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How I came to realize I held racist biases

I’d never heard the words “Critical Race Theory” until just a few weeks ago when John Matta and John Ball descended upon the school board.

Wow, have they hijacked the concept of this.

Let me tell you about my background. I am Korean and was adopted in 1975 by my White parents when I was 3 months old. I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio. While I was geographically close to diversity, my community was all white. I was the only Asian student in my graduating class of 300.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, we were all taught that racism doesn’t have to exist as long as we were colorblind. Colorblind. Colorblind. Colorblind. That was the focus in combating prejudice and racism.

While the notion is noble, it simply doesn’t work. And it completely ignores how racism and prejudice get passed on.

As Dr. Philip Nel said during the June 2nd USD 383 school board meeting: we are oftentimes taught racism without our awareness and without our consent.

I remember growing up believing that Black men were scary - that I should cross to the other side of the street if a Black man was walking towards me.

I remember growing up thinking that the Black Panther movement was dangerous and should be stopped.

I remember growing up and hearing, “I’m not racist. I have a Black friend.”

And then hearing about said Black friend, “See? She doesn’t talk like them. If only they’d talk like us, they’d fit in.” I remember growing up and hearing, “Look at their neighborhoods. See? They CHOOSE to live like that.” I remember growing up and hearing that poverty is a choice, and “Why don’t they just get a job?”

I remember growing up and hearing, “Of course police are going to patrol those neighborhoods. That’s where all the crime is.”

Yes. I grew up a racist, and I didn’t even know it. And I know my parents don’t know. Afterall, they were taught it by their parents. And here’s what makes those sentences above sneaky and harmful: when you place that next to a statement of blatant and intentional racism, we lose perspective.

Take for example, my grandfather who called President Obama, “President N--r.” Like, he would say the actual word. Of course, we can all recognize THIS.

But what isn’t recognizable is all the sentences I wrote above. And so it’s easy to say, “I’m not a racist. I’ve never used the N-word.” And we let ourselves off the hook from doing any more reflection and self examination.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve started to ask questions of myself.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned what Juneteenth is; what happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921; what Redlining is; what fear of death-by-being-Black is.

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve learned that it’s OK to recognize skin color. Skin color is a fact. The sky is blue; the grass is green; and my friend Teresa is Black.

I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to face the first 40-some years of my life.

Here’s the reason I’m laying all of this out here: this is why we need Culturally Responsive Training given to our teachers. Call it Critical Race Theory. Call it Anti-Racism Education.


I am not prejudiced against White people. I am not torn away from my Christian faith.

In fact, now that my eyes have been opened, I find myself a much more empathetic, compassionate, and loving human being. And I’ve discovered that this is a gift, to feel this way.

Others in our community call this “indoctrination.” Well then fine - let me be indoctrinated with humanity.

I see the sky. I see the grass. I see Teresa.

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