Identity and Prejudice

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Growing up biracial was not the easiest thing to do, yet I prevailed. I learned how to accept myself and be proud of who I am: Korean and African-Caribbean.

I have semi-fine hair, light brown skin, and slanted eyes. Not too many years ago, however, I did not like having these physical characteristics that separated me from the rest.

When I was younger, I truly didn't understand what it was to be black or white. Like any other child, the fact that someone had a different skin color from my own meant nothing to me. Since I was able to get along with whites, blacks, and Asians, I really didn't think too much about being biracial.

As I grew older, I became aware of racism. I would constantly hear jokes on television and in the movies about Chinese people. Although I was Korean and not Chinese, hearing these jokes about other Asians upset me.

One experience that really confused and hurt me was when a black lady was ready to beat up my mother, who is Korean, in Pathmark. My mother and I were bagging the groceries and my mother accidentally picked up a food item that belonged to the lady. The black lady made a racial remark and threatened to beat my mother up. I was scared for my mother's sake because my mother was scared herself. Fortunately, my mother did not reply and the black lady went about her business.

When I got home, I could not stop thinking about what had happened that night. I was no longer scared but confused. It confused me to see my own people trying to hurt my own people. This made me wonder about what I would do if I ever had to choose between blacks and Koreans. I thought about this for years and by the time I was in junior high school I had my mind made up. I chose my black identity easily because I disliked being Asian.

In my junior high school the black students heavily outnumbered every other ethnic group. It was great being around black people, but unfortunately they constantly degraded me for being Asian. It made me so upset that I was ready to fight. Because of the way students talked about Asians, I believed Asians had a lower status in American society. I wished that my hair was just as kinky and my skin was just as dark as others.

While all this was going on there was new addition to my family, my little brother Timothy. He gave me some things to think about. I had to think about the new responsibilities that I would have as a big brother. Most importantly, I had to worry about Timothy not going through the same things I'd gone through. I hoped that Timothy would not become ashamed of being Korean just like I had become.

I knew that in order for me to set a good example for Timothy, I would have to accept who I was. I was not black, I was not Asian. I was black and Asian. If I could not love myself as a whole person, then I could not love my brother as a whole person because we were both black and Asian.

I knew I had to change because I care for my brother dearly. The first thing I had to do was learn how to love who I was, and I did it easily by using the love for my brother as my driving force.

(c) Harlem Overheard, New York