I spent all my life in a predominately white community in Northern New Jersey. In elementary school, I never really saw myself as different, but when a kid told me, “Why don’t you go back to China?”, it just rubbed me the wrong way. 3 reasons why:
1. I didn’t even know the kid.
2. I’m not even Chinese.
3. He was just doing that to get laughs.
The only person who did laugh was that boy who said the hilarious joke, but I kept my cool and just gave him the look. Throughout the years there were many incidents where people and even my friends started to make fun of me. There were many times when it didn’t bother me and a few times when it did, but I always kept my cool. I never thought of it as bullying, but the whole situation was awkward. Awkward because I knew where they were coming from but at the same time it was belittling. (I was a kid: an excuse for being a _____.)
*** To be honest, when people insult me, which they rarely do, it is very hard for me to get offended because either they’re my friends and joking or they have very low self-esteem or they don’t know me.
Like Earl Sweatshirt says in Chum, “Too black for the white kids, and too white for the black,” except I’m not black. (나는 한국인 이에요.) I never really belonged to an actual cultural group, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me because I don’t use my ethnicity to define who I am. As I grew older and encountered more and more people, I met people that were very similar to me. They, like me, a certain ethnicity, but identified with the white community.
Looking at America as a whole is difficult because it is made up of so many different kinds of people. The internet serves as a social community for Americans today, but still this idea of a post-racial America kind of reminds me of how it was on the playground before the incident with the boy, a time when people didn’t see myself as Korean, but as myself.