How come…?

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.

6 thoughts on “How come…?

  1. I’m an avid follower of your blog and have enjoyed the well written articles explaining the perspective of an adoptee. And btw I love that your child chose the turtle ship for his project. But I’m surprised at your own racist remark. Why do people automatically assume that because of the political rhetoric, it’s because he’s black? Ok sure, some may, but really? You want a colorless world, but yet you just made a colored remark. (And so yes, I prefer to not have Obama in office next year, but I also am a person of color)

    • Hi Randy
      I love that you responded and am grateful for your taking the time to comment on my words. You are right about how it reads as if I put out an agenda onto my children. It looks like a leap that I made in talking about race the way I did. I truncated the conversation we had that led to the comments I chose to put out there. It is a precarious balance we parents of color have to straddle every time something comes up about race, politics, religion. It is a balance I keep struggling with. What do I owe my children as a way to prepare them for the bigger world out there? I seek opportunities to show my children about what is good and what is not so good about living in such a heterogeneous society such as ours. It is not always graceful and well thought out, but it is something that I feel is my imperative and perhaps my right to educate my children. What they get out of it, I am not sure. To be sure, my politics comes out and the direction in which I would hope they embrace as well. Thanks for the reminder. Do I wish for a colorless world, no. That is boring and completely not what I intend. Do I hold out for more chances to do have that conversation better, yes. Still working on that. Thanks for the push to think broader, Randy. Will try and post a photo of the battleship. He did an amazing job all on his own. It was pretty impressive. The funny thing is that we found a great bio of the Admiral on a videogame blog of all places. Go figure!

      • I actually hadn’t until you mentioned it. Not quite sure what to think. Although having to live in the south I’ve had to grow quite tolerant of ignorant statements. Any thoughts on your end?

      • i think what has stood out for me is that one of the ESPN people that got either fired or suspended over the posting of the crazy headline is married to an asian woman. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall to hear the conversation when he came home.

      • Yes, that would have been interesting to hear their conversation … um, honey, I got suspended from work today. What jerks, surely they were in the wrong, what happened dear?

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