Author Archives: RK

“the invazn” on cfrc!

posted by jroselkim

A bit of self-promotion here – but the invazn was featured on Kingston’s independent radio station CFRC’s “The Massive,” a program dedicated to anti-racism/anti-oppression issues, news, and underground music. One of the DJs hosting the show is a good friend, and she approached me after reading my piece “does it get better?”, and asked me if she could read it on the show. Of course, I said yes.

To access the clip, type in “2010/12/20” and “1900” in the time slot, on the CFRC Archives page.

My piece “does it get better (for women of colour)?” gets read out loud at 24:05 minutes. The rest of the program is great too, with other great spoken word clips on living as a woman of colour, and of course, awesome political music. Thanks again, The Massive! It was such an honour to hear my piece read out loud.

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a christmas dinner unlike any other

posted by jroselkim

This is what Christmas dinner looked like at my parents’ house this year:

It’s called 감자탕 – a potato stew with…well, potatoes, cabbage, Korean chili sauce and beef, stewed together for almost an entire day. Yes, it’s delicious.

I remember feeling vaguely envious of my “white” friends, who got to eat turkeys and other “traditional” Christmas fare when I was in high school. I also know that my 16-year-old brother is going through a similar cycle of embarrassment, as he begins to escape family dinners in favour of A&W burgers. Part of me feels like giving him a stern lecture, but the wiser part of me knows that it will only drive him away further. What’s a sister to do, but just watch a younger sibling grow up and hope that he will one day realize that there is a world outside of this white suburbia?

What did your Christmas dinners look like?

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does it get better?

posted by jroselkim

I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up lately, especially growing up as a minority identity after watching Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project unfold. If I were influential enough to start a similar campaign for young girls of colour everywhere, would I be able to confidently tell them that it will in fact get better when they get to be 18, 22, or 35?

The truth is, life gets more complicated as one’s racial consciousness awakens, and the burden of being a visible minority never gets lighter.

In a way, perhaps it has the potential to get worse as we learn the ways of the world, about concepts like institutionalized racism. How can I express the feeling of betrayal and hopelessness I felt when it became crystal lear that racism is so embedded, so naturalized within society that we are trained to not see it, to self-hate and hate others for not being a blank slate?

How can I describe the fear I felt at reading about hate crimes targeted towards interracial couples that happened in Canada as recently as this summer?

How can I articulate the shame I felt about having an egg-and-ketchup sandwich at the age of 12, when these things mattered all the world, and couldn’t help but hate my own mother for trying, trying so hard, but failing to be “Canadian” like other mothers? How can I express my guilt and sadness for hating my parents for where they came from for so long?
I can’t.

So how should I go on, and how should we all go on? I have no answers, and I cannot, with good conscience, look at a camera and say confidently that life will get better.

But I can say this.

Dear young woman of colour,

I apologize that I have no real words of comfort for your future.

But please know that I understand:

every ounce of shame you’ve shed for feeling different
even though that person only was curious,
only had good intentions when he or she reminded you of your otherness.

I know

that you may question your motive for being attracted to someone who is
outside of your race
because if you may wonder
does he/she like me for me?
or my skin colour?

(and you’ll never know, or at least, never trust the answers)

And your friends and family may wonder out loud:
is she a traitor to her culture?
does she just want to move “up”?

And maybe you just want to give up because it’s easier
to follow everyone’s expectations;

you may not know what makes you happy anymore,

amongst mixed messages that say you should be both

obedient and integrated

but still

separate.

So,
I don’t know if it gets better

as you grow older, as you grow into the othered consciousness

that you express mostly through self-deprecation,

uncomfortable smiles

and distractions.

And I’m sorry that we may fail you in battling racism
that difference is (still) more or less a dirty word.

But please know that there are allies. Others who feel the same way as you do.

Of course, nobody feels the exact pain that you had. Do not let anybody tell you that they know exactly how you feel, and prescribe a solution.

More importantly: do not let anybody tell you that your emotions are not real. Never ever succumb to those that want to rationalize your legitimate hurt. Because if they succeed in doing that, they succeed in taking your history away. They succeed in quashing the uniqueness that makes you powerful, just so they could sleep better at night.

And please know that while life may not get so much better, it does get better when you can find your voice, and others like yours.

I still make do because other stories from women of colour opened my eyes to tell my own.

And your stories will inspire others that come later to continue fighting, and hopefully exist in a society where our skin colours, our cultures, and our languages are no longer a burdern

but just a part of you.

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north korea bombs south korean island

posted by jroselkim

Yesterday, North Korea bombed South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers. The clip shows the site at the time of bombing. Here is an English article from the Times, with video footage. This is a serious threat to the two Koreas, especially after North Korea expressed that it is going ahead with its very illegal nuclear program.

When does this stop? How is it that a land that is smaller than a province in Canada can have so much grief and tension? Will my grandparents have to live through not one, but two civil wars in their lifetime?

I’ll write more when I gather my thoughts. But right now, all I can think about is my family and the residents of Yeonpyeong as well as the other Koreans, who can only wait helplessly in this extremely uncertain state of tension.

