Singer Sam Smith got skewered on social media for a series of tweets. After witnessing his friend being abused due to his race, Smith said he was astounded that something like this could happen in London. His tweets clearly were well intentioned. But some folks wondered how he could be so naive as to not know that these things happened on a somewhat regular basis to people of color — especially since the anti-Muslim, anti-Pakastani, anti-Syrian sentiment in the U.K. has been covered extensively in the media there.
“I don’t know if you care,” a friend told me. “But words do hurt.” Yes, they do. I understand the power of words. As a writer, it’s how I earn a living. And, as an immigrant whose skin color made it difficult to blend in as a “real” American, I grew up learning about the power of words.
Our local Boy Scout troop could’ve had an opportunity to learn that there are repercussions to their actions; and that sometimes, the worst action is in pretending that it never happened. Instead, they learned that if they deny something enough, they can get away with being cruel to youngsters and disrespecting members of their community.
September 8, 2013
Posted by: Jae-Ha Kim
Category: Blog, Blog index
Tags: Adoption, bilingual, family, immigrants, K-pop, Korean, pop culture, prejudice, racism
Before I started blogging, I thought it was a silly concept. Why would anyone want to write … for free?! Now, I get it. I just wish I had more time to devote to it. Here are some of my favorite pieces. By me. Ahem.
So, ya’ll have read about Oprah and the salesclerk at some chi-chi Swiss handbag boutique, right? Ms. Winfrey wanted to see a purse that retailed for just under $40,000. The clerk repeatedly told her it was very expensive and wouldn’t show it to her. Have any of you had a similar thing happen? I have, on a much smaller scale.
Someone 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.
I was invited to go to a swimming pool with a friend and her family. I remember being really excited about getting to play in a real pool. Per the admittance requirements, we all rinsed off in the locker room and waited in line. One by one, we stuck our arms out so that a park district employee could rub his or her fingers on our forearm to ensure our cleanliness. The whole thing sounds crazy now. But those were part of the rules, I guess.
I found this picture of Marlee Matlin and me. I remember it was a fun photo shoot. While she was in hair and makeup, the photographer took a few test shots of me to make sure the lighting etc. was set up properly. He snapped a picture of the two of us before I interviewed her. She had just gotten all made up. Me? As you can see, not so much. But, I still like the photo. And it reminds me that I want to dig out that James Dean shirt for the summer. (I used to collect them. Did you know that?)
It has been almost three decades since Long Duk Dong made his appearance in “16 Candles,” and it doesn’t look like Hollywood’s perception of Asian men has changed all that much. Actor John Wusah turned down a chance to audition for a film, where the Asian character was there just to be made fun of. I can’t imagine that it’d be easy for an actor of any race to turn down an opportunity to work. So Kudos, Mr. Wusah.
I remember sitting at the butcher’s with mother. Young boys slanted their eyes with their fingers, bowed to mother, snickering and said, “ah sooo.” I was 11. I knew that mother (and I) were being made fun of.