Monday, April 11, 2005

Where do I come from?

When I was a kid, a really long time ago (*sigh*), my Mum gave me two books. One was called 'What's Happening to Me?' and 'Where Do I Come From?'. Both are about the dreaded SEX. Both good books for kids if you don't want to answer the hard questions, although I think I enjoyed 'Where Do I Come From?' better.
However, this post is about neither of those books. San Nakji is due to bring life into this world later this year, about October 25th or so. This new life is going to be bi-racial. This term seems to be quite an American term as I have never heard it here, but I suppose it will do. San Nakji's better half is Korean while the nicest thing I could say about my own racial stock is that it is many and varied! It is of great importance to me that our child know about Korea, both the language and the culture as, at this present time, we do not live there. I suppose if we did, then I would not worry so much about the Koreaness of the child, but rather the San Nakji-ness of our screaming bundle of joy...
I quite enjoy reading Space Nakji's webblog. She is the product of an international marriage, Korean and American (European) and I am interested into her postings about what it means to be what she is. It interests me that she considers herself Korean. I suppose there is a general view that America is an all encompassing nation that will take whatever coloured person you are and allow them to be American. Why then would Space Nakji consider herself Korean over American? I of course cannot speak for her, nor would I dare to as I cannot know what she is thinking apart from what I have read on her site. However I do have an opinion, which is what this blog is all about!
I met an Egyptian American while I lived in Korea. We discussed how difficult it was for a person of Middle Eastern descent to live in America. (This was before September 11 2001...) He told me that he did not consider himself American because as far as he could tell, being American was akin to being white, which he wasn't. Other people have expressed this same opinion, those people being of Korean heritage. I met a lot of Korean - Americans (재미 교포) in Korea and when they came to Korea it was always a culture shock at first, but then for a lot of them a feeling that they had come to a place where they belonged. I had to appreciate the difficulties they had experienced in their lives and I hope that their Korean experience has helped them understand more about 'Where Do I Come From'.
This however is a little different from a person who is the son or daughter of a Korean and an American or a Korean and a San Nakji...
There is a lot of discussion here about who is a Maori. Some people may only have a Great Grandparent who is Maori, while everyone else in their family is Pakeha, but still call themselves Maori. This brings about a lot of scoffing from whitey saying that even people who don't look Maori can call themselves Maori. But I think this is the point. You are what you feel. If I felt that I were Korean, then who can say that I am not? I were to feel that I were English, again, surely this is my choice. Of course, for me anyway, having some biological connection with the heritage you would like to claim helps your mindset, but I am sure for others that is not always needed. In fact, if you were Korean and lived in Mongolia for 20 years, perhaps you would like to call yourself Mongolian. Well that's fine by me! I have a little Irish in me, so every St Patrick's Day, I like to tell everyone I am of Irish heritage.... well I am!
Anyway, Space Nakji feels she is Korean and that is great. I respect her own feelings for her identity. I only hope that my own child does not forget the Korean side she has and I will do everything I can to promote that...

San Nakji for President!

3 comments:

Joan said...

Hello!
I'm now living in America as a permenent resident; I haven't gotten U.S. citizenship. According to my uncle, I can become a U.S. citizen while I'm in college. I think I will get the citizenship someday, but I will always consider myself Chinese. I'm proud of my ethnic background and feel blessed to be born as a Chinese. :)

The Archivist said...

I feel normal; I'm only one country/racial identity.

Wait. I'm half American by my father's side. There goes being normal.

If it'd only been my mother's side ...

Mouse said...

I think knowing where you came from helps you focus your life on where you want to go. But be warned. When your parents die it feels like your legs have been chopped off. Only then do you really know where you fit.