Karina Brown is a college administrator at Columbus State Community College. On March 18th, she attended the Bon Jovi concert at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus with her childhood friend. The day, meant to be an enjoyable one as they were celebrating her 45th birthday, took a sour turn when towards the end of the evening a concert-goer turned to her and said: “You don’t belong in this country.”
Brown, who is the daughter of a Japanese immigrant and a U.S. military veteran, was understandably shaken and upset by the woman’s comment. She and her friend left the area immediately. While the remark of the woman was indeed disturbing, it was the response that Brown received from those she told the incident to that truly alarmed her.
Many of the people she spoke to about what happened attempted to justify the disparaging comment made and some thought that Brown was exaggerating its impact. Brown decided to document her experience in a Facebook post and was received with a plethora of negative and dismissive responses.
Brown states, “There were these various ways of making what happened to me ‘okay’.” However, understanding the larger impact and racist overtone of this message, she reported her story to Documenting Hate.
Documenting Hate, a project created by nonprofit newsroom ProPublica, is an online database that aims to track and document cases of discrimination from across the country.
As a mother and school administrator, Brown said that she felt that it was her duty to be a role model and “do what’s right.”
She explains that though she feels uncomfortable telling her story, she understands that these instances need exposure because “it may help someone else that’s had something happen to them.”
Brown grew up in Newark, Ohio with her mother who immigrated to the U.S. from Japan and worked many odd jobs to support her two daughters after becoming estranged from their father.
Brown says that growing up, she experienced frequent discrimination and endured racist and xenophobic remarks including “people saying my mom was a devil worshiper and making all kinds of derogatory Asian remarks.”
According to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, violent hate crimes and instances of discrimination often go unreported so the Documenting Hate project works to bring exposure and therefore awareness to these issues.
Brown says that she hopes her story will show people that hate can occur in the most unsuspecting places and adds, “Here’s this woman standing next to me. She looks like someone I would see at one of my kids’ PTA meetings, and the look she gave me, the contempt she had for me. It floored me.”