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Happy Hispanic Heritage Month from an Argentine-Korean Girl

Hispanic is not a race

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Happy Hispanic Heritage Month from an Argentine-Korean Girl
Melisa Im

My Ethnicity

Hispanic is not a race... it’s an ethnicity. The term Hispanic describes a group of people whose common thread is language and/or culture. I’m a Hispanic woman born in Argentina to Korean parents. I self-identify as Hispanic/Latina and my personal experiences can’t be summarized by the color of my skin or the languages on my tongue. That is because every single person in the universe has a unique experience. Whether someone labels me as Korean or Argentine or American, that will never change my experiences as a Spanish speaker, immigrant, child of divorced parents, Californian, college graduate (Go Bears!), omnivore, writer, or any other label I choose for myself.

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(In the video the two men in front of a white-passing Mexican man make fun of him and say that he can’t possibly be a real Mexican. When he turns the tables and makes fun of them for ordering mild tacos, two other men join in laughing at the duo. Hurt, one of them throws a racist remark to the Asian man who responds that he, too, is from Mexico. As does the last gentleman. Appearances can be deceiving)

Discovering My Race

People who believe that we live in a post-racial America don’t know what it’s like to discover race as opposed to being brought up in its cage. I discovered I was Asian when I arrived in this country, a country where I was constantly asked what kind of Asian I was or where I came from or where my parents are from. A country where someone driving down the street yells racial slurs at me. A country where I have to figure out if I am “hispanic/latina” enough to join the Latino clubs or not Asian enough to join the Asian clubs. A country where I am absolutely terrified of every Spanish word I forget due to disuse. If I lose my language, with the appearance that I have, then who will I be? I was already pushed to the edges of Korean communities for not knowing Korean. Language is so essential to belonging. It is in entering new spaces that we learn the most about who we are. It is in struggle, through the walls that push against us, that we find our truth and identity.

(This is my dad’s friend, my babysitter’s daughter, my brother and me. We had played outside all summer long so we had turned a lovely brown shade)

Racial Experience + Ethnic Experience = ?

I always believed that my upbringing made me a “person of color.” Someone that brought a unique perspective to workplaces dominated by people who had known privilege most of their lives. Privileges that could be as simple as not migrating countries, or coming from unbroken homes, or even having parents who could offer financial advice. As I progressed and grew in the United States, I came to understand that I had my own set of privileges as a person of color that stemmed from the fact that I was neither black nor visibly hispanic. There is a systemic disadvantage, one that can be deadly in this country, when you look a certain way. Which is why it is of utmost importance to use that feeling of belonging to an oppressed group in tandem with my physical privilege to uplift those with greater struggles than mine.

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(In this video this woman recounts her experience with racial profiling and how her sister, who appeared white, used her appearance to stand up against the injustice)

We must create a world where everyone has the same opportunity to belong. This isn’t an uncommon experience, globalization has ensured that. Just listen to my friend Alex, a man whose ethnicity clashed with his race:

Or to my friend Brian who had to toe the line between not being White enough and not being Mexican enough:

Intersectional privilege empowers us to be more. Let's increase our sense of belonging and exercise any shred of power we have to make the world a more inclusive and empathetic place.


Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!


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