So this is how my little guy answers the proverbial “where are you from?” question. We’ve been practicing. It makes my literally giddy hearing my kids say that with such certainty. They have already been challenged with being called Chinese and had people speak Japanese to them. It is an interesting experience teaching your child how to identify themselves. Teaching them the distinctions among the various religions and ethnicities has been one of the greatest thrills for me as a mother. I have to hold back some of my enthusiasm while talking about race and identity. I have to hold my breath when I feel something is racist knowing my children don’t see that yet. I want so much for my boys to learn their history of being Asian Americans, being of Korean heritage and how to deal with racist comments. It feels awkward and incredibly liberating at the same time. Having been told that it doesn’t matter what I am but living a life where it seems to matter to everyone else has forced me to try and get why it does matter. It matters to me. It makes me indignant and I want my kids to be indignant too. Words matter, names matter. It is what makes us feel present in our existence. Let’s be real. It’s not the punches you might get that bruise your heart, but the words someone says to you with hatred or intolerance. Those words play over and over plaguing decisions and perceptions of how we see ourselves.
I realize I am aging myself when I remark on how more visible Asian Americans are in the media. Have you noticed that with our tanking economy and the belief that China will take over, there are more and more commercials with Asians in them lately? Glancing through sites like Shutterfly and seeing a full Asian couple as a “sample” photo is still novel and exciting for me. When my child was born, he got a Yao Ming jersey as a gift. Awesome. And for Little League, my son has Hank Congers, not adopted but fully Korean, on his baseball card! Still, my Korean father-in-law will get asked if he knows baseball? Really? Seriously? And we live in a school district made up of a huge Asian population. I swear, I have to remind myself that I live in the same state as my hometown because every class has at least two or more Asian kids in it.
So it has to be asked…When did being Asian no longer count as a “person of color?” I am confused. I’m taking it back. I am a woman of color. Point. Blank. Period.