The Been Heres are the Bumiputras of the US, based on nativity, race, language, culture, and religion. The Indigenous American Indians, are not Bumiputras, in the way they would be in Southeast Asia, and the Blacks and Chinese, whose ancestors were brought in by the Been Heres to work the plantations, and lay down the country’s infrastructure, also have to fight politically to gain legal privilege. And although legally equal they continue to be discriminated by the Been Heres in overt and subtle ways.

The erudite analysis I found, in the literature of city and town planners on gentrification, and in the research papers on identities and ideologies along the rural and urban interface. Distilling these sources became an exciting journey for me in understanding not only the Been Heres and Come Heres of Northampton County but also the current political and racial climate of the United States and the phenomenon of President Donald Trump.

Chuck Brodsky, an American singer-songwriter, captured the difference and conflict in a most relatable way in his song The Come Heres and the Been Heres. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_XpA8z1XPk

Well, the Come Heres and the Been Heres

They don’t get along

I’ve been here fifteen minutes

I knew something was wrong

The waitress was not friendly

Neither was the cook

To ask how far it was

To the town of Stonybrook

The Come Heres live in cabins, the Been Heres live in Shacks

They say hello in passing

And talk behind each other’s backs

White collars vs red necks

Horses vs mules

City kids they come here and make the teachers look like fools

Come Heres come with Laptops, Nintendo, VCR’s

Some have their telephones, beside their foreign cars

They wanna make no smoking zones in all the public spaces 

They want to pass ordinances outlawing turkey races

Well, the ancestors of Been Heres

They came here early on

When there were just the Indians, and once they’re gone

They claim themselves the New World

There’s lots to go around

Claimed bunch of properties

And built this little town

Now the Come Heres nearly have the votes to make their own mayor

In the last election they won half the council chairs

They took over the school board

They outlawed morning prayers, teach evolution, sex education, there

Been Heres do their drinking in their own saloons

In the Come Heres’ Microbrewery there’s a separate dining room

Been Heres shop Kmart and at Walmart, where they mix

They think of one another as Cavaliers? and Hicks

The Come Heres have the pussy cats and their little white French poodles

Been Heres have their hound dogs with names like Yankee Doodle

Comes Heres like to watch the ducks and some like to feed them 

Been Heres like to shoot them and take them home and eat them

The Come Heres keep on coming

New ones everyday

They come for second chances

The new world as they say

They buy and sell these properties 

For unheard of amounts

Come Heres keep on coming they’ll map this little town

The Come Heres and the Been Heres

To towns that overlap

You would not even see it

By just looking at the map

And alls there

At  Christmas time when the tree is just the tree

And you could not tell whose kids were whose

Sitting there on Santa’s knee

The Come Heres and the Been Heres

There’s talk about a fence

The whole town is divided half for and half against

The song is clever and entertaining, but it emphasizes the stereotype of the group, which maintains prejudice. But the Been Heres and the Come Heres I’ve met, are nothing but the friendliest, welcoming, and helpful people you could know, who are involved in their communities and are active in preserving this piece of paradise for the future generations to enjoy.

Doing away with prejudice by getting to know each other as individuals  and fellow human beings is our hope for getting along in harmony. In Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo, the city is divided, the North has a Bumiputra Mayor, and the South, a Chinese. In building the Border Wall, we go in the same way of division, a giant step backwards.

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Metty Pellicer

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