As we continue to break all ceilings – glass or bamboo – I now know it’s not Koreans versus everyone else, or me versus the world. For me, being Asian means being on a team.
I didn’t realize I was Asian until I moved to California at the age of eight. Growing up in Korea, I solely identified as being Korean, and the broader ethnic association of being Asian never crossed my mind. China, Japan, and other neighboring countries were distinctly the “other”. Us versus them- Koreans versus everyone else.
In my small California town, I was one of the two Asian students in my grade, the only one in my classroom. “Are you from Japan?” “Why do you write your sevens weird?” “What is that?” Innocent questions from the pale, freckled faces of my third grade peers. Unable to articulate responses, I pointed out South Korea on the globe (“It’s so small!”), removed the third stroke from my sevens, and begged my mom to let me get regular American snacks from the grocery store. While I quickly picked up English and assimilated to my American peers, I discovered myself finding comfort and familiarity in Japanese restaurants and my Chinese piano teacher. In retrospect, that was when I first developed an Asian identity.
As I continue to navigate between Korea and America, I drift between feeling Korean, Asian, and American, all at once. For me, being Asian and being in America are rooted in the same turning point in my life, and it’s almost impossible to dissect one from the other. I find comfort and pride in the shared experience of being Asian in America. Pride for the vibrant and engaged community, pride in the incredible advancements (being) made, love for all Asian cuisine. As we continue to break all ceilings - glass or bamboo- I now know it’s not Koreans versus everyone else, or me versus the world. For me, being Asian means being on a team, and an incredibly cool one at that.