The kids and I sat down at our local teriyaki place, next to a couple in their 50s with their buddy. They were very conspicuously complaining about all the taxes they have to pay this year, including a THOUSAND dollars to THAT OBAMA (I assume they make the check straight out to him?), and how they're not taking it anymore and they're going to just not pay it because that money is going directly to welfare queens and aborting babies and death panels and Muslims and...
...so I told the kids to pack up their stuff because we're moving to another table.
I tried to give them my best Korean Mom Death Stare along the way. They quieted down after they realized that they were out of their usual bubble.
This happened in Long Beach, California, a diverse city compared to most of the country. And yet, it is apparently not diverse enough, since people like them still feel like they can proclaim their misinformed, bigoted thoughts without repercussion. Obviously, people are entitled to their own opinions, but it's the pure vitriol in which these opinions are uttered that disturbs me. And of course, if they were the first people I encountered bad-mouthing the poor, the disabled, or the race, nationality, supposed religion, or character of our president, I wouldn't have bothered writing about it. But attitudes like these are prevalent here.
Even my next door neighbor, whom my children adore and who has many times helped us settle into our home, holds frightening views on Latin Americans and other immigrants. He doesn't know that I, like many other permanent residents and naturalized citizens, was at one point an illegal immigrant.
A family who lives a few houses down sent their two young girls canvassing the neighborhood in support of Proposition 8. When I tried to explain to these girls how I aligned myself with the gay community and believed in marriage equality for all, they looked sincerely frightened of me.
Across the street from them, another lady runs a daycare in her home, and she told Tim to watch out for other daycares in the neighborhood who hire minorities and illegals, when he called her to enquire whether she had room for Emi when we first moved here. Since the conversation was over the phone, she did not know she was talking to a minority family. Since then, we have seen her take her charges for walks around the neighborhood, always 6-8 beautiful blonde children in a red wagon. I do not think it's pure coincidence that the children are always white.
And so, after almost five years here, this corner of Long Beach doesn't quite feel like home. I feel like a tourist, an alien, and I worry my motley little family will always feel that way, no matter where we settle.
A reader expressed some concern about my statement about being an illegal immigrant at some point in my life. Here is my clarification (although honestly, I don't know the whole story, since I was a young child when this all went down):
My family and I did not COME here illegally, my father was sponsored through his employer and he did everything by the book. However, there was a very, very long waiting period between applying for a green card and receiving it, where technically our status was up in the air (or maybe his status was still okay, but my mom and I were not? I'm not clear on the details). We couldn't go visit relatives in Korea, for example, because we would have trouble coming back into the US.
During that waiting period, which I believe took about 10 years, I grew up as a normal Korean American kid in southern California. There was no way you could line up other typical Korean American kids and point out those of us who were technically visaless, or social security number-less, and those who were born here, even if you opened a window into our brains.Once we received permanent residency status, things were hunky-dory, and it didn't take long for us to become naturalized citizens after that. This was a pretty typical immigrant story for the time period, although I do not know what the process is like now.