NATASHA DEL TORO: Filmmaker Crystal Kwok was always fascinated by her grandmother Pearl's story.
KWOK: My grandma Pearl, she moved with her family to Augusta, Georgia, in 1927, where they ran a grocery store.
DEL TORO: A story about racial divides and connections in the segregated South.
JAMES RILES: They played the Blacks against the Chinese, like, the Chinese were a little better than the Blacks.
But as far as our community was concerned, we were all community.
DEL TORO: "Blurring the Color Line" on America ReFramed.
♪ ♪ CROWD: Four, three, two, one!
BOY: Come on!
(crowd cheers) ♪ ♪ KWOK: Chinatown is a cultural ghetto where so many Chinese immigrant stories began.
My grandma Pearl, she was born here in 1919, but she moved with her family to Augusta, Georgia in 1927, where they ran a grocery store in the Black neighborhood.
What did it mean to grow up Chinese in a Black and White space?
Can I you a quick question?
In the segregated South, buses were separated with Black people in the back, White in the front.
In the South.
My question is, where do you think the Asians sat?
- Ooh, that's a really good question.
KWOK: Because history, they always talk about just White and Blacks, right?
- Didn't they sit in the back, too, though?
Because if it was to, it was, like, like, color and then no color, right?
(speaking Cantonese): - (speaking Cantonese): KWOK: WOMAN: KWOK: I would say they would sit closer to the front because their skin is lighter.
(laughing) KWOK: But that's really interesting and true.
- No, I'm just being honest.
- Like, I would think that they would sit closer because their skin was lighter, and we're darker.
(traffic humming) KWOK: I wanted to do a story about my grandma, a rebellious Chinese woman who ran away when she was 17.
I've always been fascinated by her story, so I started to dig.
But the untold stories that I discovered from my family opened up a much deeper and more troubling look into our racial history, things that we don't want to talk about.
♪ ♪ How are we gonna move forward if we don't address the past?
My grandma's family living in a Black neighborhood of Augusta, Georgia, may help us open up this dialogue.
See, this was the Jim Crow era, when laws in the South were enacted to oppress Black people with legal segregation based on race.
So we Chinese, occupying a blurry middle, complicates things.
♪ ♪ WOMAN: There's soy sauce, there's gin.
(speaks Cantonese) - Liquor.
- You use gin?
WOMAN: I use sherry.
I use whatever wine... - Who taught you to put wine in your fried chicken?
WOMAN 2: I don't put all that-- I use Bisquick.
- (laughing): That's not very Southern.
I'll get the chopsticks.
(woman speaking Cantonese) WOMAN 3: No, I use a fork.
KWOK: That's all you used, right, Grandma?
You guys had Chinese food every night.
WOMAN: I didn't even know how to use fork and knife.
(talking in background) KWOK: So, like my grandma, I, too, was born in San Francisco, but I spent half of my childhood in Hong Kong, where my dad's from.
I was caught in the middle, between two different cultures, which made me feel not quite Chinese enough and not quite American.
Like I fit into both places, but neither at the same time.
Then after establishing my career in the film industry, I finally moved back to the States with my family in 2015.
This was the time when white supremacy was baring its ugly roots during the rise of the Trump era.
Everything seemed to be a race issue, and I didn't understand why.
It was always a Black and White narrative.
What about us in the middle?
So my small, personal family story actually helps me make sense of all these racial tensions in America.
(people talking in background) KWOK: But did your mom make soup, too, when you were growing up?
- Yeah, Mom always made soup, huh?
MAN: Oh, yeah.
KWOK: What kind?
I'm getting too old-- I can't remember.
I like, uh, pak cham kai.
KWOK: Who made that?
PEARL: Where is our mother now?
PEARL: Where is our mother?
FRANK: She's in heaven.
- Oh, she is?
♪ ♪ KWOK: My grandma had pretty bad dementia.
It's interesting how memory works.
It's like there are things we choose to remember and things we prefer to forget.
It's like that in-between space on the bus.
Grandma, did you ever take the bus?
- In Georgia.
- No, we had a, a car.
- You drove a car?
- (speaking Cantonese): (audio fades) KWOK: So my family did have mobility.
They weren't exactly stuck, like their economically disadvantaged Black neighbors.
See, when plantation life died out, there were no more commissaries, and so the Chinese opened up grocery stores to sell to the Black community.
Some Chinese were already in Augusta to build the canals back in the 1870s, but my family was part of a merchant class who moved to Georgia in the 1920s.
At this time, the legacy of slavery still hung very heavily on people.
The Chinese slipped into this ambiguous space between two very different forces, one from above and one from below.
COREY ROGERS: Segregation was nothing more than a pseudo way of carrying on slavery.
You couldn't have slavery by edict of the 13th Amendment.
But let's do everything else except for the chains.
And sometimes the chains were there, as well, because often in the late 1800s, early 1900s, chain gangs in the South were being full of African Americans for doing little of nothing.
And a lot of that was sort of a residual effect from the end of slavery and the onset of these Jim Crow laws.
But that being said, African Americans were very close-knit during this timeframe.
You had Black banks and Black hospitals and the Lenox Theater, and... KWOK: Right.
