Memories of Racism, Memories of Grace – My First Racist Encounter

That’s me in the middle.

Besides almost dying from cholera when I was one and getting my hand crushed by a large, steel door when I was three, the rest of my early childhood in Korea was mostly a time of innocence and fun. I do have that one memory where my mom is pumping breast milk for my sister into what seemed to me at the time a large basin, but I’m still not really sure what to make of that image, whether it traumatized me or simply surprised me. But other than that, it’s hard to recall anything remotely negative. All I see is a skinny, Korean boy playing in the stream trying to catch frogs and tadpoles; hiking and exploring the hillsides and woods (we visited the shigol [countryside] often); waiting around the corner, listening for the man with the pull cart to ring his bell so that I could buy and devour a newspaper cone full of bundaegi (roasted silk worm pupae), which, at the time, was by far the most delicious thing on the planet (today, I can’t go near the stuff); feeding cute, fluffy, yellow chicks with rice grains; throwing a hammer at my grandfather’s head; and running away from my three uncles after pouring a bucketful of soapy water into the well, our main source of drinking water (they had to empty the entire well and wait for the next rain to replenish the supply). Of course, I only remember bits and pieces, but from those fragments and the stories my folks share with me, it seems that I really was a rambunctious, happy, little kid who, unlike the current me, actually loved to dance. Continue reading

Memories of Racism, Memories of Grace – My First Fight & Girls

My first schoolyard fight occurred in the 7th grade during a lunch recess. I was attending Memorial Middle School at the time. The yard itself was rather large. As you can see in the picture, it included three softball/baseball fields, a large intervening field connecting the three diamonds and a blacktop. Clearly it was impossible for teachers to keep track of all the kids, and the students knew this. So, quite often, in hidden corners and far-off tree lines, kids would engage in make-out sessions, look at porn magazines (no internet/wifi back then) and so on. This is also why my first fight was able to break out and last as long as it did. (By the way, to orient yourselves as to the point of this series of posts, it might be helpful to read at least the first half of the first entry.) Continue reading