My Voice Was Taken


These last few week I’ve been reading about the many assaults against Asian-Americans, and I was hit with a lightning bolt of a memory I had nearly forgotten.

It is my very first memory. I was four on my first day of preschool. The only Asian in class. I didn’t speak English. When the teacher found out, she forced me to sit in the corner all day. She told me not to talk or turn around. I wept the entire day.

My mother, when she picked me up, cussed out the teacher and switched me to another school. But it was too late. A year or two later, as I learned English, I lost much of my Korean. The trauma destroyed my native language. My tongue had been burned of its millennia of heritage in my still-forming mouth.

To this day I can still understand Korean just enough, but when I try to speak I get tongue-tied. A block. It is apparent why. My voice was strangled. A teacher failed her “non-compliant” student. A system allowed racist violence against a child. A teacher did not understand she had a non-English-speaking American in her class, and instead of including him with even the smallest gesture, simply cut him off in a corner. The teacher was a cog in a system not funded with resources to equip their educators. That child never had a chance.

Our voices are still strangled. When I am yelled at violently in traffic because “Asian driver.” Spoken very slowly to by a cashier. Spoken over constantly in meetings. When people I supervise don’t take me seriously because they are not used to an Asian in the lead. When Asian jokes are told with zero hesitation. When people who look like my father go on a walk and are killed.

I realize I am lucky. My experiences are not as bad as others. My pain though, like any pain, is still pain. And I am not tougher for what I have gone through. I was made less. I was stripped of my home tongue. But no: I will not be stripped of my voice. It will not be taken. We each have a voice, gifted by God, just the one we are given. You have a song and it must break free. You have a microphone to pass to a young uncertain child, that they may sing too. Your voice. Speak. Your voice will carry you.
— J.S.

6 thoughts on “My Voice Was Taken

  1. Your teacher’s action seems bizarre, but humanity as a whole is a victim of the vicious attacks of the Enemy and he uses people to that end. “As a roaring lion,” he loves to warp and torment people, especially the most vulnerable.
    One time I was thinking of a situation where a friend, a faithful pastor for many years, slowly lost his way. I thought, ” That’s so unfair. Cruelly unfair!” Then it seemed as if the devil answered my thought; in my mind I heard him say, “I LOVE cruelly unfair.”

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    1. Yes. Sometimes I think it’s an easy out to blame the devil for things, when people themselves unfortunately do have it in them to be this cruel, devil or not. My optimistic self wants to believe that teacher didn’t have the tools to be any better. I’m hoping anyway.

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  2. I am sorry you had to go through that. How things have changed. The people that were racist then have most likely passed away and now things have come full circle. We have the new generation of racists against white people that were never racist because they saw the way some of their ancestors acted. Now white people are being told they are too white what ever that means. No one has any control of their race or nationality. Racist politicians that call people racist are trying to make white people last in line for jobs and educational opportunities which is the new racism. Promote equality. We are only responsible for the way we treat others. The way things have changed and with the destruction of our countries history, In another few generations white people will probably be fighting back against racism against themselves. There have been racists in every nationality. God made us different races for variety. God isn’t racist so we shouldn’t be either. Together we can make things better for everyone if we work together for equal treatment instead of fighting against each other. The Politicians that constantly talk about racism and mistreatment due to racism are adding to the problem by dividing the country and creating more racism instead of promoting unity between races. United we stand. Divided we fall. Dividing us causes us to fight each other and lose our freedom instead of fighting socialist take over where Christians are made fun of and not allowed to worship like the USSR.

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  3. I wish what you have written here was unbelievable. Whatever the roots, each person will stand accountable for actions that contravene God’s nature of love. Racism terminated my lifelong career, so in a very small way I empathize a tiny bit better that without that. I thank God that your voice in American is potent and persistent, which is probably no consolation, but it needs to be affirmed in this.
    Peace

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