Interviewee: Jenny Korn
Interviewer: 世 安 (Shi An)
Jenny plans to attend Asian American Action (AAA) day in Springfield, Illinois on Wednesday May 17th, an annual event coordinated by Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. Below I ask a few questions to Jenny in order to learn about her and her connection to Asian American activism.
Shi An: Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Jenny Korn: I grew up in a small town in Alabama, and that’s where I learned that race was very salient. There weren’t people that looked like me. My parents and my brother made up 100% of the Thai population in the town! [laugh] And so growing up as I did, I learned very early both how important it is to be a part of a community, but also how alienating it is when you’re ostracized, when there isn’t a place where you fit in. And so I think inclusivity’s a theme that I carry throughout my life, personally and professionally.
Professionally, I research race in media. And personally, outside of research, I spend my time putting into practice the things that I study. For me, I am an activist-scholar. I believe I contribute to greater knowledge by doing critical research on race and racism, generating empirical evidence, and I also protest, I’m in marches, I do postcard parties, I do phone-banking…I’m doing some phone-banking tomorrow night… I think there are micro actions for activism that often get overlooked.
SA: Why are you attending Asian American Action Day?
JK: I think visibility is really important. When we show up, it matters. I think Advancing Justice | Chicago has also done a good job with educating its supporters and the public at large. The people that show up to activist events are passionate and know about the issues. So that if any press asks anybody out there, we would be able to speak to why we are there. Showing up & being visible at political events are ways we change what it means to be Asian American.
SA: What’s the most impressionable event you’ve attended?
JK: The most recent activist event I attended was organized by Advancing Justice | Chicago, the rally against United*. I didn’t realize the press would be taking as many photos or video as they did. After the news ran, people started contacting me to ask, «was that you on tv, was that you!?!» I didn’t even know until then! [laugh] And when I watched the television coverage afterwards, I was in it!
I think my poster was very clear. My poster said: «End Brutality.» You know, you don’t need to ask, «Why is she there?» It’s a very clear message. So I think that was part of the reason why they centered on my poster. I also used the event hashtag #UnfriendlySkiesChi, which I think was also helpful… And on my sign I also identified myself as an activist Asian. And I don’t know if that necessarily…
SA: …surprised them?
JK: …yeah yeah.
SA: I want to ask you a question that has nothing to do with anything: I noticed you mentioned you’re a long distance runner. Tell me about running.
JK: People use marathons as metaphors for a lot, because they work! The marathon itself is not just the end goal. It’s actually all about the training. And the training is months long. It’s like taking on a part time job. Unpaid. [laugh] You’re running up to 20-30 hours a week, on your heaviest training weeks. But it prepares you for the long-term goal. You have to be really committed, and it’s also a mental game. So, I think the marathon metaphor works in a lot of ways. It’s applicable to research. It’s applicable to activism. It’s applicable to anything that you know will take quite a while to achieve.
*Below is more information about the rally at O’Hare Airport, referenced in the interview.