Article Review


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Con flict (kon?flikt?) n.?1. Prolonged fighting 2. Psychology:

A struggle, often unconscious between mutually exclusive impulses or desires. v.

–Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Dictionary ?99

There is an uncanny similarity between the struggles that minorities have had to deal with since setting foot on ?the land of the free.? They share the common dynamics that accompany the experience of reaching for the American dream: internalizing the fa?ade of freedom taught in Western education, the struggle to transcend the barriers that oppress their people, and the struggle to live peacefully among everyone without sacrificing who they are and what they represent. One might ask if people usually fight because of differences, then why are minorities fighting against each other when they share so many similarities? To clarify this paradox, Elaine H. Kim attempts to explain reasons of conflict between the Korean and other ethnic minority communities, and dissect the different interpretations of why such conflict continues to exist in American society.

There is a reoccurring theme of duality throughout this article, Home Is Where the Han Is. Elaine H. Kim begins by explaining the mental starting point for Koreans before making their fateful trip to America. She explains their as history one filled with,

? . . . centuries of extreme suffering from experiences of invasion, colonization, war, and national divide . . .? (2). It was because of this torturous past, (han), that Koreans were more than willing to believe in a U.S.-influenced political education and migrate to a land where they believed their human rights would be protected. The United States education is saturated with ideas of rags to riches, civil liberties and protection, and sensationalized television programs that lead to the optimism felt by many minorities which, is ultimately dismantled by the hierarchical structure of American society. Kim goes on to explain that while coming from a homogeneous culture and lacking a transformative education, Koreans were unprepared victims who were lured into a societal time-bomb of explosive racial upheavals; upheavals which have been the result of systemic exploitation setup by corporate and government offices that put minorities against each other. It?s as if the majority is hiding behind a mirror?a shield which hides their bigoted measures and instead reflects ethnic minorities as the cause of social mayhem.

With broken dreams and broken hearts, it is only after their arrival that Koreans begin to realize becoming an American requires them to, ? . . . take on this country?s legacy of five centuries of racial violence and inequality, of divide and rule, of privilege for the rich and oppression of the poor? (6). It is only after they see Koreatown as a battlefield that they realize their han has followed them into a new land. Victimized by negative media representation, Koreans were not only stigmatized as what Kim calls, ?alien Asiatic hordes,? but were silenced by the inopportunity to voice their opinion about the tensions between them and the African American community. The efforts to

resolve these tension were also absent from media coverage. To add to this victimization, both whites and blacks were placing the blame on Koreans as the primary source of

? . . . economic injustice and poverty that had been already well woven into the fabric of American life? (7). Again by describing the paradox of living in America as a minority, Kim emphasizes the scheme of duality that is kept alive by other minorities deceived by the mirror-shield, but most of all, kept alive by the bigoted majority who have utilized systemic racism since the beginning of American history.

Towards the end of this article, Kim uses the reader responses from an essay about Koreans and Korean Americans she wrote for Newsweek magazine. Through the bulk of reader responses, it is clear that many white Americans have also been affected by the educational system of America. They continue to perceive minorities as ungrateful invaders who have no right to whine about their current social statuses because, ?[n]o one ever promised anything to [them] or [their] parents? (10). There is no question that the system of oppression has been so deeply internalized that although the physical apartheid has ended, mental apartheid has readily taken its place in the minds?both conscious and subconscious?of the majority. It is also in this portion of Kim?s article that the system of duality becomes very clear. That Koreans, and other minorities, will be subject to overt victimization if they wish to hold on to their original culture is manifested in the contradiction between the ? . . . America of [their] dreams and the America of [their] experience . . .? (13). Here, Koreans face yet another conflict. Their first intentions were to leave their han behind in order to begin a new life in America.

However, now they must hold on to their past if they wish to strengthen their cultural bonds which is what allows them to survive in a land filled with racism. In this case, to deny the past would be to deny the present and the future Korean identity?of any identity. Alas until they can ? . . . create a new kind of nationalism-in-internationalism

. . .? (17), holding on to their han is seemingly the only mechanism of survival in a society governed by whites who willingly maintain systemic racism, and protect themselves with a mirror-shield.

Kim, Elaine H. Home Is Where the Han Is: A Korean American Perspective on the Los

Angeles Upheavals. Social Justice Vol. 20

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