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.