- ...sort of interspersed with Black churches and schools.
African Americans did thrive in that setting, but there were still some shortcomings.
KWOK: Our stories originated from different places under different circumstances.
But the grocery store would become this interesting entangled space that created encounters and relationships between the two communities.
My family was part of this tight-knit cluster of stores that grew into a thriving Chinese community.
In 1935, Augusta had 46 Chinese-run stores.
Just to give you a little perspective, Atlanta had only one Chinese-run store.
Savannah had only five.
So Augusta was pretty unique.
They set up the Chinese Benevolent Association in 1927, which gave them a space to celebrate and maintain their culture.
It was a space that allowed controlled socials.
Walls were built to keep the culture in, but it also kept Black people out.
The family store no longer exists.
This one on Wrightsboro Road was run by my grandma's older sister Aunt Ruby.
It's now run by a Korean couple, Mr. and Mrs. Park.
This is the last standing grocery store from that era.
- That's your aunt?
- That's my great-aunt.
- Yeah, Bernice stayed in the second house over there.
Yeah, I remember his aunt, Bernice Amplin.
Bernice worked for Mother and Daddy.
- Yeah, yeah.
- 'Cause they... She used to help Mother in the kitchen and stuff and do the clothes.
- That's right, that's right.
Yeah, I hadn't been down here since, since they got robbed.
- I tell you, everybody was upset about that, everybody.
And the neighborhood changed a lot.
- Yeah, your brother, if you come in and you needed something, you're gonna get it.
- Yeah, well, you know, Mother and Daddy and brother always helped everybody out.
- Yes, yes, everybody.
MAN 2: This store, this store been here for a minute.
- My auntie died right there across the street.
- Who's your aunt?
- Viola Jones.
- Oh, yeah, I remember Viola Jones, yeah.
- Yeah, that's my auntie, she died right there across the street.
- So I've, I've been coming to this store for a long time.
- Long time, huh?
- I'm 31 now-- I got a 13-year-old and a seven-year-old now.
- Wow, time flies.
- (laughs): Yeah, but good seeing you.
- Good seeing you, man.
- All right.
- Take care, good luck.
- Same to you.
KWOK: My great-grandmother Cham Woon married my great-grandpa Lum Yeun when she was 18 and came over from the Southern Chinese village of Jun Sing to San Francisco in 1911.
Uprooting to Augusta was probably a pretty big disruption from the comfort of Chinatown.
But she sure figured out how to survive.
Not only did she run her own store, she had this side business selling Chinese products to other Chinese families in the neighborhood, and she managed to cook and take care of the huge family of 11 kids.
Imagine her tired body, though, after so many babies.
I mean, what was the purpose in her life?
To be a reproductive vessel?
Who had control over her body?
Your mom had so many children.
MILDRED: I know.
MABEL: Yeah, yeah.
MILDRED: It was 11 of us.
MABEL: One every year, practically.
KWOK: And she lost a few, too, right?
You were... Actually, she have six boys.
- Yeah, just the boys, now.
- Let me see.
- I'm not talking about the girls.
- Give me a minute.
- I'm talking about the boys.
KWOK: Three were gone.
- She lost three boys already.
KWOK: She lost three boys.
- Oh, wow.
MILDRED: Keep having till you have a son.
(birds chirping) ♪ ♪ (people talking in background) LORRAINE: Um, I was the, I think I was the 13th child.
KWOK: You were the 13th child.
You had Ruby, Mabel... (chuckles): Helen.
- Helen's not that early.
Ruby, Mabel, Daisy... - Yeah.
- ...Helen, and June.
And then Pearl.
- And then Pearl.
- And then?
- No-- Mildred.
- Oh, Mildred.
(both laugh) They were all born in San Francisco except me-- I was born... - Oh!
- So I, I'm thir... 11, 12, 13-- that's right, I was born here.
- So you're a legit Southern belle.
(laughs) KWOK: The Lum family had two stores.
One was on Tenth and Walker and the other one was a few blocks down, on 12th and Jones.
Pearl and her sisters Mabel and Mildred ended up working and living at their papa's store.
Other than the Black errand boys they employed, their interactions with their Black neighbors was limited mostly to customer-merchant transactions.
(cash register chimes) You know, this is a funny situation.
You're in, um, hak gwei fao, right?
KWOK: And you're a very Chinese family.
MABEL: Yeah, we were in the ghettoes.
MILDRED: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You ran the store when you were 12?
MILDRED: Oh, yeah, we did.
MABEL: Oh, yeah, my father... My father go back to sleep with my mother, and I'm the oldest in the store, and I opened up in the morning about 5:00.
KWOK: No, but didn't you have to go to school?
Out of eight of us, myself and Lorraine is the one, only one that finished high school.
The rest of them just finished... - Well, we just finished grammar school.
- Just grammar school.
Did you want more, if you had a choice?
We have to work, have to help out.
- Yeah, there were no choice.
(crickets chirping) ♪ ♪ MABEL: The window have wooden bar, have bars in there.
Sometimes (speaking Cantonese) the wood.
(speaking Cantonese) ...would slide down.
And I'd say, "Help!
KWOK: And nobody was there to help-- it was just you three girls.
