C – Hey P, is it true, are you Korean?
P – Yeah
C – Say something in Korean…(pause due to no response on P’s part) how come you can’t say something in Korean?
P – I was born in America! (as if to say, DUH!)
Conversation overheard between P and a friend. The irony to this conversation was that C is a boy who would be identified as a child who should speak Spanish and yet he doesn’t, as far as I know. So, it has happened. The proverbial equivalent to “what are you…no, really, what are you?” I was tickled to hear how it went not knowing how my boy would answer and held my breath.
I am intrigued that this questions still persists. We live in a very diverse district where Korean is often heard on the playground. Is that why? P has two Korean looking parents and he can’t speak Korean? I suppose from a 7 year old perspective that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. There goes that adoption thing again.
The funny thing is that my boys hear a whole lot more Korean than ever what with all the Korean dramas I watch. I even tried to listen to Radio Korea…no fun at all. I have taken to getting lessons in Korean from another mother in the district. I am in a “class” with other first generation Korean Americans who should be able to speak and understand a whole lot more than me. I am tickled to see I am keeping up. Doing homework while my kids are eating breakfast has made the lessons all the more entertaining. They are getting the “Korean word of the week” and using it in our day to day activities.
My desire to do this Korean language thing yet again has stirred up a variety of conversations on being Korean American and being a person of color. For one, a recent school project to read a biography started out with choosing George Washington and ended up with Admiral Yi Sun-Shin and his turtle battleship. Awesome 3-D battleship, by the way. For another, listening to all the aggressive politics talk on the radio about how the Republican candidates are going to defeat Obama, my ninja loving little one was upset to hear that Obama was going to get defeated (as in killed.) This led a talk about how people are still judged by the color of their skin and that there are people in our country who don’t like other people based on this alone. My big boy wisely said, “Well, we aren’t White.” But he was perplexed. In his world, his school and in his home, we yellow people are the majority! And then there is Lin-Sanity here in NY. My husband and I felt so old in saying that when we were young, there were no basketball players who were Asian American. That fell on deaf ears.
My children are growing up with an African American President in a school where there are mostly Asian and Asian American students. They live in a homogenous family of all Korean Americans. Even their aunts and uncles are Korean Americans. Does this bring a level of entitlement I will never feel comfortable having? In my quest to be more Korean American, I have created world that is far more diverse and Asian for my children. And they neither question it nor feel burdened by it.
And yet, the questions remain the same. How come you are different from me? Only this time different may not so bad.