Turning Pain into Power
When the color of my skin no longer matters, we will have created a world we want to inhabit.
Holly Choon Hyang Bachman (B.A. ’03) is originally from
South Korea and was adopted as an infant and raised
in Minnesota. She is cochair of the U of M’s Multicultural
Alumni Network, and founder and president of the Mixed
Roots Foundation headquartered in Los Angeles, with
regional offices in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New
York. The foundation raises awareness and funds for the
multicultural adoption and foster care community.
She wrote this essay for Minnesota Alumni.
On Monday morning, May 25, I was sitting in my Los Angeles studio. I had just posted a message on my Facebook account for Memorial Day about honoring and remembering those we’ve lost due to war and COVID-19. I also shared my excitement over celebrating the nine-year anniversary of my foundation, which has its roots in social justice and the concept that “we all have mixed roots.”
Less than 12 hours later, I, along with all of you, became
a witness to a crime as I watched the constantly replaying
video of the tragic murder of George Floyd at the hands
of the Minneapolis Police.
Those deeply shocking images literally took place right
in front of all of us … and that horrific scene will be forever
etched in our memories.
I was deeply upset knowing this this was taking place
in my home state of Minnesota and specifically, in South
Minneapolis, where I frequently visit.
I’ve always been proud to call Minnesota home, even
though I was adopted from South Korea and grew up in a
predominantly white family and community in Owatonna,
Minnesota. (More than 20,000 Korean children have been
adopted into Minnesota, and studies say Minnesota has
the highest number of adopted Korean children in the
U.S. and around the world.)
That said, as an Asian American woman, I have faced and
still face racism and discrimination because of the color
of my skin. And growing up, I never felt like I completely
fit in because of that. While I lived in a white community, I’m not white. And as a Korean, I don’t fit in because I don’t
speak the language of my ancestors or understand the
Korean food and culture I’ve never really known.
I want to live in a world where the color of my skin—or
the color of the skin of those around me—never factors
into making a child or adult feel like they don’t fit, or that
they’re outside of the mainstream.
The death of George Floyd reminded the world of the
basics of humanity. It also triggered a global outcry for a
more just and equitable society, where the color of our
skin is irrelevant to our ability to be happy, successful,
I truly hope this moment will be powerful for us collectively as the world struggles to come to grips with the
reality that racism exists, and it deeply hurts.
As a cochair of the U of M’s Multicultural Alumni
Network, immediately after the murder of George Floyd,
we issued a statement in support of the protesters that
said it’s time for us to think deeply about what comes
next. It read in part:
“MCAN applauds and supports President Gabel’s swift
response to the letter [she received] from Undergraduate
Student Body President Jael Kerandi. President Gabel
immediately announced that the University of Minnesota
would no longer contract with the Minneapolis Police
Department (MPD) for additional law enforcement support needed for ceremonies and large events. … MCAN
condemns racism and social injustice, and we feel that
silence is compliance, so we want to make it clear that
Black Lives Matter.
“We recognize that the damage in our communities is
not a result of the pain from the death of George Floyd
alone, but [of] ongoing oppression and racism for over
400 years…We will individually be doing our part in supporting the rebuilding
of our communities. We
invite you to join us.”
Although our world is in
great pain right now, and
as individuals we may be
going through very difficult times, I believe if we
can all keep hope and faith, and truly come together as
a single, inclusive community, we can turn our individual
pain into collective power. I believe we can dismantle the
walls of hate that divide us once and for all and create a
more just and equitable society for all.
I also believe our individual voices can and will inspire and make a difference in creating real change for our future, but more importantly, in creating real change for our children’s future.