MABEL (laughs): Nobody to help.
- No police or nothing.
It was in a Black neighborhood.
KWOK: Were you afraid of the Black people?
- Ooh, I'm afraid, but what could I do?
♪ ♪ KWOK: Aunt Mabel was 103 at the time of this interview, and her memory was sharper than mine.
But she kept repeating this one story.
Like she wanted me to know how vulnerable she felt being left to watch the store by herself as a young teenager.
I think about how much our negative life experiences play into our biased perceptions against other people.
STEPHEN: Grandmother's store was right here, on this corner.
I would always walk from grammar school to my grandmother's.
See, we could get out of grammar school and walk from down this road, head straight into Ninth Street, and about four blocks down is where there used to be, like, five Chinese grocery stores there.
- All within the same area?
- And they all did okay?
- Made a living.
I lived on 11th Street, and the store was on the corner of 11th and Gwinnett Street.
DANIELLE EVANS: 11th and Florence Street.
On the corner of 15th Street and Tutt's Avenue.
STELLA NUNNELLY: Hopkin and C.S.
Woo's was on 12th Street.
Chinese guy, his name was Charles.
He had a grocery store.
We had Charles Sang on Ninth Street.
JOYCE LAW: Now, when I was growing up, there was an expression, we had a Chinese grocery store on every corner.
(laughing) Okay, yeah, they were all over the place.
You know, the laws at that time were so limited, but not applying to, to the Chinese.
So they filled this wonderful, wonderful void, because you go back and forth between the curtain coming down and the curtain being lifted through segregation policies.
- How did they end up in the Black neighborhood?
- Well, keeping in mind, also, too, that they are still people of color.
You know, they see you as a person of color, really, almost regardless of what your economic status is.
You're still-- you can only go so high, then there's that, that socioeconomic glass ceiling.
♪ ♪ KWOK: Social-economic glass ceiling.
Okay, so we can have opportunities, as long as we didn't get too far ahead and threaten the central White power.
Is that right?
We can benefit from the system as long as we don't disrupt it.
Meanwhile, segregation laws keep the Black people deprived and dispossessed, so that they don't even stand a chance to accumulate wealth.
RILES: Most of the time, the Chinese kids, they stayed within the store.
They never came out and played with any of the Black kids in the neighborhood because they was taken to school by their daddy, whatever White grammar school, whatever White high school, they was taken, but they lived in the Black community.
BURNEY: They were allowed to go to the predominantly White schools, whereas Blacks were not allowed to go to the predominantly White schools.
But I don't think they felt genuinely...
Of course-- of course.
♪ ♪ KWOK: And at school, there were mostly White kids?
Did you feel, did you feel... ARTHUR: All White kids.
FRANK: All White kids.
KWOK: How did that make you feel?
- No mingling-- no mingling at all.
KWOK: No mingling?
- At that time.
♪ ♪ LORRAINE: There were only White people.
There were no Blacks, right?
No Blacks-- there was no Blacks.
So they're somewhere else.
They're at a different school.
Well, it's just White, White people.
No, no Black people in the school.
KWOK: Right, okay.
So did you think that... - They could have stuck us in the Black school, though that never did come up.
KWOK: Opportunity extended to education, as the Chinese in Augusta were allowed to attend White schools since the First Baptist Church advocated for them.
I was curious to know how the White community felt about the Chinese, and why they took them in.
(bell rings) RAY RUFO: All the families were raised in the African American neighborhood.
- I recall that we had to pass a Black school in order to go to a White school.
Charles T. Walker to go to John S. Davison.
- Oh, yeah.
- In our neighborhood.
WOMAN: And to go to Woodlawn.
And it was so awkward.
You know, it was a strange feeling, really.
ELLEN DONG: Ultimately, the goal was to not to have to run a grocery store the rest of your life, to get out into the professions, to be... RUFO: Everybody concentrated on sending their kids to school, college.
KWOK: So how did you all feel about this particular position of the Chinese going to White schools, going to White churches, and living in a Black neighborhood?
What, how do you make sense of the situation then?
- We just accepted them and loved them and loved their culture and loved their presence everywhere.
We just... We still do, we still do.
I've just had Chinese around.
I just accepted the Chinese that I didn't think that much about it.
♪ ♪ KWOK: Were we really accepted?
Accepted to what?
I do appreciate how the First Baptist Church welcomes the Chinese community.
But are we supposed to be grateful that we weren't treated like Black people?
I never really understood this before, but this is exactly that model minority myth we bought into, an inaccurate and harmful stereotype created by White Americans to basically drive a wedge and shame other minority groups, a belief that plays into anti-Black racism.
We learned that if we keep quiet, work hard, follow rules, we would gain this honorary White status.
I get it.
Back then, survival was priority, and inclusion was a part of survival.
But I don't want to be some honorary White.
So you never made friendships with any of the Black customers.
None of the regulars who came in there.
No, that wasn't allowed.
- So how did they, how did your parents tell you that?
Did you just grow up knowing not to... JOYCE: If you... COLLEEN No, they told us.
- If you, if you attempt, then they get angry.
They get angry and threatened, uh... KWOK: Did they explain why?
- No, no, they don't.
