Believe Me

It’s still happening

Jen Kim
Jen Kim
Jul 17 · 3 min read

“This is my country, land that I love”

We sang these words from the stage of our elementary school gymnasium in New Jersey. I remember the exact color of the polished wood floor, its squeaky sound underfoot and how the chairs were arranged for the parents to watch the assembly.

“I pledge thee my allegiance, America the bold”

We pledged allegiance to the flag. We thought our President was a good person. How sweet to think back to a time before seeing color. The world has such simple shades before you learn how many gradients can exist between them.

“For this is my country, to have and to hold”

But as vividly as these memories from years ago play in my head, I was surprised to learn that the actual lyrics composed by Don Raye in 1940 are quite different:

“This is my country, land of my birth”

Had the lyrics been changed between the 1940’s and 1980’s to be more inclusive of those like me who could love this country even not having been born here?

Conversely, this week’s Tweets by the current resident of the White House don’t need to be repeated here.

“Go back to your country” is a taunt immigrant kids hear on the playground…It’s rooted in centuries of ignorance, violence and white supremacy. This man does not represent us.” — Padma Lakshmi

When The New York Times called out Have You Been Told to ‘Go Back’ to Your Country Even Though You Are American? Tell Us About It my response wasn’t so much about “if” this has happened, but instead: which story about it to tell.

“I’ve heard “Go back to your country” many many times. Most recently was about a month and a half ago in LA. It hurts my feelings every time.” — Kumail Nanjiani

For as many times as it’s happened to me, there are also the times of trying to explain to friends and loved ones that YES, it really does still happen in 2019, YES it is offensive and YES it is not ok. And it’s now being projected onto the world stage in an even bigger way.

“This is my country, land of my choice”

I type this sitting in America today, not by birth, but by choice: not one I made at 16 months old when I was sent here but one I make every day to stay. How fortunate we are to live in a country where we can speak out.

No, I don’t hate America, but I hate what’s happening to it.

“We won’t go back. We will go forward. And we will leave you and your ilk far, far behind.” — George Takei

As much as it hurts and sickens me that the person at the highest level of power in this country spouts hatefulness against its citizens and public servants, how grateful and excited that I am that it brings voices of opposition to the forefront.

Storytelling is a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation or instilling moral values. — Wikipedia

Seek out and draw strength and comfort from your own squad, tribe, community, whatever you’d like to call it: like minded people who have experienced similar things and can let you know that you aren’t alone.

Tell your stories. Let the world know. Be believed.

“I want to tell children across this country … that no matter what the President says, this country belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone.”

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York

Jen Kim

Written by

Film, Event and Festival Producer, Writer, Korean American Adoptee