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Why Khmer Pride Matters

Aug 18, 2007
If you've read some of my articles, you've probably sensed that I have considerable pride in my Khmer roots.

But what exactly is Khmer pride?

Yes, I'm proud of Angkor Wat, which I think is easily one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I'm proud of our land and our rich culture and heritage. I'm proud of talented Khmer musicians, like Preap Sovath, Youk Tetratha, Meas Sok Sophea, and countless others.

But it's really not Angkor Wat or Preap Sovath that constitutes Khmer pride.

The Khmer Empire might have been one of the most powerful in Asia at one point in history, but all that is left of this mighty empire is a weak, impoverished country that survives at the mercy of foreigners. So, it is childish at best, and racist at worst, to equate Khmer pride with Angkor Wat.

I'm proud to be Khmer simply because I am Khmer.

If I were Thai instead of Khmer, I would be proud to be Thai. If I were German, I'd be proud to be German; and so on and so forth. I just happen to be Khmer, so why should I be less proud of who I am?

Having Khmer pride is not about being the most beautiful people on earth or having one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Khmer pride is simply about accepting who you are and being comfortable in your own skin.

Self-acceptance leads to self-empowerment. If you are Khmer and you are ashamed of your ethnicity for some reason, you will go through life running away from who you are. You would not be able to realize your full potential because so much of your time and energy is spent on trying to become, or at least, to be seen as, something you're not.

On the other hand, if you are proud of being Khmer, your ethnicity becomes a source of strength and inspiration from which you can draw upon to achieve the highest level of success in life. Your Khmerness becomes your ally rather than your enemy. This is why I consider Khmer pride a form of self-empowerment. It empowers you to realize your full potential as a human being.

If I'm proud to be Khmer, naturally I place considerable value on my ethnicity. While I don't consider myself a failure by any means, I know I'm not the smartest, richest, or most educated Cambodian on the planet. When I encounter other Khmers who are smarter, wealthier, or more educated than I am, I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for them. Their talents and achievements add prestige to my ethnicity and inspire me to be a better member of my community.

To the extent that the need for a stronger community becomes a personal need, Khmer pride is a vehicle for collective empowerment, not just one for self-empowerment. Devoting to one's community does not require one to settle for less in life. It does, however, require one to have a clearer and broader understanding of what constitutes more.
About the Author
Oudam Em is a Cambodian-American blogger committed to using the internet to promote Khmer pride, unity and prosperity. Please visit http://www.oudam.com for Khmer music, news and more articles related to Cambodia.
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