Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Kong Phok, December 19, 2000. Interview K-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Cambodian-American identity

Phok describes his identity as a Cambodian-American.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Kong Phok, December 19, 2000. Interview K-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA LAU:
You said alsoߞearlier, we were talking about how you think about yourself, you think about yourself as Cambodian-American?
KONG PHOK:
Yes.
BARBARA LAU:
Why that instead of Cambodian? How do you figure that out?
KONG PHOK:
Because I spend so many my lifeߞI mean, you can say more of my lifetime in America than Cambodia, but I am always Cambodian, would never change. But I celebrate every holiday like American people do. Actually, I'm doing everything almost exactly the same like American. That's how I consider myself as Cambodian-American, because I spend more of my lifetime [in the U.S.], more than in my own country. But I'm Cambodian.
BARBARA LAU:
Do you sometimes feel like there's a struggle there, or you're being pulled in different directions?
KONG PHOK:
No, never. I never had that problem.
BARBARA LAU:
You just kind of bring it all into the center?
KONG PHOK:
Yeah, just I have people ask me all the time, just say, how you feel? You think you're American or Americanized, or whatever. I think I say I'm both. I'm Cambodian and American, I guess. That's how I feel. Maybe it's not like that, but that's how I feel.
BARBARA LAU:
What kind of people ask you that question?
KONG PHOK:
Friend, workers, people who you know . See some people, they won't admit to themselves, you know. They don't believe themselves like Cambodian or Cambodian-American or Americanized Cambodian or whatever, because that's two different thing. I am Americanized Cambodian, and like I said, I'll respect, I'll cherish, I'll do everything Cambodian, but right now I consider myself as Cambodian-American, because America is like my country too.
BARBARA LAU:
What do you think about your son? What will you tell him?
KONG PHOK:
I'm not going to tell him. I'm just going to tell him that you both. You're Cambodian, Laos, and I'm not going to teach him what, hey you are Cambodian, you're not Laos or anything. It's up to him. It's not up to him if I keep on telling him, yeah, you're Cambodian or whatever. Like myself, I am Cambodian, Laos and American, you know. I mean, it's not Cambodian only, I'm Laos because my wife is Laos. I have, you can say, two different blood because I'm not really American blood, but I consider myself American. But my kid has, you know, two different bloods, and he is Cambodian, Laos and American. I know this might be hard for him when he grow up.