1955, Austin, Texas On the first day in Austin, Texas, I stepped onto the bus and saw all the black faces in the back and the white faces in the front. I was stunned and wondered, ‘I’m not black. Neither am I white. Where do I sit?’
The same day, I went to a Greyhound bus station to go to a restroom and saw two signs at the doors: ‘Whites Only’ on one door, and ‘Colored Only’ on the other door. ‘Which one do I use?’ I asked myself.
The first Sunday, I went to University Methodist Church by the campus about 10 minutes before the service. The front pews were filling up, and the rear pews were filling up with people. But nobody came to my pew to sit. ‘How come the people don’t sit beside me?’ I wondered. ‘Do I smell?’
While in Austin, I had a friend, a black student, one of about a dozen black students, at the university with over 10,000 students. One day I said, ‘Let’s go down to the hamburger shop for a hamburger.’ ‘You go alone,’ was his reply. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘They will not serve me.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I’m black.’ He told me that he had to go down to the black ghetto to get a hamburger, to get his hair cut, to do his laundry,…, all because the shops by the university would not serve black people.
1962, Canton, Ohio In the1960s, an interracial marriage was frowned upon, especially in the mid-west.
While doing my graduate work at Ohio State University, I fell in love with Phyllis, a white coed from Canton, Ohio. One day I went to her parents to get their consent.
“I want to marry your daughter,” I said.
“Are you out of your mind?” Her mother screamed. “Leave my daughter alone and go back to your country.”
August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington: I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
1969 and 1973, Binghamton, NY – David, our son, was born in 1969 and Julie, our daughter, in 1973. Children of a mixed marriage. I was not sure how they would be accepted by their classmates in a conservative town. Fortunately, Martin Luther King’s speech and the following civil rights movement had a positive effect on the nation. Our children grew like mushrooms without experiencing discrimination in their schools.
1990, San Jose, California – Phyllis mother supported us throughout our married years, even though she had told me to go home when I asked for her consent to our marriage in 1962. In 1990 her parents visited us one day. Her mother wanted to talk to me in private. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect. We walked to our living room. She said, ‘Thank you for taking good care of my daughter for all these years.’ I wish that I held her in a warm embrace and said, ‘Thank you for raising a wonderful daughter, letting her to be my wife and supporting us for all these years’, but I was too timid. All I could say was ‘Thank you.’
October, 2017, The Terraces of Los Gatos – We are celebrating a multicultural day! Instead of just meat and potatoes, we are sampling various dishes from all over the world. We are enjoying music from the Mariachi’s. We are entertained by dances and talent representing various parts of the world.
October, 2017. No longer I have to figure out where I should sit in a bus. No longer I have to figure out which restroom I should go to. No longer I worry about sitting alone in a pew because people come and sit beside me at a church. Americans have come a long way. And I am very proud and grateful to be an American.
As one who grew up in Korea under Japan during WWII and under North Korea during the Korean War and experienced much suffering with the loss of my loved ones, I often asked as a child, ‘Why do we hate? Why do we fight? Why do we kill?
Why don’t we love, instead? Why don’t we play together and have a good time, instead? I didn’t have answers to those ‘whys?’ I just dreamed for peace and brotherhood of mankind.
In my adult years, I often pictured a scene where the people from diverse cultures hold hands across the vast continents and over the deep oceans, form a giant circle, look at each other with broad smiles, and sing a mighty song of brotherhood, Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s Symphony 9.
Joy, thou source of light immortal,
Daughter of Elysium
Touched by fire, to the portal
Of thy radiant shrine we come.
Thy pure magic frees all others
Held in custom’s rigid rings;
Men throughout the world as brothers
In the haven of thy wings.