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  • Seema

it's just a function of time

Words from an interviewee:

My family were refugees. We're Vietnamese. The Vietnamese people to some extent, and my family in particular, were the beneficiaries of the White guilt that happened because America lost the war in Vietnam...We were given certain legal status that allowed us to be here. But anything that is other, anything that is new or different, I think people are afraid of. So my family in particular experienced a lot of blatant racism...

My parents weren't taught to be racist against Black people because there were no Black people in Vietnam. Only when they came here and heard how other people described Black people and watched and heard how Black people were being described on TV did they develop that....My mom went back to school. I grew up educated in America, so I had history classes all the time and I took U.S. history so I was taught about the slave trade and the conditions of slaves in early America. But my mom didn't have that. So I remember her coming home one day when she finally took a U.S. history class in college, and she was just bawling... bawling...because for the first time she learned about the conditions of Black people in America and was overwhelmed by her guilt and the racism she perpetuated, and for her it's like, "Of course this is why Black people are in the socio-economic condition they are in now. When you treat people like animals and dogs, when you do all these things to anybody, you know this is the result of it." But as an Asian woman and as an immigrant here she wasn't exposed to any of that history. She came over here in 1980s, she knew Black people, but no one formally educated her about U.S. history and the slave trade.

What came to mind is a sense of hope. I was excited to imagine that [a U.S. without racism]...My sense of America is truly a multicultural America. America doesn't refer to an ethnicity or a race but a sense of place, a sense of being and a sense of values. I can imagine it because it's just a function of time. We are 250 years old. I come from a cultural tradition that is thousands of years old. I understand civilizations that are 5000 years old, 7000 years old....So when I think about America and I think about the fact that we are only 250 years old, and that we're still in the process of acknowledging how much we've benefited from the oppression and racism that founded this nation, I have hope that over time we will begin to grow. I believe that one of the beautiful things of America is we do hold ourselves to a very high moral standard, we expect ourselves to act in a moral way, and over time that will win out as long as we continue and are committed to that, then the racism will stamp itself out.

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