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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A Cambodian daughter and her father face discrimination

Kong explains that her father encountered two kinds of discrimination at work: first, he encountered verbal abuse by coworkers, and second, he felt he could do nothing about it because he was an outsider. Kong experienced a different sense of discrimination at school—she sensed her outsider status only during bad times, and otherwise, enjoyed herself, unaware of the glaring sense of difference she felt when under duress.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ran Kong, November 25, 2000. Interview K-0269. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

It's hard to say exactly what your parents think, but do you know if they've experienced a lot of discrimination here or acceptance, or have they found that it's easy to be here or not easy?
I guess, you know, of course like discrimination. Sometimes when you don't understand, I think it's a lot easier, like for my mom, her grasp of the language isn't as fluent, but my father can understand English very well. And so I've heard of like incidents that he's experienced at work in terms of just like you know, discrimination. But you just can't escape it. I don't think anywhere that you go you could escape it. But you know, you meet good people and you meet stupid people, obviously. Like he was just telling me he works at Gilford Mills, and he works in shipping. And one of the truck drivers who came in saw him like unloading whatever was in the truck, like rolls or cloth or whatever, goes, I have a dog at home. Like, do you eat dogs? And you know, he was just like, wow, I've gotten jokes about, you know, do you wok a dog? You know, like, walk, w-a-l-k versus w-o-k. And I'm just like you don't really understand it. Well, I didn't really understand then until somebody explained to me later. But you know, to my dad, he understood just the way that the body language of the person speaks more for itself than the words. And so you know, the fact that this guy was making this remark to him—that's why I say it's easier that you understand, I mean that it's easier that you don't understand, because if you don't understand, you're just, what the hell is this guy talking about, like a dog, you know? If you don't eat dogs, why do you think we eat dogs, you know? So my dad was just like, oh, well, whatever, you know. I'll go on my way. But he's the type of person that's, I want to avoid conflicts, simply because— if it was a Cambodian person, he would have had no trouble like responding, to that type of derogatory comment. But in the workplace, and knowing that he is a minority, that he is not American, and knowing that there's always bias, he's like, if I go up before my employer, well, who you do you think my employer is going to take the side of? what am I compared to a native-born American? So because of that he says he doesn't want to respond. He says, it's no use to respond. So that's always to us, that's what we're taught. That's why when we go to school, we're told not to get into conflicts with other students, because in the end when it all boils down to it, we're not Americans, we don't look like Americans. So whatever happens, always remember that. You know, always, in a way, you're not welcome here. Do you know?
So there is some sense from which you felt that, that you're not welcome here?
It's like you understand that, but you understand things only when bad things happen to you, in a sense, which is really ironic in a way. But you do, you just, you know, you just understand things like when bad things happen to you, like when you're having fun, at school playing with' all of your friends or whatever, you don't— just like the fifth grade incident, like it was really exciting being with my friends, I felt like I was fitting in. I ran for class president in the fifth grade. I lost, but just the fact that I feel like a part of the school. I feel like these other kids. You don't distinguish and say that you're different until something like that happened. Like out of the whole school, that kind of comment was made to nobody but me, you know? So in a way, like when things like that happen, it's then that you understand, oh, you're different.