In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Asian. Actually, you know what? I actually was blissfully ignoring the fact that I was Asian for a very long time until today. A method of self-preservation probably.
Ever since I have left Korea with my immediate family to start a new life in New Zealand when I was 6 years old, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. In New Zealand I felt isolated because of the language barrier and the cultural barrier. However, the Kiwis were extremely open and accepting. Over the course of 6 years, I assimilated into their culture and I felt like I belonged.
Sadly I was forced to move to Australia when I was 12 years old due to my parents’ work. Australians were nowhere near as friendly as the Kiwis. The society felt more hostile and very closed. You had to be part of a group but sadly I didn’t fit in to any groups. I was not Asian enough and I was not Aussie enough. I felt isolated and alone. This feeling I kept throughout my life and it has a strong presence still.
I ended up being at peace with the fact that I don’t fit in and that is OKAY. Or so I thought. Today I was seriously shaken by a white man asking me to define myself – am I an Aussie or an Asian? His frank question was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The thing is I am SICK of being asked questions that basically involves putting myself in a box. A very typical example is “where are you from?“. I don’t belong in a box – people cannot be easily categorised like that. I also do not see the purpose of that. How does categorising people help at all except to change your attitude to “accommodate” for our difference? I can assure you that it is not because you are just “curious”. It is your inherent racism coming out. What you are actually saying is: “obviously you don’t belong here“. If you were genuinely curious about my heritage, you would try and get to know me before asking. You should never ask that when we have JUST MET.
I am MORE than just the colour of my skin and the structure of my eyes
The thing is, even though I technically am a pure-breed Korean, if you place me in that country I would feel exceptionally isolated. First of all, lawfully I am not Korean. I also cannot eat their food because I am intolerant to many of the ingredients used (garlic, onion & beans). My behaviour and my looks don’t match those of a typical Korean – their cultural expectations make me feel uncomfortable and downright awful. In fact, Koreans who meet me for the first time often can’t tell that my heritage is Korean. I believe I behave more like a Kiwi/Aussie and lawfully I am a Kiwi & Aussie. Sadly, white Aussies do not see me as one.
There is also this issue where when we discuss racism in Australia (or USA and other white-dominated countries) Asians are forgotten. I am NOT saying racism on Black people is minor or unimportant! BUT, we Asians go through unbelievable amount of discrimination and bias and these issues are buried or grouped into “Black” issues when these discussions rise. If we ever get mentioned in racism discussion, our issues will be often used willy-nilly as an argument for or against Black vs White. Our issues and experiences are different to what other people of colour go through. Our issues do matter. The struggle is real.
That being said, I will NOT and I REFUSE to be defined by my looks, culture, religion or country of birth. I admit that I don’t fit in WITH PRIDE. Knowing where I stand in terms of ethics and that there are friends and family supporting and loving me is good enough.
I belong with my family and my friends