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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 >>

Religion, history, and values are key to maintaining Cambodian identity

Religion, history, and traditional values are key to maintaining her Cambodian identity, Kong explains.

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

BARBARA LAU:
What are those things you think you need to keep in order to remain Cambodian?
RAN KONG:
My religion, first of all, even though Buddhism isn't just strictly Cambodian. There are certain, I guess certain traditions that's known only to Cambodian Buddhists. And just my history, all of it, not just the good parts of it, but also the bad parts of it, because that's what happened. Here in America, you have everything written down in the books. I mean, everything from the point that the pilgrims landed or whichever explorer it was that landed on this coast or that coast. I mean, it's all written down up to World War I, the Depression, the Vietnam War, the Cold War. Everything is just written down. So to me, why is history taught in American schools? Because it's so important, because it identifies where you came from, and just everything. And so to me, being able to be Cambodian is like having that history, keeping that history, because it's different. Not all of us have the same history. Every group of people have their own history. And it tells you a little bit of how their culture is, it explains why they are who they are. So my history explains why I am who I am, in a way, you know? And also, keeping the values and the ideas taught to me from my parents. Always in terms of something as simple as like respect is shown to your elders, not just to your parents or to your grandparents, but also to your elders, to the point where if you walk behind an elderly person, you don't walk up straight. I mean, you walk, and you sort of bend yourself down to show that you see they're there, you recognize them as being older than you, so you give them that proper form of respect. Just like all of these things that is not exactly taught in any other culture. Maybe there's other similar forms, but it's what distinguishes me as being Cambodian. It's like values and teachings that I keep, and I think that makes me very Cambodian. And it's teachings that I'm going to pass on to my kids, if I ever have them one day, and to my little nieces and nephews, you know?