May 10, 2021
By Tpr. Dennis Meek, Grand Rapids Post
In recognition of May being Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, I was asked to reflect on being an Asian American. I played around with all sorts of different topics; I thought about writing about my adoption or what being an Asian American means to me. I would get part way through and feel like I was still missing something or writing too formally. I finally decided I simply wanted to explain who I am and what I believe shaped me into the Trooper I am today.
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Dennis Kim Meek. The Kim part comes from my birth name, Kim Young Suk. I was adopted from South Korea when I was 5 months old. My adoptive parents wanted my siblings and me to keep part of our Korean names as a reminder of where we came from. When I was growing up, many people asked when my parents told me I was adopted. My usual response would be when I realized that I did not look like my parents. In reality, I did not look like most of the people that I grew up with in our small rural town 40 miles north of Detroit. In my hometown, there were five Asians and four of them were in my family. This experience taught me early in life to not care what others said about me, but to be true to my beliefs and who I was. This lesson I learned early in life has played a great part in who I am today and the Trooper I see myself as. I don't care what people say about me, and it doesn't bother me when someone uses a racial slur to try to get a rise out of me. I keep doing what I was trained to do and stand firm in what I believe is right.
Accepting that I was different wasn't the only lesson I learned while growing up. I knew at a very early point that I would always stand out in a crowd, and if I was going to stand out, it needed to be for the right reasons. I didn't want to just be known as the "Asian one." I wanted people to think of how hard I worked, the respectful way I treated people, and the ideals I stood for and believed in. Those desires made me work hard for everything that I wanted, treat everyone as I would want to be treated, and always strive to do what was right.
Those traits are what I brought with me when I became a Trooper. Of all these traits, I believe the one that plays the biggest part in my day-to-day life is the way that I treat others. A wise Trooper once told me, "we deal with the best people on their worst day and the worst people on their best day." The way we interact with those people not only affects the outcome of a particular situation, but also affects the way we as a profession are seen in the eyes of the public. In today's world, law enforcement officers are faced with the bitter reality of having to be quick to judge, slow to trust, and too often deciding a person's worth by how they look. I will be the first to admit that I encounter this on a daily basis. I constantly remind myself of the things I learned while growing up. I try to let go of the situation at hand and see past the immediate events that led me to have contact with the person in front of me. I treat the person with the respect and courtesy that I see as the most appropriate. I strive to break the stereotypes the media have given us and counter the negative opinions of every contact that I have. I do this with insight from all those that situations where I was not afforded the same luxury.
I believe my upbringing has made me into the Trooper that I am today. These experiences and lessons are not exclusive to me, but are familiar to many of those who find themselves as different. I see our department increasingly embracing and celebrating our differences. Today I celebrate who I am: an Asian American and also a Trooper with the Michigan State Police.