Asian Heritage Month
As Asian Heritage Month comes to a close, I want to provide a few resources that I have found fascinating. I mentioned in prior posts, I have learned more on the topic of diversity in the last 12 months than I have in the last decade. As I have asked more questions, my interest has been answered with additional resources from friends and colleagues. Many of these resources are sources which I would not have learned about without asking. Although these books are written by Asian authors, I share these books because there are lessons to be learned for people from all backgrounds.
I want to bring attention to two books because of their universal lessons.
These are not paid advertisements. I am not sponsored by the authors.
Links are provided, but I am not on an affiliate program. I just find the topics new to me and very interesting.
DMZ, The Forgotten Korean War by Won Jun Kim
This book was just released in May of 2021 and isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. I normally read/listen to business books, biographies of leaders, or HR. A book has to be pretty compelling for me to post about. (Which I have done here). When I heard about DMZ, The Forgotten Korean War, I knew I had to put it on my list. It is as much a book about the history and present-day Korea, as it is a coffee table book. Full of color photographs and 8.75 by 11.75, this is on my coffee table.
When I think about Korea, a few things come to mind. Kpop, Korean BBQ, Soju, and Hyundai cars. Recently, there was a video of a dramatic defection from a North Korean defector. I didn’t know much about the Korean War. The DMZ was but a concept. Although I have many Korean friends, I wasn’t familiar with the history of Korea. My view of Korea was gained through pop culture and YouTube.
At first glance, I didn’t understand the purpose of the book. Flipping through the book, the first half of the book explains the history of the Korean war and the DMZ. Conversely, the second half of the book shows modern-day Korea and its country’s success. But when you sit down for just a few minutes to peruse the book, it becomes very clear what the intent is.
Won Jun Kim summed up his intent perfectly in the introduction, (which I am paraphrasing)
The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the division of the Republic of Korea into the North and the South when Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945. It is also the year in which the UN was established to defend freedom and peace around the world. The DMZ is not only a zone that divides people. It is a place to honor the dream of reunification as well as the souls of the US and UN forces who participated in the Korean War…wish to represent the Korean people in paying respects to the veterans and families of the war victims who protected Korea’s freedom and made it a democratic country.
For me, and I suspect many others of recent generations, The Korean War and the DMZ weren’t forgotten. For recent generations, they are unknowns. This book explains the history and significance of the DMZ. More importantly, it captures what the Korean War and the DMZ signify to the Korean people and democracy. The DMZ separated families and I believe most would be bitter about an arbitrary line that divided a country. Won Jun Kim has graciously shared with us a glimpse into the Korean heritage coming out of this history. I didn’t feel depressed or angry at the end. Because of his approach, I felt contemplative and inspired.
You can order/learn more info about the book here: https://dmzforgottenwar.com/. Highly recommended
Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino
I am only three-fourths of the way through this Audible book. So far, I am finding it fascinating and learning a lot about society and myself. I have already recommended it to friends from all backgrounds. Kenji’s book addresses the concept that those who are different are asked to tone down or erase their differences so they will be accepted by society. This isn’t just for minorities. What I appreciate about Kenji’s approach is that he includes all groups including White males.
One of the first examples of “Covering” that Yoshino provides is President Franklin Roosevelt. President Roosevelt led the country through the great depression and World War II. What many people don’t know about is that Roosevelt was unable to walk and reliant on a wheelchair. When on the campaign trail, he would maintain the pretense that he could walk, using a number of devices to maintain the illusion. Before the attendees would arrive at a meeting in the oval office he would sit behind his desk to minimize his disability. He was “Covering” to avoid stigma.
Yoshino also explains the prejudice of being overweight. He explains how weight can be an issue affecting all ethnicities and “Covering” can be involved.
Kenji Yoshino’s story covers a number of aspects of “Covering” based on his own experiences. His background includes a BA in English literature from Harvard and a JD from Yale where he was the editor of the Yale Law Review. Yoshina was a Rhoades scholar at Oxford and currently the legal scholar and the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the New York University of Law. He has received several distinctions for his teaching, most recently the Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2014.
Yoshino is also a Japanese American and an openly gay man. His book dives into the various ways he has felt the need to “Cover” for being Asian and gay.
Yoshino introduces the concept of “Covering”
In the new generation, discrimination directs itself not against the entire group, but against the subset of the group that fails to assimilate to mainstream norms. This new form of discrimination targets minority cultures rather than minority persons. Outsiders are included, but only if we behave like insiders – that is, only if we cover. … This covering demand is the civil rights issue of our time. It hurts not only our most vulnerable citizens but our most valuable commitments. For if we believe a commitment against racism is about equal respect for all races, we are not fulfilling that commitment if we protect only racial minorities who conform to historically white norms.
As I mentioned in prior posts, I have been trying to “fit in”. In an effort to make it in corporate America, I was taught by my parents to blend in, AKA Cover. I was so conscious about fitting in, it became unconscious.
The original tagline for this blog was:
Corporate life is a game, and you don’t have to sell your soul to the man to win it.
At some level, I realize I knew I was trying to fit in
I accepted that I would dress, speak and act in a specific manner from 9-5. It was never a question. It was part of my upbringing and a given. I was and still am, proud of being a Japanese American. There was no animosity in my upbringing towards the majority or any group. My parents didn’t care about the ethnicity or sexual orientation of the friends I brought home. This was a very different mentality from many of my high school and college friends who could only bring home Japanese boyfriends and girlfriends. I knew I was different from my predominantly White peers, but I wasn’t embarrassed. My parents instilled in me a work ethic that success came through grades, hard work, and being polite. Blend in and don’t make trouble.
In retrospect, I admire them for teaching me about my heritage, being proud of my heritage, and at the same time, not resenting my ethnicity or the majority.
I am just now understanding “Covering”
Working in HR, I learned long ago (right or wrong) that hard work and being polite (role model minority) is a detriment.
Learning to speak up for yourself in an articulate manner without negative emotion is also a requirement for all employees.
For those that want to understand more about “Covering”, I think this is a good listen/read. You don’t have to be Asian or gay to understand “Covering.” Whether you are a man, woman, or part of any group, this book will shed light and resonate.
You can find more info about the book here: Covering, The Hidden Assault On Our Civil Rights Obviously, highly recommended.
See you at the after-party,
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky, and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
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