KWOK: So what was your understanding of why?
- You're not supp, just, you're not suppose... You know, you're supposed to, uh, do exactly what they say and don't question.
COLLEEN: I remember going outside, showing someone I had gotten a new bathing suit.
I went to the lady next door, one of the houses.
When I came in, my dad was waiting for me, and I got scolded.
Because I would go outside and play with the kids, because there were kids that were my age.
I mean, we were just playing, we're playing in the dirt.
KWOK: And you thought it was just, like, a normal thing.
- We're just playing.
- You know?
So after that, couldn't play anymore.
MILDRED: If you've more or less kind of side up with the Black, then you probably might get in trouble, because they're, they're not considered as people that would, would, uh, be educated.
RILES: They played the Blacks against the Chinese, like, the Chinese were a little better than the Blacks and the Whites was a little better than the Chinese.
You know, and that's the way, that's the way it went.
You know, but, uh, most of the Chinese made their money from Black people.
WOMAN: That's right.
Clearly, it wasn't, "We are with, we are equal in race."
It, "We are the Chinese.
"You are the, you know, the African American or Black or Negro," at that time.
"We are the storekeepers, and we got the purse and you need us."
And, you know, but not, I mean, terribly bad, but yes.
KWOK: Cedric grew up in Delta Manor, a housing complex where my grandma's younger brother Uncle Walter had a store.
He has this amazing kind of memory that just brings everything to life.
During the summer months, I would sell drink bottles to Mr. Lum, then we would talk.
He'd tell me to be a good guy, study hard in school, to stay out of trouble.
During the months when I was going to school, the store would be crowded.
KWOK (laughs): It's kind of almost a hangout.
- Yes, yes, everybody be buying.
'Cause, see, then, during that time, you had a quarter, you could buy so much with that.
What could you buy with a quarter?
- You see how large my hands are?
- (laughing): Yes.
- You could buy a honey bun or cinnamon roll the size of my hand, like, and this thick, ten cents.
You'd get three or four for a penny.
And then we used to load up on cookies.
(stammering): I mean, you could take a quarter, you got a bag full of cookies, like the number two bags, yes.
And the same thing at your Aunt Ruby's store.
So I remember, um, Ruby at the cash register, and, um, sometime Miss Ruby, I would see her there, and I would talk with her.
- I would really guess that she's such a wonderful lady-- I liked her.
- What did you think of her?
I mean, she was the oldest sister, so she had a lot on her shoulders to kind of set the example for all the others.
She was, like, very matronly.
- She laid the foundation.
- You know, the things she went through, the others didn't have to go through.
- And she wanted to make sure that they were-- as the young ones come behind her, to get an education.
She wanted them to do better than her.
♪ ♪ KWOK: I actually think the Chinese were cut out to play their parts as model minorities because Chinese values, based on Confucian beliefs, emphasized obedience and respect and keeping quiet.
LORRAINE: I had good parents.
As long as you eat, studied Chinese lessons, you're OK. MILDRED: When we speak a few word of English, then my papa would say, (speaking Cantonese): That's the phrase they use on us.
KWOK: I know their papa meant well for his daughters, but today we need to address how problematic this older way of thinking was.
Hak gwei literally means black ghost in Cantonese.
Hak is "black" and gwei is "ghost."
It's a common term we Cantonese Chinese grew up using in referring to Black people.
I discovered that this term can be traced back to the Opium War in 1839 between China and Britain, when the Chinese referred to Indian troops in the British Army because of their dark skin.
Bak gwei, which is "white ghost," was the term used for English soldiers because they were so pale.
But these weren't racialized distinctions.
Today, we need to acknowledge that it's just racially insensitive.
LORRAINE: ...is eat and sleep and work.
That's all you did?
I didn't have wash clothes and scrub, because the hak gwei did it.
- So you didn't have to wash your own clothes.
- No, we always had a... A, a maid.
KWOK: Did having Black help make them feel higher up on the color line?
More socially accepted?
Colorism, which is entangled with classism, really, has played into Asian culture for centuries.
Darker skin was associated with peasant class because they worked in the fields under the baking sun.
The elite were always fair-skinned, so this negative idea of dark skin has been embedded in Chinese thinking for centuries.
Rooted in both white supremacy and colorism, fairer skin has been wrongfully seen as more attractive.
And on top of that, if you're a woman in traditional Chinese society, you're supposed to know your "place."
(speaking Cantonese) KWOK: Yep, that's me with Jackie Chan being shoved aside.
We talk about stereotypes of Asian women being hypersexualized in Hollywood.
Well, in Hong Kong, we're voiceless flower vases.
Fah jun-- that's what they called us, like it was a good thing, being a silent, decorative object.
So, along with being Orientalized, we were viewed as ornaments.
So back to America's Deep South.
The Chinese still controlled their women.
Well, at least in my grandma's family they did.
The Lum sisters were arranged to be married in order of age to Chinese men who offered a promising future.
Men would come from all over the country to seek the hand of a pretty Lum sister.
They just had to be good daughters and then good wives, even if they ended up with a jerk.
Gosh, no wonder they all look so miserable in the photos.
(birds twittering) They really didn't have a life.
