Focus On: Minnie Lee Seo

Korean-American Westporter Minnie Seo graduated from Laurelton Hall in Milford in 2020. She majors in Music Education at UCLA College and spoke at the #StopAsianHate rally that took place in downtown Westport in April.

I believe that racism is the biggest crisis we are facing today. It is a huge topic and I would never want to dilute the seriousness of it, but it is a multi-faceted beast that lives within all problems of our lives today. Climate change, sexism, ageism, etc. are all intertwined with racism. It’s the root of many problems, but goes unchallenged a lot of the time. 

I believe that the world is changing, but it is changing very slowly. I believe we are finally seeing other points of view that can dissolve our ignorance, but this is happening on an individual basis. My world is always changing, I am always learning new things, but sometimes I see Westport, and I see the structures of supremacy that reign [here and all] over this world. I am reminded that some have chosen to uphold hurtful traditions rather than to break the cycle, and stick up for those from under-represented communities. Westport, I feel, will be the most difficult place to change because it is resistant to change. It allows little room for those who don’t fit its narrow standards.

I think that Westport is doing extremely poorly on these issues. There doesn’t need to be investigations to show that a school with a student body population that is more than 80% white is non-inclusive.  I do not know how to describe it very eloquently, but for most people of color, when we enter a room, state, town, etc. that is mostly white, our guard has to be up. 

I feel like the community is coping with the major events in the nation very superficially but the issue we are specifically dealing with Westport is not just respecting people of color, but also breaking the notion that somehow racism doesn’t exist in Westport. I have often seen people view themselves as “above” racism or “seeing no color,”–basically viewing themselves as separate from the issue, even claiming at times that racism does not exist. If our first hill to climb is getting the community to accept that racism exists within Westport, we have a long way to go if we want to be directly supporting ethnic minority communities. 

Page BreakI think that my life in Westport has been filled with isolation, exclusion, and violence, which is something I think myself and other members of my family have always known, but always kept to ourselves. Now it seems like that exclusion and violence is very much public, and there is no way to really avoid it. From the time immigrants step foot into this country, there is a kind of generational trauma that is handed down. This stems from the various times the large (white) majority have painted immigrants as dangerous. For my family, this can be seen in the new wave of “Yellow Peril“ that has consumed this nation. It’s brought out our survival skills, where we must rely on each other, keep our heads down, protect our elders, and hope for the best. 

My biggest hope is that we learn that loving or taking care of others requires more than just holding affection in our hearts for people: I love you, and so I will wear a mask so that you will hopefully not get sick. I love you, and I care for you, so I will learn and make sure that the actions I make will not hurt you or others like you. I fear that many people will become complicit if they do not take time to analyze their own fears, passions, and flaws. Racial equity and other topics are not just buzzwords, they are human rights and that should never be a trend, but continuously analyzed and improved upon.

Racial equity and other topics are not just buzzwords, they are human rights and that should never be a trend

Westport Museum encourages donations to Stop AAPI Hate as well as following them on social media as they continue to address anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic.

Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.