Growing up, I never really realized how different I was from my classmates. Throughout elementary school, I blended in pretty well with the majority of my classmates since we all had similar skin tones but when then middle school came around and I started getting questioned about my appearance, it was really weird and hard for me because I was never questioned about my ethnical appearance before.
My dad, a pale skinned man with brown (now gray) hair and blue eyes, was born in Ireland. My mom, a tan skinned woman with dark brown/black hair and really dark brown eyes, was born in South Korea. I, however, was born pretty pale but now olive skinned, with brown hair and brown/orange eyes, and I could honestly say that to this day, I still look nothing like my parents. But I never cared if I looked like my parents or not growing up because I was a kid that just liked to play outside or go to the playground like every other kid.
But I always kind of knew that in the back of my head that I didn't really fit in when it came to ethnical appearances. I distinctly remember sitting in my classroom and looking at everyone, pinpointing and labeling all of their ethnicities and being jealous because I couldn't be easily identified like they could because I came from two backgrounds. I mean, the white kids looked white, the black kids looked black, the latinos looked latino, and the asians looked asian.
Then middle school came around. People starting learning that I was half white and half asian and they would make comments about it. They would tell me that I wasn't "asian enough" because my eyes weren't pointy enough or that I wasn't "white enough" because I was just simply mixed with asian blood. I absolutely hated it. I would always wear my glasses I had back then and never take them off anywhere but at practice and at home because people would always tell me that I looked "too asian" and at that time, it wasn't what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be fully "white" because I would get so many comments about me being asian and I was tired of it. So I thought that if I changed my brown hair to blonde or coloring it or whatever the hair trends that American teenagers were following those days, I could hopefully convince other people that I wasn't biracial.
I hate looking back on this because I remember being so mad at my parents for making me biracial. I would sometimes lay in bed and wonder why my mom couldn't have married an asian guy or why my dad couldn't have married a white girl. I feel extremely guilty looking back on it now but I was just a kid who wanted to be like everyone else.
And then high school came around and the amount of racial stereotypical comments that I have received for being half asian kind of stunned me.
"Oh, you're Korean? You're basically related to every asian out there." *eye roll emoji*
"Korean? You're probably North Korean. Terrorist!" You do know that there's a South Korea right?
"You should be good at math, you're asian!" I hate math. Just like 90% of the student population.
"Try not to eat my dog." I'm the biggest dog lover in the world, thank you very much.
"I colored you yellow because you're asian." Has anyone ever actually seen a "yellow asian" before?
"Asians aren't very good at sports. That's why they study all the time." BS. Have you seen me studying 24/7? Nope. I was at practice, getting ready to swim at states.
"So you're gonna be a doctor or lawyer right?" Do I look like I want to study for 8+ years?
Some of these comments were from people that I never really talked to before and some of those comments were made directly by my friends. But for those who don't personally know me, I'm very much a relaxed and chilled out person and that I would either just smile it off or resort to self-deprecating humor to just shrug it off. Looking back on it, I should've known that it wasn't okay to be thrown these kind of comments and to just shrug it off like it wasn't a big deal. Being stereotyped isn't necessarily a good thing in general.
To the people that are reading this, please keep in mind to never one-side a biracial's ethnicities. I'm not 100 percent Asian nor 100 percent Irish. I'm half Asian and I'm not just saying that as a claim to my white race, but I'm saying that because it's important. The biracial/multiracial community faces a lot of struggles that people of "one race" and even minorities don't ever come across. People like to label and organize things into categories to help them identify what is what or where things belong but when it comes to us biracial/multiracial people, we don't know where we belong. We always come across forms and surveys that asks us to select what race we are and we're forced to pick "other" because I can't pick "asian" and "white", while some of my friends can't pick "african american" and "white".
Despite the journey that I have had to overcome, luckily for me, I've learned to fully embrace my heritage and I'm tremendously proud of who I am. Yeah, I may not be like everyone else but that's the best part of being biracial. I was raised learning two different languages while learning about two different cultures all in one household. I don't know a lot of half-Irish and half-Koreans out there so I mean, I'm limited edition. I've got to travel a lot visiting my dad's side of the family, from Wisconsin to Canada and to Ireland, and visiting my mom's side of the family, who are located all over South Korea. With that said, I'm also a Canadian citizen who was born as a naturalized South Korean citizen AND can get my EU passport because of my Irish blood. I've learned so much about both the Irish and Korean cultures that textbooks can't even teach you.
But the main reason for why I'm writing this piece is for my family, for two reasons.
One, I'm going off to college very soon, therefore, I'm leaving my two younger siblings behind. One is going to high school for the first time and one is starting third grade. As excited as I am to head back to Miami, I'm also a little skeptical and worried to leave them behind because they won't have their big sister figure there for a long time. I don't want them to go through what I went through when it comes to learning how to deal with being biracial because it's really a confusing concept to understand. So to my two younger siblings and any other reader who may be biracial, don't ever feel like you need to be put in a labeled box. Forget about those boxes and just be you.
And two, I want to thank my parents and all the other parents who are either biracial or have biracial children. Thank you for being you and for giving us the blessings to be not only one major race, but two (or more) races. Thank you for giving us the unique lifestyle we get to grow up in that many other people don't get experience. Thank you for constantly reminding us that our background is nothing to be ashamed of, even with all the racial slurs we come across with, and to continuously be proud of who we are. You truly gave us the best of both worlds. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.