I am an Asian American and America will never be my home.
Identifying myself as an Asian American already categorizes me as the “other" as it is a deliberate choice to identify oneself as not completely American. However, this doesn't mean I am not the "other" in my mother country either.
As an Asian American, nowhere is home. My mother country, Korea, isn’t home and neither is America. In both countries, I am the outsider. In America, I will always be the "Asian" and in Korea, I will always be the "gyopo"—a term used to describe ethnic Koreans who are living abroad.
It doesn't matter how well I speak English and integrate myself into groups of different races because when people see me, they will always see me as the “Asian". When I speak to people of different races, I notice that I subconsciously tend to enunciate more than I would because I don't want them to see me as "just that other Asian."
Furthermore, strangers don’t assume that I am an American—no, they’ll ask “What are you?” as if I am an unknown species. I remember an Uber driver once asked what I was so I asked him, "What are you?" and he replied, "Obviously, I'm American" in a tone that mocked me for thinking otherwise. When I argued that I was an American too, he stated, "Yeah, I could tell! Your English is really good"—as if the language is the only factor that determines who is an American. Of course, he was a special case of ignorance, but this has happened more than once in different cities and different states.
Similarly, when I am in Korea, I will always be “too-American.” My outspokenness, assertiveness and boldness have no place in my mother country. In a country where subservience and deference is the standard, I simply do not fit in. There was one instance where my friends and I were in a convenience store when the store clerk asked if we were "gyopos" to which we replied, "Yes." Just like the Uber driver, he sneered as he said, "Yeah, I could tell; Koreans don't act like you."
In both instances, I am the outsider and I've come to realize that as an Asian American, I can't claim either of these countries as "home."
But maybe deep down, I don't want either America or Korea to be home. I feel like if I see myself as just an American, I'll lose whatever hold I have to my Korean culture. I see other Korean Americans who have integrated so deeply into America that they don't even know how to speak Korean—I don't want that. Likewise, if I see myself as just a Korean, I forget all the opportunities this country as given me and turn my back on those instances when it helped me.
Nevertheless, I feel extremely privileged to have gotten to live with the freedoms and opportunities America granted me and experience the rich culture of Korea at the same time. Just because I don't see either country as my home, doesn't mean I am not proud to be an Asian American. I love that I can always look at a situation from two different perspectives and communicate with a bigger group of people.
As many struggles as there are with being an Asian American, it is also amazing as I've met so many inspirational people who fight to educate our communities about our presence. So...
I am an Asian American and I am proud of who I am.