Why I write about the past

0623OPEDmortis-popupBy Jae-Ha Kim
August 3, 2013

Anonymous asked: Hi, I’m a big follower of yours and enjoy your writing. I was wondering how you decided what to blog about. Thank you!

Hi! And thank you for taking the time to write me. I actually have a long list of things that I’d love to write about. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to do it. So, some things get shelved indefinitely or are forgotten about.

For instance, after the Trayvon Martin case, I wanted to blog about the injustice surrounding Vincent Chin. Though there were two off-duty police officers who witnessed the murder, his killers walked away with serving ZERO jail time.

I remember that time period well, because I — like a lot of other Asian-Americans — were fearful that we would be attacked by racists who assumed we were Japanese and therefore taking all the jobs away from real ‘mericans. (Ironically, we were the ONLY family I knew that even drove American-made cars.)

I remember my father plastering our cars with flags of the United States. He was very proud to be a U.S. citizen, but I know that the main motivating factor was he hoped that any potential racists would leave us alone.

I want to blog one day about why, to this day, I don’t like driving with my car windows open. I remember being in a car with my father when kids threw rocks at him, hitting him in the head. They were playing, “Hit the chink.” After they hit their target, they screamed racial slurs, bowed at our car and ran away laughing.

I remember getting hit in the head with rocks in the schoolyard and being briefly knocked out. I was about 9 or 10 years old. The older boys hit me by “accident.” None of them were punished. The teachers and principal didn’t do anything. The school never notified my parents, because they didn’t think it warranted a call.  Of course, I never told my parents either. I didn’t want them to worry.

Someone else privately messaged me and asked why I wrote so much about things that had happened in the past. Do I write about it so much? I’ve been writing professionally for the past three decades and I’d estimate that my pieces surrounding race issues encompass less than 1% of everything I’ve ever written.

But, I am writing about it more now than I ever have, probably because I have a forum to do so. There’s also the fact that I have kept much of it bottled up. Now that I’m a mother, however, I want it to be better for my child. I want to show him that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable and should not be tolerated. And that the onus falls on the perpetrators, not the targets.

Some of my non-Asian friends have told me they are surprised when they read my posts, because they say that they have never seen or heard these things happen. I’m really glad. It wouldn’t make me happy to know that any of these things had happened to them. But, I also point out to them that there’s no reason anyone would ching chong them. They’re white.

It’s not our fault for being perceived as “different.” However, it is the fault of racists who make an issue of it.

© 2013 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (9)

  1. littlegoldseoul says:

    I love that you are writing about your past. Your stories are always so… real and poignant and well told. They are also a good reminder that this shit still happens (even if they are about the past).

  2. blackinasia says:

    lovely and heart-wrenching post. thanks so much for sharing.

  3. Ralph Polanco says:

    Thank u for sharing. I’ll tweet

  4. Benjamin Temko says:

    Bookmarking for later, look forward to reading it.

  5. Melissa says:

    Keep telling them it is important!

  6. Mike Kessler says:

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    • Mike Kessler says:

      I prefer to read about the past since I already know the present, but can you also write about the future?!

  7. Nichi Bei Foundation ‏@ says:

  8. erick vallely says:

    thats what i keep telling asians who want to move to america, but they dont listen. they just need to get beat up by racists, and then they finally learn. personally, if i was asian, i would prefer to just stay where i was originally from, rather than put up with the racism in america, but it’s not just racism, it’s also the generic violence that goes on throughout the western world. in american colleges, it’s like youre not cool if you dont drink and do drugs. but booz and drugs just arent for me. i guess america isnt for me.

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