I cannot even begin to explain the journey so far. I am too hot and I felt too sick to even remember and realize I AM IN INDIA. I feel like I am in a desert version of Jackson Heights. First, my landing wasn’t as great or epic as I thought it would be…I…
By the numbers, the untold story of Southeast Asian dropouts
WATCH THE EPISODE. IT IS IMPORTANT.
TANGENT (I had to write it so I wouldn’t forget): Can you exaggerate the past to make the present relevant, or to create “excuses” and rationalize? Right now Cambodia is going still going through slow and dirty political unrest, which at one point brought back racial tensions toward the Vietnamese as a tool and tactic to sway voters against the ruling government power. These tensions were fragments from the past during the time of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge is the ugliest part of our history, and is undeniably a factor that has affected and shaped every Cambodian person’s journey today. However, that said, I found it challenging to accept the justification of racist tactics a lot of Khmers feel just because they suffered the Khmer Rouge. The credit to this thought should go to Virak Ou. I found the same thing in this video where a young man who left Cambodia when he was 8 talked about how he saw murder everywhere as a young child and how that affected him. I do not doubt that he was affected by anything and everything he saw during the Khmer Rouge as such a young child. I definitely do not deny that these experiences have deeply affected many Cambodians psychologically, physically, socially or in any way. I am speaking about how these experiences are communicated to people who did not go through it, and where and how that narrative transforms into action.
A lot of Khmers perpetuate this bloody, violent, gang-like image of what the Khmer Rouge was, which indeed was a gruesome and horrifying period of time. When about ¼ of the population is wiped out, how can it not be? However, statistically most people died from overwork, disease/illness and starvation as opposed to execution. The killing fields, the pits where they sent people to be killed were outside the labor camps. You wouldn’t see people murdered the way many people portray it (however torture is different- and I do not have information on that). I am not denying the gruesome cruelty that was continually reinforced over a constant period of fear, hunger, and paranoia. But I am saying that there is always room to think about what people say and how that shapes what we think and how we view our history. I just want to advocate for truth. TANGENT OVER.*
That said, the socioeconomic factors that affect the people in this video go way beyond their parents past and is a United States problem, not just a Cambodian-American problem. The United States does not invest enough funding or resources into aiding immigrants, asylees, displaced or refugee populations, especially when they are minorities, I mean take a look at the urban minority populations that have been here forever already… The factors that affect education and achievement for Cambodian American students is reflected in a lot of other minority communities. Our sister community would be the Vietnamese immigrants because they share a very uniquely similar historical narrative coming to the US from a war-torn, third world country.
I think what I find most remarkable and hopeful about the Long Beach Cambodia Town community is their ability to take it upon themselves to raise their bar. Lack of resources, financial uncertainty, gang violence, these are huge issues, but from what I see, there are more and more people taking it out on paper and pens, canvasses and paintbrushes, cameras and microphones. Community centers and social services are run by generation 1.5 community members, setting examples, creating their own resources for their own community. I think that in the next couple generations there will be an important shift to look out for. It is not all negative- although yes, fellow Americans, Please pay attention to how this country “deals with” minorities, and how inefficient our educational system is.
*(11/9/2014- I keep looking back at this and thinking am I that much of a heartless bitch? But for some reason I still can’t edit/delete my thoughts. I still think it’s important to consider, but please I’m not in Khmer Rouge denial. In fact, I think of it as ugly, evil and horrifying as every Cambodian because that’s the only way I know it. But I’m just challenging my thinking so I hope that’s understandable.)