By Jae-Ha Kim
July 15, 2013
I feel almost silly blogging about this, especially considering that there are more serious issues, such as the verdict that declared that George Zimmerman wasn’t responsible for murdering Trayvon Martin.
But, here I go.
A while ago, I used to do segments on a local radio station. It was a popular show with a host who was vaguely shock jockish. We got along fine, and it was a good forum to promote the newspaper I worked for.
One day, they called me at work and put me on the air live to tell them about some of the music acts coming to town that weekend. They kept me on the line as they began another segment, in which they called a bunch of establishments that were operated by Asian Americans — dry cleaners, Chinese restaurants etc. I would soon find out that the sole purpose of these calls was to make fun of the people speaking accented English.
Never mind that aside from me, no one on that radio program could speak more than one language. They also didn’t consider that while their prank victims did indeed speak with accents, that meant that they were fluent in at least one other language as well.
Soon after, the sidekick began referring to Asians as “Chinamen.” At that point, I interjected and told them that wasn’t cool. He played dumb (maybe he wasn’t playing?) and wouldn’t stop. Realizing that I couldn’t reason with him, I hung up on them and went back to writing my next article.
Callers phoned the station — which aired the comments live — basically saying, “How dare that chink bitch hang up on you!”
Yes. How dare I.
Because I had dared to hang up on a popular white idiot who thought it was funny to make racist remarks, I began receiving death threats. All this over a word. Hard to believe, right?
When I first began dating my husband, I used to joke that he lived in Mayberry. Idyllic, beautiful and vibrant, it has since become my town, too. It’s a wonderful area with great schools, friendly neighbors and a thriving downtown area that’s just a few blocks from our home.
Even though my son and I make up a good chunk of the Asian population here, it is diverse in its own way. Our neighbors emigrated from England, Scotland, Germany and South Africa. My husband and I aren’t the only interracial couple here. And, in less than a two-block radius, there are no less than four adoptees, all hailing from different countries.
Mostly, life here is very good. Then there are days when you’re called a chink while strolling your baby around the neighborhood. Or when you’re leaving the pool and you’re harrassed by a group of kids simply for being Asian.
Oh wait, you heard this before, you say? No, that was last year, when I blogged about it. The sobering fact is, I’m sure it will happen again because, let’s face it — it’s FUN to make fun of the way Asians look and talk. Even though many of us have accents just like the idiots making fun of us.
As we were leaving today, there was a long line of people waiting to get into the pool. We passed a group of blond boys who giggled and made nonsensical sounds that they thought sounded Asian. I’m not giving them the benefit of the doubt. These boys are a bunch of ignorant morons who think all Asians speak one language. The only word they said that was remotely valid was konnichiwa.
I suppose the argument could be made that they were just trying to be nice and speak to me in what they thought was my language, but we all know that’s not true.
Like all privileged people who live in the majority and say such nonsense, their intent was to ridicule my beautiful little boy and me. My son was oblivious. He doesn’t know what racism is yet. But the little jerks got the job done with me. I was angry, sad and embarrassed. But, mostly, I am resigned to the fact that no matter how long I live in this country, there will always be a contingent of people who don’t see me as an American. And because of that, they will feel that it’s completely OK to make fun of me.
I worry for my son. I am scared that he will face a lifetime of dealing with little turds like these boys and that he will be be the one who’ll be expected to be the better person and turn the other cheek. And, that if he doesn’t, he’ll be accused of using the race card, regardless of any facts.
As I did last year when this same thing happened, I walked back and talked to the boys. They were still giggling in a line that was full of children and adults. Are any of you surprised that none of the adults who overheard them so much as uttered a peep? Never mind that these were children talking with such disrespect to an adult. No one seemed to think that what they were saying was all that bad.
When I left, I knew that nothing I said had sunk in. They saw nothing wrong. It was funny. Ha ha.
Later, a (white) friend told me that she walked out of that same pool with her daughter and some of her little girl’s friends. These same boys did the same thing to one of the girls, whose looks seemed to indicate an Asian heritage.
“Why are they saying that to me?” she asked my friend, who replied, “Because they are morons.”
Not long ago, my son and his friend were having lunch at our house. I jokingly asked the boy if he thought Kyle looked more like his daddy or me. Since Kyle and I are both Korean, I expected him to say, “You!”
But what he said was this: “Duh! Kyle looks like his dad. He’s a boy. Hello?!”
Children aren’t born racists. They’re taught to be that way.
© 2013 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved
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