Eugene Cho

racism and immigration

I need to show some love for the work at Washington Post as well [h/t NextGenerasian].  Two reporters, Annabel Park [1.5 gen. Korean immigrant] and Eric Byler, went to Prince William County in Virginia to report on their rising tension over immigration [racism]:

How did Prince William County, one of the richest, most diverse counties in the nation, become a flashpoint in America’s battle over immigration? What led to threats of racial violence during public meetings and grown men screaming at children on the streets? And how did a team of Asian American documentary filmmakers end up in the middle, with both pro-immigration and anti-immigration forces demanding that they take sides?

On Oct. 9, Eric Byler and Annabel Park began posting short video clips on a YouTube channel they created called “9500Liberty” at The “interactive documentary” project took its name from a street address in Old Town Manassas where a sign had been posted, reading: “Prince William Co. Stop Your Racism to Hispanics!” The sign — on what was known as “Liberty Wall” — protested a county policy that requires police to check immigration status during routine traffic stops and denies some services to undocumented immigrants. The county, like many places across the nation, is in the middle of a demographic transformation: Since 1990, its Hispanic population has quadrupled; today one in five of the county’s 360,000 residents is Hispanic; and the number of Asians has more than doubled.

I have no scathing response to their “discoveries” or the video posted below.  It doesn’t surprise me at all.  Been there…and still there.  While America is an incredible country, it still has much to grow.  In many ways, it doesn’t matter who I am, what I’ve accomplished, where I’ve studied, or what I do.  To the eyes of some or manhy, I am an Asian and thus, not American.  I don’t look American [meaning I don’t look White] and thus, I am not American – even if I am a US Citizen and a proud Korean-American.

Take a look at the video.  It’s 9 minutes long but worth checking out in light of the immigration issue being such a hot issue.  I don’t pretend to have the answers to the immigration debate but would love to hear some of your thoughts.  In the video, listen carefully to when Annabel Park talks about “identity crisis.” 

My family and I immigrated to San Francisco when I was six years old.  It has been such a significant part of my life that it intricately shapes my worldview.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of myself as the “other” – or reminded as such.  As a Christian, I am thankful that my identity, ultimately, isn’t rooted in earthly realms but rather as a follower of Jesus.  And furthermore, as a follower of Jesus, I am that more compelled to have a commitment to the “others” around me.

Filed under: politics, religion, ,

11 Responses

  1. DK says:

    That video makes me pretty upset. But doesn’t surprise me at all but am concerned how some in the video equate immgrant to illegal immigrants.

  2. joanne says:

    anchor babies? wow…

  3. Matt EHH says:

    The Concepts of America are striking. When you have the concept of a government “founded” on principles, of equality among peoples, regardless of race, gender, creed, or culture And you mix in the concept of a nation made up of immigrants, whether it was 1 generation ago or 6, you have the perception of a free nation, who is fundamentally open to immigrants and will not fundamentally exclude any would-be participants based on prejudice. These are the concepts that have drawn in immigrants, from the Mayflower to the present.

    But Identity is a totally different dimension altogether. American Identity is very often, if not almost always, based on the very things American Concepts supposedly transcend. I’ve found at the heart of most citizens, its not “one nation…indivisible…with liberty and justice for all”, but its about culture, families, language, skin tone, and economics that define us.

    In the globally-connected environment of 2008, the American Concepts are still writing checks that the American Identity doesn’t want to cash. With life expectancy increasing around the world, but still the non mortal effects of poverty still forcing people to consider leaving their homes for a “better promise”, the US and other nations, will continue to face this, as more people come announced and unannounced.

    I think the American Identity has been holding down the fort for the last 200 years, but the American Concepts seem to be coming back with a vengence now.

