Speaking up

I feel a little bit helpless again, and it’s the same helplessness I felt when I was hearing the stories shared by my undocumented immigrant friends. This time, the helplessness comes from hearing about the tragedy of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.

I feel very careful in writing about an incident and a community outside my direct experience. But I don’t want to be complicit by remaining silent. There are so many subgroups in America that live their daily lives in fear, and that is unjust.

I don’t know what it feels like to be an African American citizen in the United States. But I can imagine. I can observe. I can learn.

I grew up in a relatively-homogenous country, South Korea, where a sense of belonging was never in question but rather a given. My family then immigrated to Indonesia where foreigners and expats were treated with privilege and respect. Then we moved to California, a state so diverse that we were told we would be protected from racism that is rampant in other states. California did protect us from outright racism. But we were still part of a bigger system that left immigrants, especially the low-income, non-English speaking, in temporary or no status, vulnerable and in fear. My family and I made it to the other side after fourteen years, but I’ll never forget the fear and anxiety we felt during those years.

This fear is definitely not the same as the one that black community feels and voices. And yet, I feel that they are somehow related. And in suffering, I dare to say, these two communities (and more) are united. And if I had to use the word “against”, it would be to say against injustice and needless suffering in the United States and the world.

I promise to myself that when I see injustice or action that goes against my values, I will speak up. Even if it’s as small and meek as saying, “Excuse me, but I don’t subscribe to this view”. Just something to make the perpetrator of racism / sexism / any kind of fear-based behavior, uncomfortable enough to ask themselves some questions.

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