University of Minnesota Alumni Association


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.

Photo Credit: Haley Min Young Kreofsky

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.

An all-volunteer mutual aid station dispensed food and household supplies at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue on May 30. Many such sites sprang up around Minneapolis in the days after the uprising.
Photo Credit: Nancy Musinguzi

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, and equal.

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.

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