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Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | MARCH 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Response to 'de facto segregation'

I read Chris Steinke's column, "Digging into de facto racial segregation," last week in The Daily Iowan, and I would like to express my thoughts and perspectives coming from someone with Asian heritage (Korean), yet distinctly American. I was born and raised in Chicago (yes, the real city of Chicago) and moved a majority white suburb (greater than 90 percent) and have lived in either of those areas for all of my life.

That being said, I do not identify myself as a Korean nor American. To quote Diogenes, "I am a citizen of the world." And it is always disheartening to realize that other people will judge me for the way that I look rather than for the person I am. I had to deal with it nearly my entire life, and coming to a university full of white, suburban kids, I have found and will continue to find a diversity of friends.

To give a a sense of the numbers, I was at the only Asian graduating from my middle school, and although there was a good deal more in high school, there was only a handful of us.

As a freshman, there have been at least a dozen times where people thought I was Chinese or spoke Chinese, in which I reply, in perfect English, that I don't. I have even been asked by a journalist to opine on the Chinese vice president's visit to Iowa, obviously thinking that I was a Chinese national and followed that area of politics. I simply replied that I had no opinion on the matter.

That being said, all of the friends I have met here are white, and indeed nearly all of my best friends back at home are white. I don't fully agree with the notion that racial segregation is the issue at hand — rather, it is a segregation of culture.

As Steinke said, the language barrier is perhaps part of the reason, but the issue here seems that the Chinese international students don't want to socialize with Americans and vice versa — or perhaps its like Steinke said and we're just scared of each other.

Granted that there may be a few students here that are genuinely racist, I have never encountered them, and I consider take the UI Meme Facebook page as just typical stereotyping and the white kid's frustration with dealing with the influx of international students. Although I am not an international student, I am often treated like such, and although I have had no problems, I attribute that to the fact I can relate to everyone on a cultural level more than a racial one.

Michael Choi
UI student


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