C. Crave: Missed Opportunity to Discuss Race

I found several aspects of the article “C. Crave: Black Ambassador to Khmer Culture” (August 31) troubling. More than anything, it read like a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing on how a strong bond has been formed between immigrant and minority groups due to racial, social and economic conditions in the U.S., the writer decided to gawk at the idea that an African-American could have an appreciation of a culture outside of his own.

Letter to the Editor

Instead of actually discussing how the bond between C. Crave and his Khmer family helped get both sides through difficult situations, the writer opted to marvel at an African-American able to learn another language.

Mr. Cravens poses with the Cambodian flag on a beach
Mr. Cravens poses with the Cambodian flag on a beach

We never even got a name for, much less an image or any quotes from, the Cambodians he calls “family.”

The article displayed a superficial understanding of race and what actually brings people together: shared experience. I won’t even go into the fact that the writer put slavery and genocide in quotes as if they were still unconfirmed.

That lines like “Eventually Mr. Cravens felt ‘more embedded in the Khmer world’ than in the African-American community” are included in the article, yet nothing is said about the way, specifically, the Khmer community in Stockton helped him cope with something as painful as eviction, shows the focus of the article and the level of understanding about the complex racial makeup of many communities in the U.S.

There are so many red flags in this story, and I’m at a loss as to how no one caught these issues. It was even put on your front page.

Obviously this is not an issue exclusive to The Cambodia Daily. As an editor at the Khmer Times, I can tell you that we struggle with similar issues. Many newspapers have difficulties writing about race, especially when there are few, if any, minorities working at many news organizations who would be able to point out when a story addresses race in a troubling way.

I only hope that in the future, more time and care can be put into truly examining race honestly, and not just opting for superficial displays of astonishment at the idea of minorities doing things white people have been doing for hundreds of years.

As a Black American with a genuine appreciation for Khmer culture, I can tell you that plenty of other races have made an effort to learn Khmer and honor Khmer culture. This is not news. The real story is the way shared struggles forge bonds that go far beyond race.

Jonathan Greig
Phnom Penh

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