Tuesday, December 02, 2008
My dad came to the United States in 1965 to be a medical intern in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My mom was also a medical intern living in Youngstown, Ohio. They met in the United States, two Korean immigrants who had come to America for a better education and started to date.
Then it was time to introduce my dad to the family. The only family my mom had in the States was her oldest sister and her husband who lived in Decatur, Georgia because he was a Professor of Engineering at Georgia Tech. So my dad made the drive down to Georgia.
He pulled over at a rest stop to go to the bathroom. He stopped short of the restroom doorway. There were two entrances, one marked "White" the other "Colored". He stood there for a long minute. Was he white or was he colored? He had to make a decision because he really had to go to the bathroom. So he went into the white bathroom. Without incident.
My dad once told me, "When I see a minority or a woman in a position of authority, I think that person must be really excellent at their job. Because it's twice as hard for a minority to make it that far than it is for a white person. That's just the way it is in this country. Maybe in your lifetime, there could be a black president. Maybe, but I doubt it. Definitely not in my lifetime. No way." I remember feeling disappointed when he said this to me.
Late at night on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 I called my dad and asked him if he remembered having that conversation with me.
He said, "You know what. I was listening to his acceptance speech and for some reason my eyes were wet. I reached up to my eyes and they were wet. And I realized I was crying. I can't believe. I can't believe it."
I said, "I'm so happy for you, Dad. That you're seeing this in your lifetime."
"Yeah, I know. Congratulations, Fred."