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The Experience of a Korean Immigrant

[About growing up in Korea:] To this day I’m not sure where I got this information, but we looked at white, white people with a bit of awe and a bit of envy, in contrast to African Americans or Africans—black people. We had this idea pretty early that black people were something “lesser than.”

In my school, a classmate had curly hair and darker skin, and although he didn’t tell any of us, most of us guessed that he probably had a mixed-race parent. He was teased constantly and unbearably.

Generally I did have the sense that I was all right the way I was. I was good. I was whole. There were many people close to me.

[About coming to the United States:] It’s difficult to pinpoint one or two specific incidents (although there are those, too), but after three or four years I generally felt something was wrong with me. And actually not many people made contact with me. I had maybe one or two friends throughout high school. Nobody would sit next to me. That’s probably one thing I could pinpoint. It happened every day, and it happened in a way that I couldn’t phrase as a problem, even to my parents, even to myself. From that I internalized this message: “Maybe there is something wrong with me that they’re not sharing with me.” (I couldn’t figure out what else it might be.) I did accept this message for a while, which is a terrible acceptance.

“How has counseling on racism affected your life and your perspective, and what do you now think is possible?”

It reaffirmed some of the attitudes that I had held when I was living in Korea: I was completely all right being me. There was nothing wrong with me. People are close. It was a great opening (and one I’d been looking for) to work to get those attitudes back.

I know it’s possible to live with, and have many close relationships with, all kinds of people all over the world. That’s a larger perspective than I would have had living in Korea, because of the racism there.

I think it is possible to change people’s mistrust of others and other feelings that have stopped people from getting a chance at treating each other the way they really have wanted to. I don’t know what other changes that will bring about, but I think it is possible to stop all mistreatment of one human being by another. I’ve never had that hope before.

Paekhyon Yim
Chicago, Illinois, USA
From the video “Ending Racism”

Last modified: 2014-10-01 15:31:47+00