Are You from South Korea?

Last year, Donald Trump asked Korean-American student Joseph Choe, “Are you from South Korea?” He responded, “I’m not. I was born in Texas, raised in Colorado.”

Later, Joseph Choe commented:

“When he abruptly and rudely asked me whether I was from South Korea, I was taken aback…First of all, I do not see how that question was relevant,” Choe told NBC News. “What if I actually were from South Korea? Would that have made my opinions less legitimate? I know some people feel like Mr. Trump’s question was perfectly fine, but it wasn’t. Not only was he rude cutting me off and not letting me finish, but it’s obvious he asked that only because I look Asian.”

Of course, the question was relevant.   Trump wanted to know his ethnic background, “where he was from,” in answering a question about South Korea.   Why is asking a question about your ancestry, heritage, and ethnicity, all of the sudden, rude?    In my work, I often encounter people from all over the world.  I like to know where people are from, because it helps me understand them.   When I ask, “Are you from Russia?”  or “Are you from China?” I am not being derogatory, offensive, or insulting.   Or am I now?

Choe remarked, “It’s obvious he asked that only because I look Asian.”   You look Asian because you are Asian.   Are you ashamed of looking Asian?   Someone said, “It’s a form of otherism.  We are constantly being asked where we are from.  As if we’re not American.  It’s like we’re outsiders and foreigners.”  Oh, how so upsetting.

People will always look at appearances to make their initial judgements.  Don’t think we can ever get past that.  It’s normal human behaviour.  If I went to South Korea, and someone asked me, “Are you from America?”  Should I get offended by that?   What if I weren’t from America, would my opinions be more legitimate?   No, of course not.   It’s hard to overcome our prejudices.   Don’t forget that racism runs deep in the Korean culture.    Yes, we’re as American as anyone else who grew up here.   But we’re also Korean, and that is a reality we cannot escape and ignore.    Joseph Choe’s answer suggested a denial of his heritage. Somehow he was embarrassed by the question, ashamed to be from South Korea.

Thankfully, attitudes have shifted over the past 40 years.   America is more diverse and inclusive than ever.   Look at the contributions and achievements that Korean-Americans have made to society. This is the America where a Joseph Choe goes to Harvard. Do we want the same opportunities for our children and our grandchildren?   It’s foolish to vote for candidates based on perceived foreigner status and feelings of social exclusion.  Don’t vote for one who promises social acceptance, but is in fact, a “morally corrupt, scandal ridden, incompetent liberal who would do tremendous harm to the nation.”   Hillary’s America is not necessarily less racist, but it will be more divided.   Vote for the one who gets it right on the issues that impact our daily lives.   The one who won’t damage national security.   The one who will keep Americans from every ethnic group, safe.   Vote Trump and only Trump.