Lily Qian for #StopAsianHate @Medium

Dear Mom, I Wish I Could Protect You

When six Asian women were killed in Atlanta in March, the writer Jane Park felt an ache of concern that was all too familiar

Jane Park
Published in
5 min readMay 12, 2021


Dear Mom,

I’m surprised to find that, in my middle age, I feel like I am failing you more than ever. These days, I can’t protect you enough.

I remember being five and wanting with every cell in my being to make you feel safe and seen. This was my first and most important job. “I am not the dummy,” you would say whenever someone who spoke English more fluently than you made you feel less than. It might have been a passing stranger, or my grade school classmates who shoplifted from your corner store. “I graduate from Ewha Women’s University, oldest women’s university in Asia!” you’d tell me and never them, as if I had some superpower that could replenish your reserves of respect.

I know you were worried that their ways of thinking of would infect me, that I too would see you as the “other” and try to dissociate from you. But I would never, ever do that. Couldn’t you see that I was trying to protect you? If I could have shielded you from every hurt and racist abuse of power, I would have.

I would have stood up to the Canadian manpower officer who suggested that you take an English name that would be easier for Canadians to pronounce and remember than your Korean one. He threw out the name “Silver,” because it’s the literal translation of the first character of your first name, “Eun.” You felt like your identity was being stripped away. That officer lied to you and told you that you couldn’t attend university as an immigrant, even though you were a citizen. He crushed your dreams of becoming a doctor with the single phrase: “We brought you here to work, not to take a spot at our medical school” and steered you toward a job cleaning hotel bathrooms.

When you went to clean those bathrooms on the weekends, you couldn’t take me, so you left me at the nearby public library with a bologna sandwich and a stack of ruled paper to write out my multiplication tables. I was the library’s most loyal visitor. You told me to sit close enough to the librarian so that I would be safe, but far enough away so that she wouldn’t see I was breaking the…