Growing up on a military base, I assumed everyone was like me as most of my neighbors and friends were Hapa, so I never thought I was “special.”
However, when my younger brother and I were relocated to the Washington, DC area my Hapa world got so much smaller. I fast became a novelty. People, especially women, would love to play with my hair and marvel at the texture and I was constantly mislabeled as Polynesian.
It didn’t make me feel special, it made me feel different. I was young and not really too into my heritage but for some reason, rather than try and meld in with those who singled me out and pretend to be an “all-American,” I was actually more driven to be diverse and embracing my Korean half became a big part of me.
It was my way of not being made to feel weird about who I was, rather, to feel empowered. Some people got it, some people said I was trying to be something I wasn’t.
Fast forward to many years later and I am now grown with two young sons. The birth of my boys is the reason I’ve stepped up my efforts to learn more about Korean culture and expand my knowledge – even though they are only a quarter Korean, I want them to recognize how important their heritage is to me and should be to them. I’ve joined a few local Korean community groups and I’ve started taking a wonderful Korean language class which I adore. I have to say that I truly love my heritage and my culture and my people. I definitely have Korean pride.
Yes. I can definitely relate. Going from Seoul to Oklahoma via the Army was complete culture shock for my siblings and I. I’m so glad my 2 girls have a hankering for Korean foods!