Jenny Chhim

SELF TOLD

WCCDA Narrative Series | 11

NOV 2022

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Riverview, Seattle by Google

I am Cambodian American. I was born in the States after my family arrived in Seattle in the early 90s. I am proud to be part of the White Center Community. My family and I have moved around a couple of times, but we always came back to the White Center area. When my family first immigrated to the US, we settled in the South Park neighborhood. Our first house was near Roxbury. My family had moved to Des Moines for a while, but we came back to the White Center area when I was in 7th grade. After graduating from Evergreen High School in 2003, I moved to Spokane. I came back again in 2010 after my son was born in 2014. We bought a house in the Riverview neighborhood, which is three minutes from White Center. 

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Even though White Center is becoming more affluent, I am glad that it is still rich in diversity. When my husband and I were debating on moving back to our stomping grounds, I won out because I am very connected to my community here. I am incredibly happy to be able to still be a part of the community. I am happy I can still drive 5 minutes to go to a Cambodian store and the temple that I grew up going to.

I am happy to see our Cambodian stores are still there. At the same time, I recognize changes are happening. At first, I was extremely excited for my children to be attending the same schools as I had. But I soon realized that the school environment is quite different now. For example, schools lack opportunities for children to have fun and stay active. Physical education has become a backburner which is a shame because I believe many students like me need physical activity. For a while, I was involved in the PTA, but I quickly realized that many things were out of my control. It is the system. It is school politics. And the PTA was just a group of affluent parents advocating for their own children instead of the collective well-being of all children. Even still, I am not losing hope, and I may join again when my two younger children go to school.  

Khmer Mural by WCCDA

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Besides school, I can see a shift in our neighborhood. For the newcomers, their idea of community is quite different from ours who grew up struggling. They are strong in their community because they have the resources. Mainstream American does not understand what it is like to be poor and why people are poor. They see violence and not our strengths. Like everyone else, we are all just trying to live our lives and create the best environment for our children and families. Growing up, kids from Highline and Mt. Rainier feared EHS, but now we see white people walking around the business core, and people are not afraid anymore. But where is the balance? 

Community by WCCDA

I hope White Center remains a community of immigrants. There is something about being about to connect to our community background. People are hungry for diversity (you can see that in food, etc.). I hope White Center does not become one of those places where a street taco costs seven dollars. I hope that there are still places for each community to be themselves so that they do not have to change their recipe to appease someone else with wealth. Diversity is a strength. White Center is an example of this strength and beauty. And I hope that we can use ourselves as an example and communicate that to the wider world. Being tolerant and accepting of one another is important.   

End of Narrative