“Why aren’t you in Koreantown?”

Someone on the train asked me this question last night.

I awkwardly laughed.

I feel guilty about the discomfort I have when I walk alone on the South Side of Chicago. I feel guilty about the self-consciousness I have beening the only Asian on the last couple stops on the Green line heading to Cottage Grove. I hate that I have to fight the impulse of running away or holding my key like a daggar.

And then someone asked that question.

South Side seems to be dominantly occupied by African Americans, at least in the short span of two days I had. Well, of course, in the indie themed coffee shop, I see white people.

I feel guilty for feeling the sense of relief when I step in the indie coffee shop. I also hate that I feel reliefed.

So why am I not in Koreantown? Obviously, all the Asians are the same so they hang out together right? Ironically, right after this incidence on the train, I pumped into an article about Asian Americans being told to “go back to China”. WOW.

It is astonishing to me the kind of space that we are comfortable to be in and occupy. It is more astonishing to me the kind of association between space and race. Of course, segregation comes from the discomfort of occupying the space where we are outnumbered. On the flipped side, I also feel fascinated about how the oppressors do not have trouble taking up the space of the oppressed. Once you can turn “their things” into your own, you don’t feel scared anymore. However, this in itself is the kind of “otherness” that we assume. Black culture is associated with crimes, drugs, gansters etc. untill white people take it and make it “appropriate” and “fun”.

So why am I not in Koreantown? Maybe I need to unlearned about what society has told me about what it means to be in a dominantly black neighborhood and that people live there, and that “otherness” is what I make up in my head, or told. Maybe I, too, need to stop exorcizing people’s communities and culture.

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