You worked in your...
If your husband had a store, you worked for him.
KWOK: It doesn't mean that they were unhappy, though, do you think?
Happiness has nothing to do with this.
Personal satisfaction has nothing to do with this.
(birds twittering) They had raised their daughters, but that's what they raised their daughters for, to marry them off.
(laughs) - That was it.
That's as far as they foresaw.
And depending on how strong-willed your parents are, then you're going to fall in line.
RED WERTHEIMER: Wow.
She had a thing about her, but she always looked unhappy.
Look, it's only her.
(speaking Cantonese) - Well, they're not-- it's kind of fake smiles, too, all of them.
The only one I see her smiling is this one.
I feel like it's not even genuine.
You think so?
But I think she's so stylish here.
(speaks Cantonese) KWOK: Well, heck, if they're going to expect a miserable marriage arranged for them, they might as well have a bit of fun before that.
MILDRED: When we would get approval to go to the movie, one of them would go to the movie, and the other one don't go to the movie.
KWOK: Where would the other person go?
MILDRED: Go for a ride.
(laughs) KWOK: Were these boyfriends or... MILDRED: No, we just happened to somebody that we know, that we knew.
KWOK: Oh, see?
(laughing) So you guys... We don't trust the Chinese guys back then.
(laughing) KWOK: But you know what I find interesting?
They only snuck out with White boys.
Why not Chinese?
They were too familiar?
They were all ugly.
(laughs) KWOK: Maybe they represented a kind of rigidity, control.
You guys never went with Black people, right?
- Never-- no, no, never bothered, uh-uh.
KWOK: Not even a friend?
- Thumbs down.
(laughs) KWOK: Yeah, but you're surrounded by Black people.
- But we don't, we don't bother with them.
KWOK: It's like the White boys were the reversed exotic other to have fun with before ending up in a loveless marriage.
My grandma Pearl had her secret date all planned out.
(speaking Cantonese) We used to call her (speaks Cantonese).
Because she's, she had light skin.
She was a mixture.
MILDRED: You had dinner at her house with Russell.
You remember Russell?
- The saiyan guy that used to work with Swift and Company.
MILDRED: Jennie would cook dinner for you, and you go to her house to have dinner.
KWOK: I love that my grandma snuck out, but there's something more troubling about this unequal distribution of power that this story reveals.
Think about it.
A White boy entering Black space to date a Chinese girl?
Pearl felt the need to break away from her controlling parents.
Jennie, her neighbor, might have wanted to improve her relations with the storekeepers as a paying customer.
Well, he had no risks or concerns because he was White.
Did you both love your husbands?
(laughs) - I didn't love him.
- I didn't even know him.
How could I love him?
- (laughing) KWOK: Yeah.
- Never been out with a boy.
KWOK: Aunt Mabel endured her marriage.
Some of the sisters may have lucked out with decent partners, but some of them were not about to stick around.
PEARL: So what did I do?
KWOK: You ran away.
Oh, I did?
KWOK: You went to Florida.
- (laughs) KWOK: To a beauty school.
I don't even know how you found a beauty school to go to.
PEARL: Well, because I wanted to learn how to do the hair.
Because then I can go and work.
KWOK: Pearl had a plan.
(cash register rings) While watching the store on her own, she took money from the cash register a little at a time until she had the means to leave.
But Helen wasn't so lucky.
(speaking Cantonese) - (speaking Cantonese) - There she is.
- Ah Yurt was real good to me.
- (speaking Cantonese) - Mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
KWOK: She couldn't marry her sweetheart Ted because his mom was "just a hairdresser."
It's not just a racial issue.
MILDRED: Aunt Helen was set up.
She was miserable.
You know what?
KWOK: He was abusive, right?
MILDRED: Yeah, he was.
Stuck to him and had five kids.
KWOK: Oh, boy.
MABEL: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
KWOK: Helen's daughter Barbara remembers how her grandma picked businessmen for her mother and her aunts.
She had to deal with her mother's abusive marriage, and she felt her dad was prejudice.
So she had a lot of issues she had to work out of her.
Traditional Chinese elders never really liked the idea of us marrying White guys to begin with.
But to marry a Black guy?
Oh, that was a big deal.
And that's exactly what Aunt Helen's daughter Barbara did.
She married a Black man from Mississippi.
I drove from Augusta, Georgia, to Gulfport, Mississippi, to meet these relatives I never even knew existed.
♪ ♪ Aunt Barbara's daughter LeAnna, she shared some troubling memories of the way she was treated for just being half-Black.
LEANNA SAUCIER: I do know that when I would go back and visit my grandmother, you know, there were times when I would, my feelings would get hurt because I realized...
I can't even say right now that she was prejudiced or that she was racist, because she was very loving and she was very caring to us.
I remember going to California to visit her, and me and my brother couldn't play in the front yard.
And I think I talked to my mom about it.
And my mom said, "She doesn't want the neighbors to see y'all in her front yard," because she lived in a White neighborhood.
So my grandmother, I feel like she never really fully accepted us and fully accepted the fact that my mom married a Black man.
However, she didn't treat us any different.
And I do know that my grandfather did not accept us at all.
