Kathleen So / by Michael Falco

Who is Kathleen So?

Kathleen So is a Battle Creek native who has worked a variety of odd jobs including (Best Buy) Geek Squad member, McDonald's server, and government employed computer technician. She is the mother of two children and currently works as an independent computer technician in the Battle Creek area.

Excerpt from interview with Kathleen So by Whitney Dow, 2017

So: [01:11:23:19] I think more about my own race probably more since probably the last ten or fifteen years, especially hearing more about white supremacy, which I find abhorrent, and white privilege, which is something that I can’t avoid. That’s not my fault. We are who we are when we’re born. All I can do, and all I’m trying to do, is be aware of it because so many people are not. I’m a great Facebook poster. And somebody objected to the idea of white privilege. They said, look, my parent—and she’s white—they grew up. They had it hard. They worked hard. They started from nothing. They saved. They bought a house. They bought a car. And they made their lives. That’s nothing to apologize for. And I said, fine. I agree with you totally. Yes, they did. And they deserve what they have.

But imagine putting somebody in the same situation and they’re black. They tried to save money. They can’t find any good account, good financing—interest-paying accounts. They struggle. They save. They try to buy a house. They’re red-lined. They’re put into black neighborhoods. They can’t find any good financing opportunities. So they’re paying more for the house in an area maybe where they didn’t want to live. They go to buy a car, again, the same thing, trying to find anybody who will finance them in an affordable way. Imagine your parents having that additional burden put on them. That’s the difference. That’s what white privilege gives you, which blacks especially are burdened with. But even other minorities—Hispanics, Orientals—I know because I married a Korean. And the problems he faced, it blew my mind how people could do that. And I don’t face that every day.

Q: Tell me about your experience being married to someone from a different race.

So: [01:12:31:49] It was interesting, the experience of marrying somebody who was in a different race. When I first told my parents, they were relieved. They were much more worried that I would marry a black man than an Asian. Aside from language differences there were a lot of cultural differences that I was prepared for, but they hit me harder than I thought. I was over in Korea when I worked for Department of Army as a civilian. And I married somebody in Korea, a Korean. And I found the attitude of the army was—I shouldn’t have been surprised—it was very stereotypical. When we went to fill out all the forms to get married—which, in the military, of course, everything is forms—it was all done, okay, you have the groom’s name, and it’s all written in English. Then you have the bride’s name, and it’s all in Korean. So they wanted all the address of record for the groom.They wanted all the Korean information, all the family registry, all the other stuff that they have in Korea. I had to doctor up the form because it was nothing meant for me. And again, I don’t know that that’s prejudice, but it sure is institutional. So I had to sort of struggle against that. We had the language barrier. He spoke English. He’s fluent English, but still with a very heavy accent. And when we moved back to this country, some of the comments of people were just really astonishing. Now, he’s college educated. He majored in English at Dongguk University in Seoul. He came here looking for a job, [and] couldn’t really find one that suited him. So he was even willing to work for a moving van company. And somebody on the phone told him something about, well, when you learn to speak English call back, stuff that I never would have thought people could say. And that hurt me. And I’m sure it hurt him a whole lot more.

It was hurtful. And I found myself actually wondering whether he was imagining some of it. And I look back, and I feel sort of ashamed that I would think that because I have no doubt that nonverbal cues that people gave him, verbal cues, all came very hard to him. And that was difficult to watch. But other than that, I thought it was fascinating. One story to sort of give an example for the cultural differences, something happened. I bumped my head or something. And I got mad. And in this country, you all do. You stub your toe, you start cussing. You’re mad. He assumed I was mad at him. He said, “What did I do? What did I do?” And I said I’m not mad at you. And he didn’t believe it. So then he got all ticked off. All it is, is just I bumped my head. It’s not a big deal. Don’t get so upset. And apparently he’s not used to that. It surprised me. So a lot of misunderstandings, stuff like that.

Interview Transcript