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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 >>

Becoming an American citizen for convenience

Kong eventually became an American citizen, although it was a decision she made for convenience rather than conviction. Other members of the Cambodian community were not terribly disturbed by her decision.

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:
Recently I know you've made a big transition, though. You've decided to become an American citizen. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to that decision and why, and what that process was like?
RAN KONG:
I became a Cambodian citizen because—
BARBARA LAU:
An American—
RAN KONG:
Just kidding. I became an American citizen because it's easier to travel. If you want to go out of the country and come back, it's easier to travel, it's easier to do so. And considering the possibility of study abroad or whatever, I just went ahead and decided that it would be good if I was a citizen. And also I've lived here for so long that I can't imagine ever going back to Cambodia and living there. That may be a possibility, but who knows, in the future. So becoming a Cambodian (sic) citizen was just like this is my official permission to remain here, so like security.
BARBARA LAU:
Was it a hard decision? Did other people in your family and your community have comments about it?
RAN KONG:
Not really. Like actually a lot of people in my community were trying to get naturalized, like my father tried to get naturalized and stuff. But everybody was like, it's important that you become a citizen so that you get all the rights that other citizens have here just in terms of—they worry about Social Security benefits or whatever. So just in terms of those benefits, you do want to become a citizen.
BARBARA LAU:
Were there some people who didn't think it was a good idea? What did they say?
RAN KONG:
Well, I guess for parents, or for a woman, there wasn't really as much fear. But for the men, everybody was like, what if there's a war , when we're citizens, we'll get drafted, and we'll have to fight in the war too and stuff. And so, this big fear that if you're a guy, then it's to just to remain a non-citizen.
BARBARA LAU:
Well, do some people think that if you're a citizen, and American citizen, you're not a Cambodian?
RAN KONG:
I don't think so, because as sad as it seems honestly, after becoming naturalized I'm still the same person. I just have this official document that says I have the rights of every American citizen, and I have the protection of an American. So in a way it's kind of we're taking advantage of the system, but it's true. But at the same time I guess especially for my peers, who are my age and who get naturalized, in a way we go through the American educational system. We've lived here so long, we've adopted so many American -isms, like pro-democracy, pro-capitalism, all that— all of those ideals that America— like that you associate with America, you know, or that you associate with the western world. So in a way like it's just an admission to the fact that, hey, I'm a mixed individual. I really am. Like everyone, every kid who grows up here is mixed. I can say that my parents are totally Cambodian. But for me, I am first and foremost Cambodian. But then after that there's a lot of like American in me too. And I'm a United States citizen, officially I'm an American citizen, but I'm a Cambodian at heart.