I Am Korean and I Stand With All My AAPI Brothers and Sisters. It’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts and words and I just wanted to share a few things with you all today.
Image from here. Source: Amber Chia
On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings occurred at three day spas in the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, and one person was wounded. It took this tragedy and a number of Asian American people, mostly actors speaking up on social media for the news media to finally start writing about what has been happening. Thank you, Daniel Dae Kim, for all the work you are doing. You are truly appreciated. Thank you thank you thank you.
I consider myself Korean American. I was born here in the United States, in Dallas, Texas. My parents are from Seoul, South Korea and actually met in Chicago. My mother was a young nurse and my father had just graduated from Seoul University. They had both come over from Korea and were in Chicago. Met, fell in love and got married. My father got into East Texas State University to get a Masters in journalism so, shortly after they got married, they moved to Texas. Back then, there was nothing my father could do with his degree in journalism so he did what he had to do to survive and feed his family. I don’t know how he did it but he opened a very small Korean market in Dallas. We lived in the back of that tiny market. I was just a baby so I don’t remember anything.
One of the only memories during that time: My older brother recalls waking up in the middle of the night. Someone had broken into the market and was robbing us. He remained silent in fear of getting killed. After my father had saved up enough money, we moved into a very small house close to the market. My parents have photos of us standing in the front yard, smiling. They have photos of us with our first Christmas tree in that tiny living room. As kids, we were happy. We didn’t know how hard my parents were working. How my parents were struggling. We didn’t know the stress and pain they felt living in a country that wasn’t theirs.
Thank You To My Wonderful Parents
I want to keep this part at the top of this post. If you read anything, please read this. My parents taught me everything I know about hard work. They were beautiful examples for me and my siblings on hard work, sacrifice and love. They worked so hard and endured so much so my brother, sister and I could have better lives. I love them so much and I am so proud to have them as my parents.
I Am Korean
My parents spoke fluent English. I remember the countless nights my father would have all three of us at the dinner table because he was lecturing us on our grades and school work. “You have to be #1 in your class!” He drilled this into our brains. My father was always striving for the American Dream. And through hard work, sacrifice and pain, sweat and tears, I believe he achieved it, in my eyes. My parents owned and operated a very successful Korean grocery store and many restaurants. This obviously didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy. There were countless struggles, robberies, my father was attacked, robbed and beaten by Vietnamese gang members right outside our home and more. And I’m sure if you ask them, they would say they did what they had to to survive. They did not come to America to do this. They did not have dreams to own and operate restaurants but they did what they had to.
Growing Up in Dallas, Texas
Growing up, I had everything I wanted. My parents worked so hard so we could have everything. My parents put all three of us, my brother, sister and myself, through college and we all graduated debt free. My parents taught me what it meant to work hard and sacrifice. They also taught me to keep my head down and work.
As a kid, I was ashamed of my Korean heritage. You’ve heard the same stories. I was embarrassed by how my house smelled. I only felt comfortable with my other Korean church friends. I grew up in Richardson, Texas. My school was probably 98% white. I remember having only 2 or 3 other classmates who were Asian. I was made fun of in elementary school. I was fat and I was Korean. This gave kids lots of material to use to make fun of me on the playground. It probably wasn’t until I went to college, where I would meet more Koreans and Asian Americans and connect with people who shared the same experiences, when I finally started to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I kind of felt like I had two different lives: when I was at school as a kid, I was quiet, I kept my head down. I never really felt like I belonged. But when I was with my Korean friends, I could speak and be more comfortable and laugh and be myself. I always felt different when I was with non-Asian people. I always felt like I was less than. I didn’t have the confidence that I do now.
I don’t remember any major racist things happening to me as a kid but – I remember – I was with friends outside of Waco, Texas and we had stopped at a coffee shop or cafe or something and we (me and 3 other Korean girls) walked in and literally every person stopped what they were doing and stared at us. It was like I was in a movie. Literally all eyes were on us. Maybe we were the only Koreans they had ever seen before. I don’t know. But I do know what it feels like to be stared at and to be given hateful looks. Even today. Even while shopping at Whole Foods.
The one incident that appears vividly in my head is something that happened just a few years ago when we were vacationing in Florida with my parents. Two older white women thought it was ok to make fun of my father for his Korean accent. I immediately, in front of my children and family, said something to them. Very loudly. It made my blood boil.
As I shared on my Instagram stories the other day, it took me a long time, but I am confident in who I am, I am very proud to be Korean. And now, I am a mother and I’m raising two daughters and trying to teach them every day to have a voice and to be proud of who they are.
Life As a Food Blogger
I fell into this job. I graduated with a Speech Communications degree. I was going to go into Marketing and actually worked in Advertising for many years. I started in Media Planning and then moved into Account Services and Project Management. After Paul and I had moved to Seattle, I ended up quitting my job and was staying at home full-time to take care of Phoebe and Madeline and food blogging was just something to do. I never thought it would turn into this.
As a food blogger, however, you have to differentiate yourself because the market is so incredibly saturated. What was I going to do? What would be my focus?
She Sounds So White
I decided on easy weeknight recipes, mixed in with Asian food recipes. I am not fluent in the Korean language. I do not focus on just Korean food or Asian food recipes. I don’t have a Korean accent. It’s been interesting to say the least. After I started doing more video on camera, some comments I would get: “You are the whitest Asian person I have ever seen”, “She sounds so white”, “Could you be any whiter?” or on the flip side, mostly on YouTube, I would get comments that I wasn’t Asian enough. I get inappropriate comments regarding my appearance. I get nasty, inappropriate direct messages from white men all the time.
Even though I am not fluent in the Korean language and I don’t focus on Korean/Asian food, and even though, I may appear to be the whitest Asian person you have ever seen, I do VERY MUCH identify with and stand with my AAPI community.
What You Can Do
If you stand with me and the AAPI community and acknowledge what is happening, use your platform. Every single one of us has one. Speak to your friends, neighbors, donate. If you see something happening, do something. For every video I’ve seen online where an elderly Asian person is being attacked, I wonder how could the people watching just stand there? People attacking elderly people. It just infuriates me. I know people don’t want to get involved and its scary, but you have to. Just yell. Yell at the top of your lungs. Do something.
The AAPI community. We are 23 million strong.
We are united.
We are awake!
We are here!
There are two bills in front of the judiciary committee: The Hate Crimes Act and the No Hate Bill– which needs to be passed again. These will help organizations to help the victims of this abuse and regulates and streamlines the process for reporting hate crimes. Read more here and here.
It’s crucial that this be a joint effort with Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans. How can you provide support? Use your platform. Use your voice. Share what’s going on.
If you are a personal friend of mine, I ask you to do something, to share this message. I ask you to not be silent and to stand with us. Thank you.