I am a Korean adoptee who was adopted at the age of 2. My dad is a 2nd generation Italian and my mom is German. My older sister is Korean, and my younger brother is a blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect combination of my parents. I cannot tell you how many times my parents were asked if my sister and I were foreign exchange students!
I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood, and attended school where I was one of a handful of minority students. My sister was beautiful, outgoing, intelligent, and popular. I, on the other hand, was incredibly awkward and introverted as a child, and I was teased a lot for being different.
My parents were proud of us, and they taught us to be proud of who we were and where we came from. It was no secret that my sister and I were adopted, and my parents did as well as they could with the resources they had at the time to make sure we didn’t lose a sense of our culture. When we were adopted, my parents gave us American first names, and used our Korean surnames as our middle names. They sent us to Korean culture camp and they cooked Korean meals for us.
When I was younger, I actually found it easier to be proud of my Korean culture. At times, I kind of liked being different than my peers and I was proud to have a story that was different than everyone else’s. As I grew older, and struggled more and more to fit in, I found myself wanting to look like everyone else. In high school, I often received invitations to join the multicultural club, and I always ignored them. At that point, I actually considered myself to be Caucasian. Kermit the Frog hit the nail on the head when he sang, “It’s Not Easy Being Green”. I knew what it felt like to be considered as different, and I wanted no part of it.
In college, I started to make an effort to get involved with Asian groups, but quickly found that because I didn’t know my language of origin, I was never going to be accepted by them. Apparently, I wasn’t Asian enough to belong. When I met and married my husband, who is Mexican, and had two children with him, I inadvertently drove a bigger wedge between myself and the Asian community by marrying outside of my race.
As a parent of two biracial children, I find it so incredibly important to attempt to create and cultivate ties between my children and their cultural communities. Due to my own experiences, we have been very lax in getting our children involved with the Asian community, but they are very involved with the Latino community. My husband is fluent in Spanish, and I can speak enough to get by, so we both speak some Spanish with the boys at home. We make Mexican food, and we take the boys to posadas, quinceañeras, and Cinco de Mayo celebrations
Food is a big part of our lives, so we use it as a vehicle to introduce our children to different cultures. In their short lives, they have experienced food from countries like India, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Turkey, Greece, Korea, Mexico, and Italy!
As a transracial adoptee, and now as a transracial parent, I cannot stress enough the importance of instilling a sense of pride in your child’s culture not only within your child, but also within your family. When possible, reach out to families who share your child’s race and culture. If they speak a different language, ask them to teach you different words and phrases. Learn how to cook dishes from your child’s culture and introduce them to your family. Learning things about your child’s culture of origin along with your child is an incredibly powerful experience. As a transracial parent, it is important to constantly be open to learning new things about your child’s race and culture of origin. Arming your child with the knowledge of who he is and where he comes from will be an invaluable tool for him as he grows and shapes his identity.