I’ve postponed posting this because I thought what if someone reading this will view me differently than they already do. What if a handful of people reading this decides to drop me a few notches on their friends or acquaintances coolness tape measure? I came to the conclusion of so what.
This led to my own recognition of wanting to get my stories written as quickly and methodically as possible; but on the other hand, my inability to write since February of this year has bothered me greatly. It had to do with fears and anxieties of what would happen once I got my stories written.
The curse of being an over thinker at times. Why am I trying to outsmart my own self? Why am I not meeting my own needs? Why am I procrastinating in all ways possible so I don’t write? Why is my mind half in and half out? Why am I not trying to dissect this big, fatty deposit away?
I decided to not fight it anymore. I promised myself to take and make the time to devote myself again to my novel-writing, but only after I had written this more serious blog. So without further delay, here it is.
Prong One: Home in Los Angeles
I have very little in common with the earlier settlers of California except hoping to better myself for a more comfortable future. Most of us would agree the United States emerged from rather dark beginnings and its rapid growth in the late 19th and early 20th century occurred on the backs of the perceived lesser races. This isn’t to place blame on a certain race or group, but I’m aware to not minimize the plights of others. You will see why I’m commenting on this now instead of later, and how it all ties into my later prongs.
I moved to California in late 2006. There would be more diversity compared to the city I was currently living in the Midwest. I was excited for my new beginning as it was my first step in completely breaking away from my comfort zone. I soon called Los Angeles my home away from home. I settled into a tiny apartment miles away from Beverly Hills or Brentwood or Pacific Palisades or anywhere one might associate the rich and famous. I was never going to be the one to take part of the finer things Los Angeles had to offer. This wasn’t my goal nor did I want it. I was on a mission of a different kind. Ten years later I never had the chance to show my longevity in Hollywood, but the positive result was gaining personal growth in areas I never imagined. With some broken promises to myself, I learned to put together my fractured life and proceed forward as best as possible.
While Los Angeles in 2017 has its faults such as the gridlock on most of the highways especially the dreaded 405 and 101 that goes hand in hand with the insistence of entitlement and impatience on the road, it has its perks such as the weather and location. There’s something special about the triad of having the ocean, mountains, and snow in close proximity to each other. I haven’t been to the snowy areas of Los Angeles County, but I enjoy driving to the ocean and seeing mountains on the horizon. I still haven’t been able to answer the rhetorical question of would I move to Los Angeles again knowing what I know now. The majority within myself says, “NO,” while the remaining is a less forceful, “yes.” There has been definite trade-offs. Life never happens the way you expect it should be, and as much as I wish I was a fortune-teller, in the long run it would cause me more grief than not. So, I kick away the rhetorical question and replace them with others.
My life has become more about living, reflecting, and changing since moving to Los Angeles. It leads me to what I recognize my life will be until my last breath. I might not always succeed one hundred percent, but who I am will always incorporate maximum living, better reflection, and long-lasting changes no matter where I call home.
Prong Two: Race in Los Angeles
I recently watched the documentary, Let it Fall, about the social and racial events leading up to the Los Angeles Riots of 1992. It covered the tense, violent relationships between the police and minority communities, Korean store owners and its non-Korean patrons, and negative views of Caucasian people by disenfranchised populations. As I listened to the major players involved, it dawned on me how there has been positive growth in some areas, but others have sadly remained the same.
While much of the vagrant population encompasses people suffering mental health issues and drug addiction, a homeless person is a homeless person. They continue to be a “burden” or “tragedy,” depending on how you view it. They have been pushed out of most areas in Los Angeles including downtown. The city tries to help them with limited resources. There are signs posted near stores not to help them, but this doesn’t deter them. They hold signs daily when you drive around busy intersections. The different racial populations continue to remain the same in their respective neighborhoods as well.
Visiting K-Town was never a must do on my list. I don’t really feel any closer to Korean people when I visit there. I’ve been back to South Korea once and K-Town a few times. Many assume I know my native language. They get confused looks on their faces when I speak to them in English. I’ve heard more than once I speak really good English by both Asians and Caucasians. Most of my responses incorporated some kind of justification, but now I’ve learned not to take part in this ignorance. The fact remains I have good English because I’ve lived here most of my life in the United States.
Some were brave to ask me if I’m married because of my last name. The perplexed look was usually the same as if they didn’t believe me. I could see the wheels churning inside their heads. After telling them I’m adopted, they are usually satisfied with my answer. I’ve learned the importance of picking the right battles. It isn’t worth my blood loss or theirs.
I’m sure studies have been conducted if race relations between the various racial communities have improved, worsened, or stayed the same since the riots. I conducted some non-academic research of my own. It brought me to the conclusion that given the current political climate and economic disparity, race relations have pretty much stayed the same. The “Black and White” community view each other with the same generality as it did in 1992 as do the other racial communities.
There might have been a few pockets that found more common ground to stand and overall understood each other better, but it wasn’t enough to make a wide-ranging difference Los Angeles really needs. We are quick to lump the actions of a few people and apply it to anyone who resembles the so-called “other.” I believe the majority of people in any ethnic group who works toward progression is often thwarted because of economic conditions. They have proven time and again to restrict achievements and success. It does breed violence with senseless killings during gang warfare and crimes perpetrated by all ethnic groups.
