I Swish Because ... June 13, 2011

Minji Lew, Swish Member, New York City

Minji Pic
          I'm not one of those people who are "proud" of where I come from. Although a great environment to raise children for safety in a "friendly" community, the small-town ideal can be ignorant and narrow-minded. Although growing up there was a life-long struggle, during high school is when the views I have now were developed. One incident specifically was a turning point for me. As a young elementary student, other kids would poke fun at me and taunt me for my ethnicity; my "small eyes" were a common topic for them. Even "friends" would cringe at the Korean food at my house and make expressions of confusion when my grandparents spoke Korean to each other. I realized that I couldn't necessarily blame them for reacting this way because they had no knowledge of any different culture besides their own. However, my junior year of high school made me temporarily resent the people who live there.

            One night when my (Caucasian) boyfriend got home from watching a movie at my house, he sent me a disturbing text message. It said that someone had written "Korea Pussy" on his car window in blue paint. I was shocked; then a heavy, sinking feeling developed in my chest. He was my first “real” boyfriend, and already having my insecurities about dating, this only made me feel more distraught. The peer pressure in high school makes boys heavily affected by their friends, so I was afraid of what could happen. I thought to myself “what if he leaves me because his friends keep making fun of him for dating an Asian girl?” We never discovered the culprit, but we had an idea of which group of boys might have vandalized his car. I remember crying that night, wondering what I had ever done to any of them, or anyone for that matter. 

            Another incident arose senior year, but this time with a teacher. He was known to be a jokester at my high school, speaking in different accents and locking kids out of his classroom for fun. The fun stopped for me one day when he locked me out of his room (apparently not knowing it was me), and slipped a take-out menu from my father's Chinese restaurant to proceed to talk to me in a Chinese accent. When he finally let me in, all my peers were laughing at me. My parents and the principle got involved after I went to my close friend/academic advisor sobbing, relaying the story. I had lost all respect for a teacher who was supposedly extremely cherished at my high school. The sad thing is, many teachers within the school system act as such and so do the students. In Physics one day towards the end of the school year, a renowned bigot in my class thought it was a clever idea to bring up his opinion of homosexuals. He claimed, “Homosexuals have mental illnesses.” Many of us sitting around him were appalled; I chimed in with “You’re an idiot.” Then, one boy sitting next to him said, “I’m gay. Do I have a mental illness?” The bigot stuttered something forgettable as I was trying to bring my heart rate back down. Being put in the hot seat was not enough for what he deserved. 

           After these incidents, I realized that prejudice of any minority group should not be tolerated, most definitely including the LGBTQ community. Unlike the gay boy in my class, many homosexuals in my school, fearful of such abrasive acts they saw first-hand, never came out of the closet until college. I can't stand hearing or seeing any slanders against homosexuals, even as a joke. If someone is okay with calling a homosexual a "fag" or "faggot", then they must be okay with calling me a "chink" or "gook". I swish because we're in the 21st century now, times have changed, and we have the means to annihilate bigotry in this country and around the world. Maybe one day more people from my hometown will have the same views we Swishers do.

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