by Kenny Kim
Despite what some people may have to say against it, I’m proud of my heritage. After my father moved to America from Korea 30 years ago, he absorbed many American values, but he also retained much of what makes Korea so rich and dynamic. He believed in strong family bonds and respect for one’s elders. He believed in a dedication to education and furthering oneself. And above all, he believed in the time-honored mistrust of dark-skinned people that my people have held for generations. A lot of people looked down on him for this and said he should change his ways. But I say it’s time to for American to change its ways. It’s time to put an end to the prejudice against discrimination.
My father was the first person on our block to not let black guys into his convenience store. A lot of people told him he was crazy. They said, “Why not just constantly watch them on the video cameras like everybody else?” But he was tired of bowing to the system and being a closet racist. Why should he have to live in shame? Why couldn’t he be accepted as an open racist? So he stuck to his convictions and later, when the store down the street was robbed by a black guy, people began to realize he was right. There’s no need to throw out traditional culture in favor of blind assimilation. Some traditions should be kept, like eating kimbap, and wearing hanbok, and telling your son you’ll disown him if he ever dates a white girl.
I know, a lot of you are thinking that Americans are open and accepting to all types of racists from around the world. Sure, America is accepting as long as you’re a polite little racist who keeps his mouth shut. But every chance people get, they try to stifle your cultural identity. I often hear people snicker that my culture is ‘backwards’ and ‘close-minded’. Sometimes, I even hear people say slurs behind my back like ‘fucking bigot’ and ‘dirty persecutor’.
I will always carry with me the rich heritage of traditional racism given to me by my dad. He passed away a few months ago, killed in a hail of gunfire as he tried to defend the store against a black security guard who was servicing the ATM machine. Even though he’s gone, I will still remember back when I was little and he would sit me on his knee and tell me, in voice resonant with the wisdom of an ancient culture, “I hate the way Mexicans smell.”
And one day, if I’m lucky, my kids will hate the way Mexicans smell too.