This is part II of II, written by BKA member Jenna G. To read last week's part I, click here.
In today’s America, it seems like it’s becoming harder and harder to be an “other.” How often do we hear about another horrifying mass shooting – like the one that happened at the Jewish Synagogue, or about someone of color being killed or attacked for what seems like no other reason than the color of their skin, or another group of immigrants being driven out of the country (or having their families ripped apart).
“Driving while Black.” “Walking while Black.” We have black men killed while sitting on their own couch in their own home. Or little boys accused of groping women—who then call the police. Or a mental health professional shot while trying to help his patient. Or the police called on a student taking a nap in her dorm.
And recent focus, or should I say, disdain from this current Administration has been on immigrants coming in from Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, and other countries in Central America. And over the past couple of years, there has been much controversy over the travel ban on visitors (even Green Card holders) coming from Muslim-majority countries. In addition, there has been a noticeable increase in incidents – hate crimes – against people of color, including people of Asian descent. While a high percentage of Americans welcome people from different backgrounds, and have loudly proclaimed the slogan, “Love Trumps Hate,” the overall tone of the country seems to have shifted to the point where it feels as though this Administration is trying to close America’s doors on anyone deemed different in its eyes.
I never thought I would grow up to see some of my fellow KADs deported or fear being deported myself, or see people who look like me told we do not belong here. I didn’t know that I would live in an America where people are publicly attacked for speaking another language or for the color of their skin. I didn’t know that I would be living in a country where people are killed for their race and beliefs. I didn’t know that in 2018, people would be killed on U.S. soil by Nazis. I never thought I would be fearful at times just for being who I am. As a woman, minority, and daughter of a Jewish person, I don’t feel safe or welcome here anymore.
While I believe a lot of these incidents have been happening all along and much of the public was blind to it up until recently, I do believe that this administration has encouraged and allowed people to express their hatred and bigotry more freely. If the leader of this country is telling people it’s okay to physically hurt someone; if he makes fun of the disabled; treats women like objects; has allegations against him; fails to denounce Nazis, then what do we expect from the public?
Growing up, I never really thought of myself as an immigrant. In fact, when I wasn’t in front of a mirror, I often thought of myself as “white.” After all, everyone in my family is “white,” most of my friends were and are “white,” and I grew up immersed in “American” culture. And there are still moments where I feel “white.” But I’m not.
Many of us who grew up in the United States were adopted by Caucasian parents, which meant we grew up speaking English, following American pop culture and styles, and were surrounded by family members who look different from us. We were given an entirely new culture to follow, while losing the one we were born into.
In some ways, we are given a false sense of security by being told we are American but at the same time, are seen and treated differently by the public, and sometimes even by our own families. Some see us as more privileged – or “white,” and more empowered because of our backgrounds. Some see us as “lucky” because we were adopted into families who provided us with better opportunities than we could have been given in our birth country. Some pry, oblivious to the fact their inquiry is insensitive. But the world doesn’t know our stories. Many people don’t understand the trauma associated with being adopted or how lonely it can feel. We have to find a way to work with our Korean identities; our American identities; our Adoptee Identities; and the identity the public associates us with. We have to come to terms with what we have lost, what we continue to miss, and the fact that we don’t fully fit into our adopted “American” world, nor do we fit into the world we were born into.
And those of us who are female have the added bonus of sometimes being fetishized by some males—who want to be with us because we appear somewhat exotic and/or they may assume we are more docile, rather than because of who we are as people. I’ve had numerous men (usually older, Caucasian men), come up to me with a knowing nod, to tell me about their friend or family member who has dated or is dating an Asian woman. I’ve had an older man tell me how much he loves Asian women and how he’s virtually dating an Asian woman he’s never met before, but is working on bringing her over to the U.S. We are treated as a commodity; as a trophy; as an accomplishment.
And as a group, Asian Americans have long been stereotyped as being obedient, or a “model minority,” which isn’t actually as positive as it sounds. In fact, I can’t help but feel there are times when we become invisible. Where are our voices? Where it our outrage? While we may call the United States home, we were not born here- we are immigrants, and like many other children of immigrants, had no say about coming here. So where do we, as Asian American adoptees, stand in this new America? Unlike many of the immigrants being targeted, most of us are not Muslim or dark-skinned, and we’re not fighting to get into this country- we’re already here. So, will we be thrust into the same group as the other immigrants Trump and his supporters want out? Will our “model minority” status clump us in with other Caucasians? Could there one day be a travel ban placed on South Korea (an idea that seems far-fetched given the recent Olympics, but one can never be too sure in this political climate)? What does our future hold? Will we ever find a place where we belong?