My first interaction with the cruelty of the"real" world was in fourth grade, in a small suburban town in SouthCarolina.
"You Chinese freak! Come on, use your karate againstme!" boys would shout mockingly, then start spouting phrases of nonsense asif they meant something. Pshaw. I was, am and will always proudly be a Korean.
When I interact with new people, they spend their time guessing myheritage. Chinese and Japanese are always the first nationalities they guess.Others who are familiar with people of my ancestry catch on more quickly. Andthen there are those who automatically assume. A very small number of people canguess correctly on their first try.
We live in a country that drills intoour heads ideas about freedom and equality. Wars have been fought, violence hasbeen used and many have suffered so that this country can live up to its ideals.Could such a great country make false promises and hopes? Perhaps, because, afterall, the U.S. is run by humans, and that means mistakes will be made. Butshouldn't the U.S. have learned its lesson by now and not make the same mistakesrepeatedly?
In 1997, a Civil Rights lawsuit against the City ofAtlanta was brought by Korean-American store owners about riots that took placein their business. Police watched the destruction and did nothing. The city'sattorney argued that the Federal Civil Rights statues were written exclusivelyfor the protection of African-Americans, not other minorities, includingKorean-Americans. Atlanta's position in this matter was rejected by the UnitedStates Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, but many are appalled that a city soinvolved in civil rights could hold such an insulting view against our"certain unalienable rights." Their view was not only discriminationagainst Korean-Americans, but against descendants of other minority groupsresiding, visiting or working around Atlanta.
Koreans, as well as otherminorities in Atlanta, might have to deal with the fear that we will not beprotected by the laws of the city because of prejudice. Signs of prejudice areeverywhere. Less than a month ago, I saw people younger than me send out racialslurs against African-Americans in one chatroom on the Internet, and on another,slurs against whites.
Teenagers go around labeling people, but do I nothave the same right to live and die as the next person? I have the same ambitionsand dreams and, while physically and culturally I may appear different, I'mreally no different from my white, black, Hispanic or other Asian friends. I askone simple question - why?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.