  4. Hi Eugene,

    I have been living in this country for the last six years, I personally haven’s experience racism but I have seen how people treat the immigrants. When watching the video, the only thing I could do was to cry. I cried for people’s heart. Yesterday we get together celebrating “the posadas” a traditional holiday in the Mexican Culture. But this posada was unique because there were not only Hispanic, but American, not only Latin but African-American. The walls were broken because everybody there was able to get to know the persona who was beside them. If they were just willing to seat down with them and listen to their stories, to their hearts; if they were just willing to feel their pain and frustration; if we could just dream with them….if’s without answers….Gracias, thank you for this post…

  5. Kacie says:

    Grrrrr this just makes my blood boil. I had the privalege of watching the immigration reform march in Chicago in ’06, and there are very few things that I am as passionately opinionated about as immigration in the US. I am just EMBARASSED by my fellow white American’s attitudes sometimes! As a third culture kid that grew up overseas as an American citizen, I’m called a hidden immigrant. My skin, my family, and my language create the illusion of me “fitting in” to the majority. I had the benefit of being able to “hide”, in a way that most immigrants never can. I still felt incredibly isolated and different, though, and as soon as the hubby is done with grad school I hope to leave the country. There’s very little patriotism left in me, nor do I feel like an American.

    Annabelle is incredibly gracious and insightful. I wonder if she is a Christian. She acts like on.

  6. Brent says:

    I stumbled unto this blog via WordPress. Interesting thoughts but I think most of you don’t have a clue what you are talking about? Kacie: What exactly are you talking about? What are you embarrassed about? The proposals for immigration reform isn’t to simply protect White Americans, it is to protect America. We have no idea who is livinng within our own country. Imagine if you had people living in your own and you had no idea who they were? Imagine if you only had space for a certain number of people but people kept still inviting others to live with them in your home?

  7. Mrs.K. says:

    Although I grew up in the Seattle area and am a born caucasion American, I have had the privilege of living in Canada for almost four years now. The culture here seems to be so much more inviting to other cultures. I believe that when someone becomes an American or Canadian citizen (or a citizen of any other country, for that matter), they have obvious responsibilites to that country, but in no way does that have to mean giving up the culture or lifestyle of their country of birth. How many of us who are sixth generation Americans (or seventh or whatever) still hold on to vestiges of our Eurpean culture and just call it “American”? There is very little original American culture in reality, most of it comes from where we came from. I can certainly see that if immigrants are breaking the law based on too many people living in one house or raising livestock on land not zoned for it, they are breaking the law and there should be a consequence. But how many white people regularly break the law and get away with it? How often does our government fail us when it comes to caring for the poor and helping them out of the slump? It’s frightening to see that there are people whose ancestors were immigrants being so cold and uninviting to new immigrants. To be honest, I think it has everything to do with a comfort zone that white Americans are often unwilling to give up. When they hear the person in line in front of them at the grocery store laughing and speaking Spanish or Korean or whatever, they worry that they are being laughed at or talked about. Thus, they shout (or write on posters) “This is America: speak English!” I think it interferes with their desire to eavesdrop (I know I’ve done my share of wondering before what someone else is talking about -whether it be the Asian students who come here to study or the Mennonite women whose families have been here for many many years but who still speak low-German). My question to the man at the fence who is yelling at the film makers and those with them about speaking English is this: Are you willing to help them learn English? Here in the northern parts of British Columbia, we get a good number of Japanese, Korean and Chinese students coming to study. Once a week for most of the year, we meet with some of them (whoever wants to come) at our church and play games that will improve their skills in using the English language. The easiest way to learn it is to immerse yourself in the culture. If immigrants (or students who come to study) are continually excluded from normal “American life”, how will they learn? And how many of us, if we moved somewhere foreign, would still speak English in our homes if it was our first language? I have heard of many Americans going to visit other countries and getting mad when people can’t speak English there. What is that all about? Again, it’s a comfort zone and indicates to me that they are too lazy to make the effort to learn a few words of conversational German, Spanish, Korean, etc.
    For anyone to whom these words seem offensive – fine! I’m a white girl born and raised with people around me who were very frequently prejudiced against people of other colours or looks and at some point, I just grew up. If the US wants to make immigration impossible or difficult, fine. But as long as it works the way it does, people should make every effort to make those immigrants comfortable and help them to adjust to a different way of living. I don’t think illegal immigrants should be overlooked by the law, but those who have a right to be in the country should be looked upon with love.

    Thanks for the video post, Pastor.

