Courage to face prejudice‘People point their fingers at my skin, distinctively black in my childhood days. I wash my face dozens of times a day ... the white soap melts away with my tears,” sings rapper Tasha Yoon in her song “Black Happiness.”
Of Korean and African-American descent, the American rapper now active in Korea sings about her pain and struggles growing up as a child of mixed ethnicity. Three years ago, she held a concert together with the popular American singer Amerie to raise funds for needy children facing situations like hers.
Amerie, like Yoon, was born to a Korean mother and an African-American father. But her background makes little difference to the fans she now has as a popular American celebrity.
Even Koreans who know little about American football have heard of Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, born in Korea to a native Korean mother.
But we must ask ourselves: Would these people have attained fame if they had grown up in Korea? The answer is a decisive no. We have a deeply rooted single-race legacy that has led and still leads to widespread prejudice against mixed people. The prejudice remains even as the number of children born to non-Korean Asian mothers and Korean fathers hits 100,000.
The story of Jasmine Lee, a Philippine mother living in Korea, was recently covered in the JoongAng Ilbo. It tells of the reality multiethnic children face here. Her son fortunately has Asian features, but she tries to avoid going to school lest her son be mocked by his peers.
When she did venture to the school because her son asked her to, his friends made fun of him for “bringing his nanny.” Her son, an active boy with good grades, got into a fight with several friends because they called his mother a monkey.
But Lee is a strong woman. Emboldened by the success stories of Hines Ward and President Barack Obama, she went on television and participated in politics.
What motivated her courage was the hope that her children will keep their heads held high and dream of success in Korea. Only when foreign mothers are embraced as valuable members of society will prejudice against their children fade away.
We applaud her courage to stand up against the odds. We hope to see more success stories like that of Jasmine Lee, the first immigrant to vie for a spot as a district councilwoman.
We hope her children and those like them will one day become like Amerie, or even President Obama. When that day comes, the clunky term “multicultural household” may no longer be needed.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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