Race issues are not black and white

In the midst of all that’s been happening on campus, I just want to remind Colby that racial matters do not only come in black or white. With the recent tragedies, it is only right to pay our attention—not just the whites’, but all races’ attentions to the undeserved murders. However, I want to point out that one racial issue should not be weighed more heavily than the others. In fact, I want to take this opportunity to describe my issues on being “an Asian” or being “the model minority” who seemingly do not experience any racism.

This may sound pretty odd, but I never liked being considered an “Asian.” No, I am not saying that I dislike my “Asian” heritage—having dark, wavy hair with no double-eyelid eyes (I actually love being a Korean); I just do not like the word “Asian.” I have been confronted when I brought up this notion with the phrase: “But you are an Asian.”

I would argue that I do not like being “an Asian,” because the word “Asian” generalizes billions of histories and cultures into one name. I am not  history-savvy, but in my opinion, the division and tension between whites and blacks can be generalized—colonization, slavery and everything in between. What’s different, I would argue, about Asia is that there isn’t a lone thing that can be generalized as a continent. As a matter of fact, Korea was never colonized by any European countries, but Japan. So how fair is to call any “Asian” an “Asian?” The racial system in America is literally grouping one group that’s colonized with another group that’s been colonized. Therefore, to say that all Asians look the same, Americans disregard the differences in culture, heritage and history, which is an antithesis to this country, “the melting pot.” This sounds pretty extreme, but imagine if there was a racial system that grouped the Brits and Ghanaians.

To be specific though, I do not mind being a person from the land of Asia but I do not like the fact that “Asian” implies the color of my skin and “foreigner.” I find it ridiculous how “Asian” indicates such a wide range of people—Indians, Russians, Middle Eastern people, South East Asians and of course, the East Asians. What I am trying to say is that I feel like the word “Asian” erases my identity—honestly, I am convinced that whoever drew up the continents got lazy. So what would I rather be called? Maybe something that defines who I am a bit more than “Asian,” such as “East Asian” or maybe even “Korean.”

My second issue with being an “Asian” is the feeling of not belonging in this country. It’s true that “Asians” do not feel the same level of institutional and informal prejudice and violence as African-Americans, but Asians definitely do not feel like they are “Americans” (in my opinion). Think about “an American.” What color do you see? I imagine a white person, though over the last couple years, I also see black people, but no Indians, middle-eastern people, South East Asians, or East Asians. Maybe it’s because whites and blacks are those who are most visible in this country—George Washington, Barack Obama, Lebron James, you name it. As a matter of fact, if you were to ask any Korean-American which team they are rooting for in the World Cup, I would guarantee you that the unanimous answer would be Korea over U.S.A.

Maybe as globalization becomes increasingly prevalent, the continents will not indicate the color of someone’s skin anymore, but instead represent a sense of place. Maybe there will only be Americans—not African-Americans, Asian-Americans or Native-Americans. However, this may sound counter-argumentative to what I said earlier. I would argue that if there is anywhere in the world that encompasses all race, it should not be Asia but the United States of America—a place that is formed to welcome all people for the pursuit of success. 

I hope that other “Asians” can sympathize with me, but more importantly, I hope those of other races listen more carefully. The “real” progress was not made when SOBHU and their allies protested; it was made when all the rest of the community stood up and began discussing the problem. As much as there are problems with racial tensions in America, I believe that the society naturally puts a great deal of pressure on the whites to understand and listen to all the racial problems. I hope other minorities also understand and listen to the issues regarding other races, not just presenting and promoting their own problems. Because the real “progress” comes when others listen—whites do have a role to play but it is also so powerful when non-Asians try to listen and learn of our problems. It truly pains me when Koreans fear African-American males just because of the color of their skin or when African-Americans yell “Go back to China” to Jeremy Lin at the Lakers game. #blacklivesmatter, but more importantly, #weallmatter. I do not hope everyone will agree with me, but to question and may be even to disagree because that is what defines and separates this special place: Colby College.

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