So how do people who have prejudice against certain ethnic groups jump over that hurdle so the differences aren’t so negatively impacting? Viewing others with color blinders is good in theory, but people can’t and don’t operate this way. Life was never this simple. It never will be given the current technological advances. We need to be realistic. We need to be smart. We need to see others individually and collectively because our survival depends on both. The importance of education (and not in the normal sense of attending college or a university although that is equally valid) and consideration/empathy for others different from yourself are major determinants of the willingness to see the another person’s viewpoint on an individualistic level.
It’s easy to sit behind a computer talking about this and that problem. It’s harder to go out and make a difference in communities that desperately need it. I’m not advocating volunteering without planning, but we can all participate in helping others in need in our own way. Because race and class issues are deeply embedded into institutions, it will never fully change until we start treating everyone as equal not just in theory or on paper. I hope over time individual achievements and societal progressions merge to a point of where everyone can equally benefit from future economic stability.
Prong Three: Interracial Relationship in Los Angeles
There are some who feel more comfortable maintaining relationships within their own racial circles. I’m not one to tell another this is right or wrong. Everyone is entitled to his or her own views. We have our soft spots of who we find attractive. Some hide behind their obsessions and call it something else, but for the most part we like who we like, we love who we love. I’m definitely attracted to certain people over others. I find certain facial features more appealing than others. I’m not so caught up in hair lines where for others this is the make it or break it factor. There are other things I’m not so forgiving.
It wasn’t one of my goals to be in a relationship when I moved here, but here I am in an interracial relationship. It’s been the longest one of all the past combined. I hope it’s the last one I ever have. My partner and I watched Let it Fall in different rooms and came together after it was done for discussion. We had many of the same
views and responses to the documentary.
We agreed the police officers should’ve been charged for using excessive force regarding the Rodney King beating. We agreed the Korean shop owner should have gotten prison time for killing the Black girl. We understood the frustration of the Black communities had for the LAPD. We understood the dangers and difficulties it is to be a cop in certain neighborhoods of Los Angeles.
This led to his observation of dining at Asian restaurants where the waiter/waitress would talk and serve me first, than him. This was never on my radar because I wasn’t affected more or less. It likely was harmless, but it something my partner noticed time and time again. He also commented how Asian people stare at him when they saw us together as if they disapproved of him. Again, it wasn’t something I didn’t place much emphasis on. Let’s say I didn’t lose any sleep over this. Again, it didn’t concern me.
This opened my eyes to the challenges he might be facing while being in an interracial relationship. It never feels good to be on the receiving end of disapproval by strangers. I’ve been there, and it isn’t the greatest thing to experience. I’m not sure if this was the full intent of these stares, but I put enough confidence in his awareness skills to know he wasn’t making it up.
A professor of mine once lectured about his view on relationships: the person you marry or date has more to do with randomness than destiny. While I agree with some of this, I’m not sure humans can be simplified as ping-pong balls bouncing around and off each other. It is likely some might collide for short time periods while others stay as far away as possible due to chance and never touch each other. It mattered not so much on who you ended up with compared to the longevity of the relationship.
If two people are meant to be together, someway and somehow it will happen; and while this isn’t a guarantee the relationship will last forever, coming together is half the battle or least in my case. There is comfort in having someone similar to your background and culture. While we are radically different in appearance, I have more similarities with my partner in personality and interests than not. We have our disagreements and sometimes things can get heated, but this is one of those things that happens in any relationship. I mentioned previously the simplicity of viewing others with color blinders on, but in looking at our relationship my partner’s race has become less of a factor. It doesn’t mean I’ve closed my eyes to our racial differences, but it also doesn’t mean it’s the most widely discussed topic in our conversations.
Post-Prong: What Should I Call You?
I’ve been called a handful of racial slurs because of my Asian appearance. This is what comes from lack of understanding and unwillingness to learn. I’ve learned how to not carry this bag of weight unnecessarily. I’ve forgiven these people for their insecurity.
The reality is everyone has as much to contribute as the next person, but not everyone does so constructively or at the right time. We must never lose sight of the different vantage points each of possess. We should keep an open dialogue in how to address a particular person or group because not everybody feels or reacts the same way.
Recognizing others might be more sensitive to various topics within a particular racial category, group, or neighborhood is something to consider. It’s all about your tone and street smarts. While it doesn’t take much to be polite these days, not everyone has that on their agenda. There are many degrees of separation within race and class. It makes for difficulty in finding agreement on possible solutions.
I conclude with the full quote by Rodney King from 1992. It is merely food for thought in this time of multiculturalism. The best I can offer is rumination. Take what you can or need. Learn from it or not. Agree with some of the sentences. Don’t agree with others. It is up to you, but above all question when necessary.
“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids? And… I mean we’ve got enough smog in Los Angeles let alone to deal with setting these fires and things… it’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. We’ll get our justice; they’ve won the battle, but they haven’t won the war. We’ll get our day in court and that’s all we want. And, just, uh, I love – I’m neutral, I love every – I love people of color. I’m not like they’re making me out to be. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit; I mean after-all, I could understand the first – upset for the first two hours after the verdict, but to go on, to keep going on like this and to see the security guard shot on the ground – it’s just not right; it’s just not right, because those people will never go home to their families again. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”