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A Hesitation to Speak, A Will to Step Forward

By October 12, 20102 Comments

By Ju

New Organizing Project Blogger


I have often been hesitant to speak out in front of Korean American communities about being undocumented. It’s odd because I could do it to the “general public,” but when it comes to those closest to me, the people from the same mother country, I hesitate.

Although I’m not embarrassed or humiliated by my situation, I don’t want my mom or my sister to be faced with upsetting incidents or challenges because of me. Some people feel sympathy when they hear about our situation, but I am still afraid of false rumors that could spread like wildfire. My mom may be impacted the most because of how well-networked the Korean American communities are in the San Francisco Bay Area. Those who find out about our situation could make her feel uncomfortable. And who knows, if someone has grudge against my mother, they can even threaten us due to knowing about our situation.

It is also or especially hard for me to speak in front of my Korean American peers. In the past, I’ve had some of my Korean American friends discriminate against me for nothing other than my immigration status. And it seems strange to me, but I have dozens of Korean friends who have conservative viewpoints on immigration issues. Maybe I will explore this deeper at another time.

I have a sad memory of a conversation that I had with my Korean American friend; he said, “Illegal immigrants should go back to their country and get back in line.”

Those harsh words continue to trouble me, especially when they come directly from my own community. This is a part of why it is still hard for me to communicate frankly with many Korean Americans and it is a huge challenge in then trying to get support from them, since sometimes I stop before I even start.

I was speaking about my experience as a Korean American with Korean American communities, but I know that it is similar with other Asian American communities – the looking down upon, the blaming, the ridiculing and the ignoring undocumented immigrants.

This current snapshot can be disheartening and depressing, but we should not accept norms that work against us. We have to break the cultural stigmas and antagonisms against undocumented immigrants. Instead of pointing fingers and blaming one another, we could help and support one another to bring about social change and promote justice in this country. Today, this post is my one defiant step set before many, and many more to come.