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As American As -- Me

Dec. 13, 2008

Editorial By BSW Student Joseph Yoon
Waco Tribune Herald

Which issue resonates in the heart of a 21-year-old American-born Korean?

I was surprised to hear just how much race was an issue in the 2008 presidential election.

From the African-American population pushing for the final frontier of the civil rights movement, to the 67 percent of Hispanics who placed their presidential identity in Obama, it seems that the growing image of America is that of diversity.

But even amongst such a diverse population, a melting pot of cultures, there is still a great stigma and even fear against our influx of immigrants.

Whether driving along the interstate past my favorite Czech bakery in West, pondering the amazing sushi just off Waco's square at Teriyaki Park or the addicting falafels at D's Mediterranean on Colcord, it's hard to imagine an America without immigrants.

I am a son to immigrant parents. I saw just how difficult their life of hard work and sacrifice was.

It was not a life of stealing jobs for lower wages or one of people who set out to lower America's standard of living.

Rather, it was one of purpose and determination, much like the very immigrants of the Mayflower, or the waves of pioneers following it.

I work with immigrant workers at a local restaurant. To say the least, it is extraordinary to see the dynamics. There I am, working under a Korean restaurant owner in a Japanese restaurant, with two Guatemalans making sushi and grilling teriyaki.

Is the food Korean, Japanese, Texan or Guatemalan in fraction? Or is it too bold to say that it is a wonderful blend that is most readily identified as American cuisine?

I mean, what makes us American to begin with? What makes us heirs to this American dream? Can we pick and choose who is a member of our society when we benefit from so many influences in food, music and culture?

Can anyone really be American when we are all descendants from the very immigrants we persecute?

Based on my lifestyle, I would appear to be torn. I speak both Korean and English, watch TV from both Korean and American stations, and listen to music from both cultures.

But when someone asks me what culture I most readily identify with, no other thought comes into my mind. I am an American.

I'm an American in that I dream to do what I set my heart to, in that I fight for my freedoms and practice the religion of my choice.

Are there any other criteria? Are these ideals bound by oceans or man-drawn boundaries?

In reflection of this year's election outcome, seeing the emergence of a new, unified cultural movement in the rise of a black president and the very negative responses to such from our very own Baylor, I see we are still far from having a true acceptance of all people on the "content of their character."

Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to truly erase all lines between ethnic differences and embrace ourselves as the people of Earth, rather than the people of America -- a collage of colors and a mural of celebrated diversity.

Joseph Yoon is majoring in social work at Baylor University.