Right now, so many people see how racism is affecting our country. The police brutality, the former President condoning people with Neo-Nazi or White Supremacy ties, and vigilantes murdering protestors, innocent people being targeted just for looking non-White. People using their privilege to be superior to others.
I was born in Los Angeles. I am bi-racial, half Korean and half Eastern European, and racism against me started at a young age. In first grade, there was a day we started the state testing for English and Math. I asked my first-grade teacher. “Which bubble do I fill in, Mrs. Priestly?” The bubbles in question were about the student’s ethnic backgrounds. At the time, there were no options for “other” or mark as many ethnicities as you needed. She said, “mark the Asian bubble because your mother is Korean.” One of the boys in the class snickered and pulled his eyelids tight across his face to make fun of my eyes. I looked down in shame and bubbled in White.
As a child, people asked me ridiculous questions and made comments like,
“Where are you really from?”
“Was your father in the military and is that how he and your mom met?”
“Why don’t you speak Korean?”
“Do you eat dogs?”
“Wow, your mom doesn’t have an accent?”
“Are you fresh off the boat?”
“Why are you so pale?”
“Were you adopted?”
Then the questions/comments got worse as I got older and moved to Orange County, California. For example, some random guy said to me “I like dating Asian girls, you’re all so hot and tight!” (I was still a virgin when I heard that one, so I didn’t quite get how gross that comment was.) “You can’t be offended by racial slurs, you’re half white.” “You’re more white than Korean.” And one of the more offensive comments about me made to my husband, “Is your wife a mail order bride?”
A guy I dated in college called me a “Korean bitch.” It wasn’t just that he called me a bitch, he was racist on top of that. And when I became a mother I received the questions, “Is your baby adopted, she looks nothing like you.” I even had a person follow me in a store, then stand in front of the stroller and asked if I was my baby’s nanny. They thought I was a kidnapper because my daughter looks more white.
There were different ethnicities around me growing up in Los Angeles, but I was one of the few who was bi-racial. “Are you more Korean or white?” was asked of me a lot. I wondered, why did I have to choose at all? Why can’t I be two halves instead of a whole?
I remember being a young child and seeing Connie Chung, a news anchor on television. She was the first Asian American to anchor the nightly news. All the other anchors were white males with an occasional blond woman. I thought, “she looks a little bit like me and my mom. I like seeing that.” There wasn’t a Disney princess that looked like me (Mulan wasn’t out yet, but I was happy to see it!) or even a Barbie Doll. However, I did snatch up the first Brunette Barbie I saw and loved her because she smelled like roses. My Korean grandma said the doll and I looked similar. It just feels good to be represented and noticed.
When the murder of George Floyd and countless other murders of black men and women came to the forefront of the news, I found myself with anger, rage, and trauma resurfacing. Violence, suppression, and colonization of people of color have been happening for hundreds of years. If there were marches of peace, kneeling for the U.S. National Anthem, or speaking out against racial violence, the oppressors had a problem with it. If there was push back and violence occurred, the oppressors brutalized the victims.
When I became a new mother, my family and I moved to a new city. On a Sunday, our daughter was sick. My husband knew I needed a break. I decided to go to church alone. I left our home and drove down two streets when the Sheriff pulled me over. I did not do anything illegal.
I pulled my car over. Two white Sheriff officers walked over to my vehicle, one on each side of my car. The officer on my driver’s side asked me for my license and registration. I gave him my information. I asked him why he pulled me over. He said very rudely, “your brake light is out. I’ll be asking the questions.” He looked at my information. The next thing he asked me floored me. He asked, “do you have any drugs in your car? What is that container over there? Open it up and smell it and tell me what drugs are in there.” I said, “there are no drugs in this car. I am a stay at home mother. My husband is a public school teacher. I do not contribute to the moral decay of society.” He said, “your vehicle looks like one of the drug dealer’s cars in the area.” I asked, “look like?” He asked, “You’re not Hispanic?” I said, “not even close. If there is nothing else here, I would like to be on my way to church now. I promise to get a new lightbulb for my brake light today.” He knew he was in the wrong and let me go.
My blood was boiling. The first thought I had was, “if this is what black people go through every day, this is FUCKED up!”
I have no criminal record. All I have are citations from parking or speeding tickets, 2 of those in 27 years of driving. I follow the law and every rule in every situation. Yet, I have had other experiences where other Sheriff officers were aggressive with me. I had a Sheriff officer cover his weapon when I said, “hello” to him. A different officer asked me to walk over to him after my car accident and then yelled at me for walking too slow. He then accused me of drinking and driving after my car accident on a freeway. He yelled only at me, not at the other white men who were involved in that accident.
So, when I see the Sheriff, I do not feel safe at all. I feel threatened.
I fully understand the lack of trust BIPOC have towards law enforcement and authority.
On January 6, 2021, domestic terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol. The last President and other politicians incited and encouraged violence. Some of the perpetrators tried to assassinate certain politicians. Democracy threatened. Supporters of this coup attempt thought they had every right to be angry and violent because their candidate lost. And when they stormed the Capitol building, more officers than not allowed them to gain access. Yet, when Black Lives Matter had protests near the Capitol building during Spring/Summer 2020, the National Guard was called to be armed to fight and kill protestors. Yet, when BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are angry at the oppression against them, they are considered lawless. And the argument that BLM is a terrorist group…BLM would never have formed since systemic racism and hate groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and other terrorist groups exist.
This past year, I had an existential crisis. I knew racism existed and experienced it, but I never saw how deep it runs in America and the World. Everything I ever believed became challenged. I began to see institutions like the organized religion fail at speaking out against racism. It made me sad how so many church leaders endorsed and approved of Donald Trump. Honestly, I may never set foot in a church ever again because of their political beliefs, abuse, manipulation, and control.
I decided to take control of my own life. I blocked and disengaged with toxic people. I began to listen and seek knowledge on the subject. I read books, followed experts on systemic racism on social media, watched documentaries, and listened to people of color speak about their experiences. I learned that all lives matter ONLY when black ( as well as -IPOC) lives matter.
During these tumultuous times, may we learn the truth and gain tolerance.