Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Racism - The Spokane Bomb Plot

The Seattle Times has an article about the recently arrested/indicted man in the Spokane Bomb Plot earlier this year. MLK Jr. Day to be exact. It's interesting to read through the different articles about racisim regarding this event. It's particularly unnerving to read some people's comments about this event.

"Why is this getting so much attention?" particularly iritates me. We're back to being colorblind? Should we not acknowledge the fact that racisim still exists on many levels in the U.S.? Certainly, it's not what it once was, but did we come all this way just to ignore the differences in race?

I firmly believe, there is no such thing as being colorblind. And to not talk about this or write about this would be a shame. Particularly, because many people don't think racism is a problem. And yet it is. It comes in small or large forms. racism. It's a belief that one's culture is superior to another. If you're truly not a many multi-cultural friends can you count? Or is your surrounding community predominantly populated with people who look like you and talk like you? I'm guilty of this...except for the fact that I don't really associate with many Koreans. Yes, you guessed it. I'm Korean.

Because my life exists within two cultures I can honestly say, being colorblind is irritating. It's like your turning your nose to half of me. Either you don't recognize my ethnic identity or you don't recognize my cultural identity. Maybe being colorblind within your own home helps. Maybe you feel better about it, but when you go out in the world...the world is not colorblind.

Let me tell you a few of my experiences.

Growing up in Idaho I had many people stare at me or treat me like I was different. Even though, I had spent all but 3.5 months of my life living in the U.S. I was made to feel unwelcome at times solely on my skin color. I didn't want to be different growing up. Instead of feeling special and unique...I felt different, on the outside and unattractive.

When I took my first trip to Korea I didn't fit in at all. Those differences became more obvious. For once I looked like everyone else, but I didn't feel like everyone else around me. I was pegged right off the bat as not being Korean. Even now, when I go to cultural meetup groups, I'm catagorized as "one of those..." whatever that means. It means I'm different and not welcome.

When I moved to Seattle someone, trying to be polite, started talking loudly and slowly to me. I thought to myself, do I really look like I'm brand new to the U.S.? English is my first language. I don't know any other ones. I act like an American that's been here my entire life. Why is someone treating me to so differently? It didn't occur to me right away that it was due to my ethnic identity.

Promoting colorblindness or refusing to open a dialogue about racisim and ethnic/culture identity is not empowering. It's limiting. It's saying that you can't think outside of the box and you can't recognize things that are different from what you already know. It's saying that you've already learned all there is to learn about culture and there's nothing left to know. Isn't that in itself a bit racisit? If you ask yourself, can you really say you know everything about the different cultures and experiences people have based on their ethnic and cultral identity? How many Americans have actually stopped to reflect on their cultural and ethnic identity?

I hope one day I'm proved wrong when I say probably not many...

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