And my parents did have some, some difficult times in their marriage, and my mom wanted to leave my father.
And her father said, "No, if you come home, "you know, you can't come with those kids.
You have to give them up for adoption."
I really, really had to keep telling myself, "Okay, she's from a different time."
- "A different generation."
And because she had us in her life, and she spent time with us and we hung out, and went shopping and did different things together and went on vacations together, maybe she wasn't as bad as what she could have been.
Without my grandmother having these Brown children in her life, she could have been worse.
Like, when we're all walking together in stores, like, we don't think, you know, "Well, we're walking with our Chinese grandma," you know?
So, like, when, like, we're out in public, you know, some people, they do stare a little.
Or, like, when we go to Six Flags and stuff, all the time, it'd be, we're trying to get on the ride.
They'd be, like, "Okay, how many people?"
We're, like, "Four"-- it was me, my brother, my sister, and my grandma.
Then they'd get me and my brothers, and then they'd stop her: "How many for you?"
I'm, like, "We just said four-- she's with us."
Be, like, "Oh, sorry, okay, okay."
Because I've had a few Asian friends growing up.
(exhales) I don't... (sighs) I don't think that Asians really...
I just don't see a lot of Asians hanging out with Black people.
- I don't.
I feel like they fall more in line with the White people because... they're not...
I know Asians can get dark, like Filip...
I've seen a lot of darker Filipinos and stuff like that, but they're not Black.
And I feel like...
I feel like also they feel like they don't fit in with Black people.
KWOK: Why are some Chinese so uncomfortable in Black space?
Or any space outside our own, for that matter?
Is it because we just want to stick to our own kind, or is it because of how we've been made to feel about our close proximity to Whiteness that makes us feel more accepted or something?
What if you wanted to date somebody and you're not allowed to?
What would you do?
A Black guy, or a White guy, or whatever?
- Yeah, and... No one's going to stop you.
(chuckles) Like, you can't control love.
I mean... (chuckles) You know, love has no color.
But I used to only date Chinese guys.
I didn't know I was going to...
I didn't like saiyan before.
I never even dated... - Because Po Po told you not to?
- No, she only said, "Don't date Black guys.
(laughs) - She did?!
- She did say that.
She said, "You can marry anyone you want, just don't marry someone dark."
- I know.
- I can't believe she said that.
- And she thinks that Tai Po was racist.
- (chuckling): So it's, like, a little less each time.
- (laughing): I guess so.
- Right down the line.
KWOK: My daughter's generation seems to have the right attitude.
It's promising, but I'm not sure how progressive we've gotten in breaking down racial barriers.
In fact, sometimes it looks like we're moving backwards.
I went out with Caucasians.
I went out with Spanish, Filipinos.
So... (both laughing) I've even dated a Black guy.
- You did?!
- But Grandma didn't know that.
So it, it...
He was a co-worker, so it was no big deal.
My mom wasn't too much, wasn't bad at that.
You know, if somebody dated saiyan, she wouldn't care.
But of course, you know, she didn't want you to date a, you know.
- A hak gwei.
(laughs) - (chuckling): Hak gwei, yeah.
That's what you used to say to us.
- Oh, I did?
I don't remember.
(both laughing) - Well, you know, you're a product of your environment.
So you just hear what your parents say, so you just hand it over to the next generation.
KWOK: And that is exactly why we need to reflect on the past and see what needs to be changed.
During this Jim Crow period, Chinese were able to drink from the White water fountains, sit with White people in the theater.
We got to go to White schools, and we didn't even have to enter the department stores from the back like Black people had to.
Like, we say, "Oh, the hak gwei did this or that," and that's actually not PC, if you think about it.
It's not derogatory, but they will know that you're talking about them... - That's right.
- ...when you use that word.
And it's so comical that the Chinese people are so smart, they don't use that word anymore.
- So what do they say?
- Uh, I heard that they use, uh, dau si.
MAN: See yao gai.
- (laughing) - See yao gai.
Uh, what was it?
- I still say hak yan.
You know what dau si is?
- We never used that.
- (chuckling): Black bean.
KWOK: I can't believe I'm unpacking this word, see yao gai, that Ray Rufo mentioned.
It means soy sauce chicken.
And I am truly embarrassed by how big my reaction was to hearing how that term was used in referring to Black people.
Yes, I thought it was funny at the time, but this is exactly the point I'm trying to make.
Words matter, and we need to be mindful of how we use them and what they imply.
We don't like it when we're attacked with racial slurs, like all that "ching-chong-ing," right?
It's very insulting.
So we shouldn't be doing the same to other people.
♪ ♪ IDA TOM: We told the children, always treat people as you would want them to treat you.
That was one of the motto that when they grew up, you know, always preaching to them that.
We treated the Blacks good.
I had a good life in the store.
BURNEY: The family was name Lin, Tom Lin.
The father was name George and the mother was name Ida.
And our families were close.
SCOTT: My favorite going to Tom Lin was getting the snow cones.
KWOK: That's right.
SCOTT (chuckles): It was the best.
TOM: So what I did, I took Kool-Aid and sugar water, and I would mix it, and I would make them in pots, and we put them in the freezer.
