Kevin Bae

Non-Social in a Socially Networked World

We’re mentally abusing our children in the name of diversity and inclusion

Here’s the headline from an opinion column in the Atlanta Journal today, “Opinion: Is half-white good enough to be safe?” I’ve been half-white for 54+ years and these thoughts have never crossed my mind. Reading this young woman’s column tells me that we have perpetrated massive amounts of child abuse on the nation’s children in the name of diversity and inclusion.

On my most recent phone call with my parents, we were lamenting the fatal attacks on six Asian women in Atlanta, our hometown. Both of my parents expressed grief and outrage over what seems a xenophobic hate crime, but in a sudden tone shift, my dad expressed his gratitude for my mother’s whiteness. He said, “I’m glad Mom is white to help you …” and trailed off, realizing the gravity of his statement.

Let’s put aside the media created Asian hate argument of the Atlanta area massage parlor killer. It’s an argument for a different time. The mental machinations of this father telling his daughter that he’s glad she’s half-White so she won’t get beaten or killed is ludicrous.

To my dad, however, I appear safe. I appear inconspicuous. If I walk quickly enough past a racist, they won’t be able to place my ethnicity in time to start throwing rocks and punches. I did not inherit the gentle eyes that join in the corners like those of my grandparents. My hair is a few shades lighter than my dad’s stark black. My skin is tan, but only in the summer, when everyone else is getting darker too.

You can’t tell me that racism is worse today than when my father came to the United States in the 1950’s. He famously tells his origin story as coming to Illinois from a small town in South Korea. He had $20.00 in his pocket and didn’t speak English. Yet, somehow, he learned the language, earned his degree, and lived the American Dream that is so fantasized around the world. No half-white/half-Asian today faces anywhere near the amount of discrimination my father experienced.

Move things forward to the mid 1960’s when my brother and I were born. Two half-White/half-Korean boys growing up in Chicago where our last name “Bae” was the ONLY “Bae” in the phone book. People had no idea what we were and we didn’t much care. But this poor abused young woman feels like it’s a problem.

I am half-Japanese and identify as an Asian when “check all that apply” is not an option. Other people, from friends to complete strangers, have labeled me as everything from ethnically ambiguous, to recognizably Asian, to white-passing. My physical appearance holds a special place in the media today as I may appear exotic or enviable for my “wasian” (white-Asian) genes.

The “identifying” baloney is part of the issue. You don’t identify as anything. You either are something or you’re not. To start, she’s an American where half of her is of Asian descent. Those are the facts of what she is. Just as I’m an American where half of me is of Korean descent. It’s not a handicap. It’s not anyone else ever thinks about unless they’re curious of your ethnic makeup. That curiosity doesn’t make them racist it makes them curious.

She has been taught in school that the American “melting pot” is somehow a negative. She has a fundamental misunderstanding of American culture and how immigrants fit in to our society.

There is a reason America is called the great melting pot. Cultural and linguistic differences are rejected for their foreign feel, slowly melting immigrants and their descendants into the greater white American culture.

I blame the public schools for this. I also blame the media. The push for hyphenating people when there is no hyphen in plain old American. There is no preference for whiteness in the true American culture. Immigrants are not pushed to reject their backgrounds, culture, or language. In fact, America celebrates the fact that people from all over the world live and work together here. Even people who are at war in other parts of the world live as neighbors in the United States. Do we have a national language? Yes. It’s English. So what. Name a nation that doesn’t have a predominant language. That doesn’t mean that white people want you to reject the language of your heritage. Having a national language, and learning it, means you wish to fully participate in the country of your citizenship.

After four generations of living in this country, when will the rest of my family be considered American? Do I meet the requirements? Am I white enough?

The problem here is not whether or not she’s “white enough”. The question is, is she American enough? Slicing yourself into half identities tells me no, you’re not American enough.

Did bad things happen to people in the past? Yes. This is the history of the world and is also part of human nature. The incessant wallowing in self-hatred and hatred of the greatest country on Earth really frosts my ass. The more we teach “diversity and inclusion” the more we divide people into their tiny little identities.

While the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community urges me to embrace my Asian heritage, my dad’s choked-up sentiment lingers in the back of my mind. In being proud of my Japanese genes, I rebel against the notion that I am a fully assimilated American.

Fully assimilated American? From reading her column it seems obvious that she’s a natural born American. You know… the kind that could one day become President. Somehow she has been abused into thinking she’s some sort of immigrant?

I used to have the opinion that the more we interbreed among people of different parts of the world the more the arguments of racism would go away. After all how can someone half-Black/half-White, half-Asian/half-White, half-Latino/half-Asian, half-French/half-Brazilian, or any other mix you can come up with, hate either side of themselves? All I see in the younger generations is this desire to find oppression where none exists in an effort to feel like they are part of something bigger.

Well, let me tell you, you are part of something bigger if you choose to embrace it. It’s called the American Dream and it’s open to anyone. My father did it. Many people’s father’s did it. They did it in spite of what anyone thought of them. They didn’t waste their time with this nonsense and instead lived their lives. The only people where the American Dream is not open are those that want be victims from birth. You can’t see the greatness of this nation if you start out from a position of self-imposed inferiority.