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yet another racist site: black out korea

posted by jroselkim

I read about Black Out Korea on Racialicious the other day and had to share this. A group of foreigners (English teachers) takes pictures of drunk, passed-out Koreans and post them for all to see and mock. I’m so glad that the Korean government and agencies pay these people to make fun of us so incessantly.

I plan on writing an angry email to the anonymous writers of this website today. It’d be great if you can too.

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how white patriarchy stays afloat

posted by jroselkim

missmsian already wrote a great post about the negative press about too many Asians trolling Canadian universities, so I won’t talk about the offending articles from yesterday in detail. I do, however, want to discuss the growing trend in this paranoia-mongering “research” that The media’s obsession with asking whether Asians are going to dominate the world and make the whites suffer is not unlike its other obsession: whether men will be less successful than women because education is becoming more and more “feminized”. The Globe and Mail ran a week-long feature on the “failing boys” syndrome series last month.

My first reaction to these questions, as both a woman and a person of colour, is to say, “seriously?”

Let’s do the math.

How long did it take for people to notice that maybe women should also receive the same accessibility to education as men, and civil rights?
Centuries.

How long did it take the media to worry that boys were falling behind the women?
About 2 or 3 decades.

How long did it take the governments to realize that people of colour deserve the same rights as the whites, and apologize for their past wrongdoings to minority groups?
Centuries. And sometimes, never, if we’re talking about apologies.

How much time does it take the administrators to get nervous about this so-called takeover of the people of colour?
Much, much less than a century.

Don’t get me wrong, it worries me too that Quebec’s male adolescents have a 40% high school dropout rate. Studying how demographics shift in institutions can be a very interesting study. But what I really want to point out is the sense of urgency and panic that many of these articles seem to have about the threat to maleness and whiteness. When there’s even an inkling of a chance that maybe the white patriarchal hegemony is maybe kind of on the way out, society is IN DANGER, people. And of course, when one asks “is XXX too white?” the answers always tend to be “you’re so sensitive,” toward the interrogator, but when the question “is XXX too [insert minority group here],” the response seems to give the interrogator more rational credit.

One day, I hope to open a newspaper or a magazine and not be compelled to throw it out the window. One day.

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concert review: margaret cho @ salle wilfrid-pelletier, oct. 23

posted by jroselkim

On Saturday night, Margaret Cho stopped by Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Montreal, as part of her new tour, Cho Dependent, delighting the crowd with her dynamic delivery and dirty jokes.

Brooklyn-based comic John Roberts opened the show – frankly, this was the only part of the show I did not love. His “routine” didn’t exactly contain a “routine” at all – but rather, a series of wigs and caricatures, including a vapid blond girl, his mother, a “granola” lesbian at a women’s fest, and a straight male actor on cop shows. While some characters were hilarious – the granola lesbian writing a poem about her vagina got many laughs – his dependence on the wigs to transform from one character to another felt a bit hollow and lacking substance.

Since the tour was named after her new album, I expected to see a bit more of musical content. However, the show featured classic stand-up material, with only three songs performed live. Though her comedy has gotten more political over the years, last night’s show felt more like classic Cho, save for the part when she discussed gay teen suicides and Prop 8. For those of you unfamiliar with Cho’s comedy, “classic Cho” is a blend of three things: sex, shit, and her mother.

Shit dominated the beginning of Cho’s routine, as she confessed the undesirable side effects of guzzling olive oil before her performances to enhance her vocal chops: spraying olive oil everywhere through the rear. Cho took this disgustingly funny bit to the next level by musing that she could now work at Olive Garden (“would you like some dressing with that salad? At Olive Garden, we’re family.”). Later on, Cho recalled the opposite problem of being unable to pass anything through her rectum as she reminisced about her recent adventures at Bonnaroo music festival, where the port-a-potty ubiquity prevented her from normal shits, and the inevitable reality of giving up and “merging” one’s shit with others.

Nothing was off-limits or too dirty for Cho, as I heard about balls slapping hard on your neck (after all the discussion of shit), to putting a penis and balls in your mouth at the same time, and describing her pussy as the “Hurt Locker” because it’s been around so much.

There were also oddly sobering moments full of pathos, like when Cho shared the chilling fact about her ex-lover bludgeoning his wife to death. Cho also revealed that this was the inspiration for her song “Sorry,” which she performed live for the audience afterwards. This was the only song she performed from Cho Dependent on Saturday night.

I admit, I was curious about the quality of her live singing voice; her voice sounds pretty much perfect on the record that I wondered if she could replicate the same quality onstage. I’m happy to report that her singing was pretty great live. She even picked up the guitar that was sitting onstage all night for her encore – an untitled song (not a part of her album) about being in a long-term relationship and having no sexual desire (“I hate fucking you, baby”).

And of course, Cho’s mom made ample appearances this time around, from being amazed at her daughter’s ability to “move so fast” on rehearsing for Dancing with the Stars, and a performance of “My Puss” (along with John Roberts’s “mom”) in a flashy bomber jacket.

Part of Cho’s comedic genius is her commitment to the disgusting nature of her material, including the kind of incredible (and incredibly ugly) faces she makes, such as a quadruple chin she donned as her “mother.” These are some moments that are more magical when you see them live. If there’s one person that transforms disgusting into magical, it’s Cho.

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