Sometimes I Forget I Am A Minority

Sometimes I Forget I Am A Minority

But should that bother me?

The title says it all. I forget. How do I forget? I, fortunately, feel lucky enough to have never undergone much adversity when it came to my race - Asian. Specifically, however, I am Korean. "North or South?" one may ask. Without hesitation, I would answer "South" and jokingly respond that there would be a slim-to-none chance I would be standing here talking to you if I was North Korean.

I've grown up experiencing a range of demographics from moving homes throughout my lifetime. In between moving schools as well, I learned about many cultures and religions growing up. But in between dance classes, horse shows, and even in the classroom, I never saw myself as anything, really. I knew I was Korean. I knew I was American. But straddling both realms was something I didn't think I'd struggle with, until now.

When I was on the beach in the Dominican Republic, I remember my brothers and I were making a sand castle. We were laughing and playing, speaking in English, until a grown man walking by stopped to say, "Ni Hao." I knew that was "Hello" in Chinese. But that experience became a story to laugh about later on.

I've taken Mandarin at school for the past 7 years of my life, and it didn't hit any of my peers that there was a possibility of me not being Chinese. It wasn't until I was asked if I spoke the language at home, if I was fluent, or I just flat out said I was tri-lingual in Korean (because my parents are Korean), Mandarin, and English.

The other day, I got a text late at night, from someone I had not heard from in a while. It read, "Have you ever ate a dog?" I knew this person. I knew this wasn't a question I would be asked from this person. They know me. Until the next morning, I got an apology because the question was asked to prove a point.

Sometimes I forget I am a minority because I never saw myself any different from anyone else around me. There would be times where I would strongly stand my ground amongst my differences with others, but most of the time, I just thought of myself as, well, American.

But I am an American. I was born in New Jersey. I never had a problem with friends. My parents tried their best to protect me from ever having to face any obstacle that could be associated with my ethnicity. But I am proud of who I am. Heck, my college essay was even about my culture and how my "Teddy" was also from Korea.

This may be an uncomfortable topic for some. And for anyone that knows me, this isn't really a topic I would ever really talk about at all. But maybe that's the problem. And I find some kind of responsibility to shed light on this issue that anyone can face, forgetting their "roots" in the process of "Americanization." But before I conclude, I just wanted to thank my friends.

Past, current, and even future.

For all the people that have known me in my lifetime, never pointing out our differences, never excluding me on purpose, and accepting me for who I am. I feel so grateful to have never met someone who didn't do any of that.

I am proud to be an American. This country is so diverse. But sometimes we try to ignore our differences and find a relatable similarity in the smaller, maybe even materialistic things in life such as a pair of Jack Rogers or Lululemon pants. There is nothing wrong with that. But it doesn't hurt to embrace our differences, too.

Cover Image Credit: Naya Shim

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37 Things Growing Up in the South Taught You

Where the tea is sweet, but the people are sweeter.

1. The art of small talking.
2. The importance of calling your momma.
3. The beauty of sweet tea.
4. How to use the term “ma'am” or “sir” (that is, use it as much as possible).
5. Real flowers are way better than fake flowers.
6. Sometimes you only have two seasons instead of four.
7. Fried chicken is the best kind of chicken.
8. When it comes to food, always go for seconds.
9. It is better to overdress for Church than underdress.
10. Word travels fast.
11. Lake days are better than beach days.
12. Handwritten letters never go out of style.
13. If a man doesn’t open the door for you on the first date, dump him.
14. If a man won’t meet your family after four dates, dump him.
15. If your family doesn’t like your boyfriend, dump him.
16. Your occupation doesn’t matter as long as you're happy.
17. But you should always make sure you can support your family.
18. Rocking chairs are by far the best kind of chairs.
19. Cracker Barrel is more than a restaurant, it's a lifestyle.
20. Just 'cause you are from Florida and it is in the south does not make you Southern.
21. High School football is a big deal.
22. If you have a hair dresser for more than three years, never change. Trust her and only her.
23. The kids in your Sunday school class in third grade are also in your graduating class.
24. Makeup doesn’t work in the summer.
25. Laying out is a hobby.
26. Moms get more into high school drama than high schoolers.
27. Sororities are a family affair.
28. You never know how many adults you know 'til its time to get recommendation letters for rush.
29. SEC is the best, no question.
30. You can't go wrong buying a girl Kendra Scotts.
31. People will refer to you by your last name.
32. Biscuits and gravy are bae.
33. Sadie Robertson is a role model.
34. If it is game day you should be dressed nice.
35. If you pass by a child's lemonade stand you better buy lemonade from her. You're supporting capitalism.
36. You are never too old to go home for just a weekend… or just a meal.
37. You can’t imagine living anywhere but the South.