And the next morning, we'd take it out, and we'd punch a hole and pour the syrup out, and we scraped whatever ice that's in there.
And then we would pour the syrup back in there and stir it and put it back in the freezer.
- And by the time the children are out of school, you know, it's ready to serve.
I sold a lot of them.
- Some of the children still remembers that.
The Chinese, you know, there's some of them that they don't want nothing to do with the Blacks, but they, yet they want their money, you know.
- Want their business.
KWOK: Did the Chinese storekeepers at that time feel like they were taking advantage of the Black customers, or did they feel like they were doing them a service?
Maybe by keeping a distance, it was easier not to think about how much Black people struggled, because that could be uncomfortable, and it would be inconvenient for us who've worked so hard to assimilate and climb up the color line.
But by not questioning old racist attitudes of the past, are we possibly allowing racism to persist?
MARION WILLIAMS: When I started the job, my first week, he took a quarter and he marked it with some blue marking, and he put it behind the counter on the floor of the cash register.
And he told me, he said he want me to sweep up.
So he put me behind to go sweeping.
And I swept and I swept, and I seen a quarter, and I picked it up, and I gave it to him.
He said, "I just want to see if you're going to steal from me."
- (chuckles) - I said, "Steal from you?"
He said, "Yeah."
He said, "This quarter's marked."
I said, "I saw the mark."
But, I mean, it was years ago.
I mean, but he was, he wanted somebody in his store that he could trust.
BUTLER: You had to work at 8:00 in the morning.
And you got off at 9:00.
So on Friday night, you got, nights, you got off at 10:00, and around 8:30 or 9:00, something like that, he told you that you can eat anything you wanted in the store, but you couldn't take it home.
WILLIAMS: And your first time, you said, "I'm gonna eat this whole store up because he said I can eat anything I want."
But then you get there, he knows you couldn't, you know, you couldn't do that.
But on Friday, he would do that.
I was always hungry anyway, so... (laughing) You know, you think you're living back in the day when, at least, you know, my house, you know, you didn't have that lunch.
You ate breakfast, and you didn't eat again-- at least we didn't-- until Mama got off from work.
(birds twittering) My mom was really struggling.
So I say I want to make life better for myself by getting an education.
So she did finish high school, but she worked at the university hospital in the laundry department.
- And I respect that job, and I respect her today, because that job was my bread and butter, also.
- And what's so healthy about the whole relationship with my mom and my sisters?
None of us never been to jail, because my mother told me, she told me at the age of five, when I was in kindergarten, said, "You go to jail, you have to stay, because I have no money to get you out."
And that stick with me.
- And it still stick with me.
You make it... You know, that's... Like, that's not... Like, that's a big deal.
- Like, for me, I was, like, "Oh."
But that's, that, that just opens up this con... You know, we...
Okay, so if it was a Chinese growing up, like, nobody thinks anyone was going to go to jail.
- Okay, okay.
- But if you're in a Black community in a, in a, a lower economic background... - People look... - ...you're saying that's the majority... - Yes, they look for you to go jail.
KWOK: I didn't see this, partly because I'm just plain ignorant and partly because, honestly, as an Asian, I'm not a target of racial profiling the way Black people are.
I don't have that weight of fear to have to teach my sons how to behave when being stopped by the police or that inconceivable pain of grieving over a son killed by police brutality.
♪ ♪ LOURDES COLEMAN: They knew that, as far as the world was concerned, they were White.
And we knew that.
But as far as our community was concerned, we were all community.
WILLIAMS: I love broccoli today.
Jin used to cook for his family, and he fed me.
He always told me to do right.
He always encouraged me to, to, not to follow no bad boys.
He said, "Those are bad boys."
He would tell me.
Matter of fact, I got put out for taking some candy.
And he used to call me bad boy.
ALI: My father religiously to Lam's.
My father thought that no one else in town had lamb chops, steaks, roast, lamb roast and chops than Lam's did.
And he cut it for you right there.
KWOK: So was that unusual, to have White people come into the neighborhood, though?
SHEILA HOLLOMON: Yeah.
KWOK: But they did it for the meat?
- Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- Yeah, for him, yeah.
- They, some of them even went to Bot Lee.
COLEMAN: On a Sunday morning, if my aunt didn't have her stockings, she could send anybody in the house around to Bot Lee, and, and check.
KWOK: They sell stockings there?
COLEMAN: They sold nails.
(Hollomon laughing) Girl Scout cookies.
They would run in and then they would buy 'em.
- Oh, yeah.
- Any part, anything that any child was selling for whatever... - They would buy them out.
- ...they'd buy them.
Everybody supported everybody else.
PEGGY WONG: They lived, like, two blocks away, and his sister Margie and brother and his other sister, Verika, they would all come to the store and all.
- A.O.T.T., all of the time.
- All the time.
All the neighbors for him, like Miss Edna Lattimore, she used to take their children.
And one time, you know, the children would ask her, "Well, they're not the same color."
She said, "Oh, okay, they're Chinese."
(chuckling): "They're Black Chinese," you know, she said.
We knew each other.
KWOK: It seems to me like the Black community accepted and welcomed the Chinese, but it didn't feel quite reciprocal, with a few exceptions.