  8. Kacie says:

    Brent –
    I am embarassed when people are rude or dismissive of people from other cultures. I am embarassed when my friends who are American citizens are treated badly because people assume they are immigrants. I’m embarassed when we are xenophobic or ignorant of other cultures.

    I am all for knowing who lives in your borders, and I agree that people should not come here illegally.

    I disagree, however, that we are running out of room. This country is not in the least overpopulated, we have plenty of space… we’re #144 on the list of countries by population density (see Europe is much more highly populated then we are.

  9. Brent says:


    Ok, that’s fair – to an extent. Those things take place not just with White Americans but across the board. People simply can be mean spirited and rude. And as for our link from wikipedia, that’s irrelavant. Immigrants aren’t crossing borders or coming into the country to live on hte plains in South Dakota. They mostly go to to cities of high density and consequently, adding strain to the infrastructure.

  10. gar says:

    Great link & video, pastor.

    My heart goes out to my Latino/Latina brothers and sisters who have deal the BS anti-immigrant, racist hysteria that goes on these days. In a sad way, it’s eerily similarly to the same hysteria faced by Chinese Americans during the late 19th century (Chinese Exclusion Act, anyone?).

    I’m reminded of one of my favorite verses from Scripture:

    “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the immigrant or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.” -Zechariah 7:9-10

  11. Thank you so much for linking to this video. It reminds me to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I am trying to be a good influence on my family members and those around me. We have so much more progress to make in the way that we interact with one another in America. I’ve been meaning to comment here for some time, but I’ve not done so until now. You have a beautiful blog.

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One Day’s Wages

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The Western Wall in Old City of Jerusalem (aka The Wailing Wall) - from the Second Jewish Temple.

I'm hoping to share a few stories of people that I met (Jewish, Muslims, and Christians) in the Holy Land in the days to come. One of our Palestinian tour guides said to me, "You will leave with more questions...and that's a good thing." He was absolutely right. We want everything so nicely packaged but if we're honest, it's very rare in a broken, complex world...and I can't think of too many things more complex than the situation in Israel and Palestine.

While I certainly understand and resonate with Israel and its history and its need to protect itself from harm, one can't deny the history and existence of Palestine as well. 
Is peace possible? This was the focus of my trip to the Holy learn more about the conflict and those that are working towards peace. My friend, Scott (and other pastor), Mae (our guide) and I had the privilege of going to a Jewish synagogue this past Friday. We were then hosted by a local rabbi and his family for a Shabbat meal. It was marvelous. Incredible. Illuminating. Delicious. A true honor to be invited to his home with his wife and three children. To pray, learn, share, and ask questions. 
What I loved the most was the story of how Rabbi Daniel and his wife rented a bus to take 15 of their friends to the West Bank ... to see for themselves the impact of the wall and the Israeli policies. Some of their friends had never even entered the West Bank...don't personally know a Palestinian. It's impossible to work towards peace when we don't know anyone from the other side...when we don't understand the other side.

Thank you, Rabbi Daniel. Old Jerusalem. So many stories. So much history. The synagogue in Capernaum (Galilee) where Jesus began his public ministry. He taught with authority... Pray for your pastors and teachers...that they may teach with courage, conviction, humility, and ultimately, directing people to Christ - the Word made flesh.

Speaking of, so excited to be teaching at @Quest Church tomorrow. If you're in the Seattle area, join us. A glimpse of Jordan River where John baptized Jesus. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." What amazes me most about this event is about...timing and patience. For Christ, it wasn't about "if" but about "when." In a world of supersonic pace,  impatience, quick results, hurry and now and NOW...Jesus waited for the Father's timing. He was patient and faithful. I need to learn that waiting on the Lord in itself isn't apathy but rather an act of faith. The town of Bethlehem and at the site of the cave (aka manger) of the birth of Christ.

One of the highlights was a class of Palestinian Muslims and Christian kids in a local public school singing a Christmas carol for us in Bethlehem...just across the Shepherd's Field. Galilee. Surreal to be at the mountainside where Jesus delivered "The Sermon on the Mount" ... aka The Beatitudes. Walking around praying for Paris, Beirut, Istanbul, Nigeria, Mali, Palestine/Israel... This verse is so particularly important in light of all the violence in the world. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9

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