Cover Image Credit: Grace Valentine

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My Biggest Physical Insecurity Was My Filipino Skin

Self-acceptance got easier after becoming comfortable in my own literal skin.


My entire life revolves around being Filipino. Things like the food I eat, my hobbies, my interests, and my values are all somewhat determined by this core piece of my identity. Despite this, there was a point where I was insecure about how being Filipino determined so much, especially how it determined what I looked like.

A majority of Filipinos can be described physically as having tanned skin, dark brown eyes, wide noses, and short or petite statures. Unsurprisingly, this is exactly what I look like, and most of my insecurities actually stemmed from these physical traits that I was born with, but mainly my skin color.

When I was about ten years old, I remember being enrolled in a week-long youth soccer camp during the summer, and the very last day of the camp involved outdoor barefoot tournaments. I hadn't become conscious about my skin until the end of that day, which explains why I chose to neglect the brand new bottle of spray-on sunscreen that my parents had packed me. I had just learned about melanin that past school year, so I thought that my melanin would be enough to protect me from the sun, but at the end of the day, I was at least five shades darker than when I had been dropped off.

Jana Gabrielle

I knew that there was nothing wrong with dark skin, but for some reason, I was embarrassed by the fact that I could even tan that much. It was even more embarrassing when I was innocently asked to take a picture with my white friend who was obviously considerably lighter than me. Ever since then, I stayed aware of how long I stood in the sun, and I even adopted the habit of carrying sunscreen with me wherever I went. I obsessed over DIY skin lightening methods at such a young age, and I even snuck my mother's "light beige" skin products to my room for me to use throughout middle school.

This went on through part of high school until one summer when I realized that I was constantly turning down my siblings' requests to hang out at the pool because, as stated by them, "You just don't want to get darker." I tried to become more confident in my own skin, reflecting on stories my parents told about their childhoods in the Philippines and how they were constantly outside under the sun. Another thing that boosted my confidence was when a cousin told me that it was once common for Filipinos with lighter skin to be associated with the powerful, wealthy nobility and upper class while those with darker skin were often associated with the hardworking, resilient lower class who spent their days toiling in plantations and at sea. Considering how much I value the hardworking spirit, this was surprisingly a really inspiring point for me. This isn't to say that those with lighter skin don't work hard, or that all people with darker skin belong in the lower class. Instead, it shows that anyone of any skin tone or color has something to take pride in about themselves.

Skin color was not my only insecurity, but once I wholeheartedly accepted it, accepting the rest of who I was by blood and by birth became a lot easier. Over time, I took less shame in my tan skin, our unique home cooking and food, my quirky native language, and my family's traditions. I think the biggest obstacles to overcoming such culture- and race-based insecurities are just the circumstances that I grew up in. I'd like to think that if I had grown up in an environment where the majority population was Filipino, I would have less likely faced this insecurity. However, in both American and Filipino societies, standards for how one should act, speak, what one should believe in, and especially what one should look like have been set by history, popular culture, and majority groups.

Jana Gabrielle

As a young immigrant and minority POC in the US, my mere seventeen years of life seemed to be so full of measurements and comparisons to those around me, but along the way, I learned that feeling comfortable with myself should not involve anyone else's acceptance – just mine. I learned to embrace what I now know about Filipino culture and made being Filipino the centerpiece of my identity. It's much easier said than done, but at the end of the day, my skin is my skin just as my heritage is mine to love, appreciate, and share with others as I please.

Jana Gabrielle

Jana Gabrielle

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Jana Gabrielle

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