Local News

Elon prof says racism forcing her family from US

Posted May 4

— An Elon University professor says repeated racism against her husband has pushed her family to the breaking point, so they're packing up and leaving the country.

Robin Attas, an assistant professor of music, said Thursday that she has enjoyed her work at Elon, but life off campus has become unbearable for her and her husband, Nicolás Narváez, a native of Nicaragua.

Attas recalled the time Narváez was in the front yard of the couple's Burlington home with their two young children when someone driving by hurled racial epithets and a bottle at him. An artist, Narváez has also been stopped by police for no reason and has been treated so poorly in the community, his wife said, that he doesn't want to run errands such as going to the grocery store or the post office anymore.

"We just need to be somewhere else where we can feel comfortable and happy and safe," she said.

The racism has taken an emotional toll on Narváez, Attas said.

"I see he’s not the person that he was four years ago, so there’s that where I feel like, the longer we stay here, the less of a chance I have of getting him back," she said. "For me, it’s a choice between my husband and my job, and I would rather have my husband."

The couple plans to close on the sale of their house at the end of the month and head to Canada, where they will live with Attas' parents in Winnipeg, Manitoba, until she can find a job.

Explaining the move to their 5-year-old son was difficult, she said.

"We’ve told him that we’re leaving because people here don’t treat papa nicely because of the way that he looks," she said. "He’s processing that, which is amazing, I’m so proud of him and so sad that he has to process it."

Attas said she feels that the racial attitudes her family has seen in North Carolina go beyond President Donald Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric, calling it "a systemic, society-level problem" in the U.S.

By sharing her family's story, she said she hopes to encourage Canadians to be even more welcoming of immigrants.

"We’re so lucky and privileged that I have a stable job, that we have residency in the U.S., that we have enough money and family where we can go to another place where we’ll feel more comfortable," she said. "But I just think of all the people in this country who don’t have that."

Attas and Narváez are both Canadian citizens. Despite having U.S. green cards, she said, they will never move back here.

"I’m so sad to be leaving some really great colleagues," she said, "but I’m so excited to be going home. This has never felt like home."


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  • Charles Williams May 6, 12:30 p.m.
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    First off, my religious affiliation is no concern of yours. Mexican or whatever he is doesn't matter either. They are liberal junk peddlers. She should have stayed with her own kind.

  • Vince DiSena May 6, 9:43 a.m.
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    More WRAL BS.

  • Quid Malmborg May 6, 9:06 a.m.
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    False Equivalence, FTW!!!


  • Henry Cooper May 5, 2:04 p.m.
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    Ground Hog day... Lets go all in on one side because their are only liars on the other side of the fence.

    There is a middle folks. I have no doubt from what I have seen in my 50+ years in NC that they got some strange looks and some racist comments. I also have no doubt there is a tremendous difference in what could be found 20-50 mile east in Wake, Durham, Orange compared to Alamance. She is a prof so it would seem there would be opportunities also.

    BUT... having to move to Canada to solve this. They really feel they have to leave the US? That is an extreme over the top reaction. I mean no where / no state in the US will you feel safe?

    Think about that from both sides. Aren't they slapping the Dems in the face also? They don't feel a single state has what they are looking for (remember the headline... forced form the US.

    I ask both sides... no single state is good enough... Do we really want them here? Don't we have enough High and Mighty already?

  • Ben Hill May 5, 1:55 p.m.
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    Bigotry is defined as: stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

    So by calling out Trump supporters as ignorant and unempathetic, you are also by definition a bigot.

  • David Dicken May 5, 12:18 p.m.
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    Shame on you wral. This is a prime example of how you are liberally biased. I cannot stand this bleeding heart stuff. Anti Trump immigration huh? He is following the law on the books. Grow a spine. Ignorance affects us all. Stupidity just stands out more. The ppl hurling racist comments won. Teaches your child to run and not stand up to bullies.

  • Bob Thomas May 5, 11:45 a.m.
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    So they chose to report this unsubstantiated woman's claims for what reason? I am not disputing there aren't racists in North Carolina but wouldn't it be more worth while to verify some of her claims or at least reach out to the Hispanic​ community to see if this is a common occurrence. I work with many Hispanics through my job and can honestly say I have never heard of anything like this. To be honest it sounds like she just doesn't like Trump and what's to move.

  • Teddy Fowler May 5, 9:54 a.m.
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    Yesterday a motorcyclist passed me between two cars (dangerously and illegally) and I blew the horn at him... he gave me the one finger salute... I wonder if I should move to Canada now.......

  • Karen Orndorff May 5, 9:54 a.m.
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    ITs everywhere, she will be disappointed.

  • Erik Nystrom May 5, 9:35 a.m.
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    Im a dual citizen of the United States and Canada and I've got news for you, Nick - people aren't any less racist in Canada.