The relationship that tied this community together and the prejudice that kept them divided went on full display during the 1970 Augusta racial uprising.
(helicopter running, people shouting) (sirens blaring) ROGERS: One of the most integral parts of Augusta's modern history.
I mean, the Augusta riot, which was the largest urban riot in Georgia during the Civil Rights Movement, it sort of reaccelerated the Civil Rights Movement, which had gone from a more nonviolent approach in the early '60s to a more militant or a more aggressive approach in the late '60s, early '70s.
(glass shattering, people shouting) RILES: It triggered because they killed the individual in jail.
A young boy.
And that's what triggered the riot.
KWOK: Charles Oatman was a teenage boy with mental disability who ended up in jail for accidentally killing his niece.
He was beaten to death while in prison, and his body was found with cigarette burns all over.
Burns that would be felt by the entire African American community of Augusta.
(fire erupting, shouting, glass shattering) SANDERS: As soon as the crowd crossed the, the proverbial "tracks," in this case, across Walton Way, all bedlam broke loose, because you were Black in the Black community.
What do you mean being Black in the Black community?
Like... Segregation-- you know, you go to a town, the first thing you would ask, "Man, where's the restaurant across the tracks?"
And that was a term to say "in the Black neighborhood."
Because you couldn't eat everywhere.
In Augusta's case, when we would cross Walton Way, you were in the Black community, and it just, everything just went crazy.
People started throwing stuff.
STURGIS: They went into the store, and just pulled everything out, then they set it on fire.
The whole city was burning.
Well, you know, not the whole city, but a lot of the stores.
They, they target the Chinese stores... - Wow.
- ...and the White businesses.
LEON MABEN: You know, you had looting going on, then African American businesses was, was hit, also.
MAN: The Black people in Augusta are tired of being told that there is no racial problem here.
Whereas our local officials have not seen a problem, now the nation knows that Augusta has a problem.
♪ ♪ KWOK: For many of the Chinese families, this riot ended the Chinese-run grocery store era.
(siren blaring) Were they caught in the crossfire, or were they part of the problem?
RILES: Some Chinese, though, they didn't, they didn't bother.
Some of them, they burned.
Because the rioters were told... - Because of their relationship.
- ..."These are good people, don't bother them."
- Yeah, uh-huh.
So there was a relationship.
Well, you know, during the riot, those that got burned down are the ones that didn't treat the Blacks good.
♪ ♪ LAW: The African Americans, they have a sign on the store, "Me soul brother," 'cause that way you would know that they were not a White store owner... - Hmm.
- ...to tear up their business.
So "Me soul brother," I will never forget that.
NUNNELLY: Bot Lee put the sign.
In his store.
- "Me soul brother"?
(laughs) - Me soul brother."
(both laughing) Everybody loved him.
KWOK: So that store didn't get burnt down?
- Oh, no!
- No, no, no, no.
- No, no.
WONG: Daddy was thinking about closing.
Mom said, "No, don't close.
Just leave it open."
Well, the part about it is that we weren't afraid, because our neighbors, we all were like one big family, and they vouched for us, and nothing happened.
♪ ♪ STEPHEN: It's only about four or five stores reopen.
A lot of them, they just said it's not worth it.
It was too dangerous.
See, by then, a lot of the Chinese had already been in Augusta, they'd worked like 30, 40 years.
And they always, they always worked at least 12 hours a day, and a lot of them seven days a week.
And, you know, they don't spend money.
So they already had the savings.
So they just said, "Heck with it," and moved out.
And my father asked Philip if he wanted to open the store, do something else, and they decided to reopen the store.
KWOK: This may not seem like our war, but we're actually more entangled in these racial tensions than we'd like to believe.
I mean, look at how these deeply-rooted problems are continuing to play out so violently today.
Horrible crime that hit home was Aunt Ruby's, yeah?
Aunt Ruby and Phillip, her oldest son.
KWOK: This bullet hole serves as a dark reminder of yet another familiar crime that deepened the divide between our two communities.
She was behind the counter?
- She was behind the counter.
And then they held her up.
There was two of them.
One of them was the grocery boy.
And they came here, and they shot my mother.
And then they shot Phillip.
- From here, just across.
And then they thought the money was behind the door, because they always cashed checks and got money behind the door.
There was a big safe back there.
My mother was killed on the spot.
- Because she, she jumped in front of the gun and got shot in the head.
STURGIS: That murder-- I was at school.
I was substitute teaching that day.
- When I heard about it, it, I, my eyes filled up with water.
And that was very, very painful to me, because, why did he do that?
I don't know.
And they didn't deserve that.
When that happened, I think that kind of just changed everything for them.
It was just-- they were crushed.
It was... And it was so painful.
KWOK: I didn't want to go here, but it happened to my family, and I can't help but think about how this crime reinforced my family's views against Black people and how similar crimes perpetuate the tensions between the two communities.
We all had our roles to play on the Jim Crow stage.
What I didn't realize was how profoundly this underlying structure of white supremacy contributed to my family's views and how it shaped our position between the Black and White divide.
Are we going to continue building these walls, keep our distance, and perpetuate racism?
Or is it time to dismantle old structures, learn from our past, and possibly make real change?
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