Racism, but Make It Asian: Part I: Start at The Seoul of It All
I have a lot of things on my mind right now.
Before I get REAL real with you, I want to say specifically to my Black brothers-sisters-friends-family. I see you. In the last few days, I’ve taken a tiny look-see through your life-lens and I truly applaud you for being your own damn selves and being loud and proud about who you are—continually celebrating all the extraordinary qualities you possess as individuals—as a whole—as a culture—all of it.
I decided to turn this into a series because I have a lot to say, and what I have to say deserves to be broken up so that each part is heard. Also, I don’t want to overwhelm you. Some of it is going to be uncomfortable because some of you will read the memories or stories and not recall them the same way as I describe them, I ask you to please try not to talk me out of my memories, it makes me feel like I am wrong, which makes me question myself, and makes me feel a lot shame in a way that is difficult for me to put into words. Each and every pair of eyes that skims over these posts—or any post for that matter, the human behind those eyes means a lot to me and the last thing I ever want to do is to is take away your memories and tell you they aren’t accurate. We each have memories and have experienced those in different ways, and some in similar ways. Just please, do not talk me out of my memories. Please respect me enough to accept my stories and my opinions, the words I write for what they are. Mine. That’s really the only rule here. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Here we go…
I’m not going to sugar coat this because it nothing about this is remotely sweet.
–not even a question. Just—what the efffff.
I don’t understand why—I truly want to believe that people are struggling to understand what is happening in the world. Exactly why a White man would purchase a firearm with the intent to kill humans, and specifically Asian Women. Why? –which may be a naïve thought. I just…don’t know—like I said, I’m very confused right now by all the racial injustice and now I get to paint a nice thick layer of terror on top of my confusion because I am one. I am an Asian female. Specifically, I am an Asian-American woman.
I don’t know when I knew it, but I think it’s always been known inside my brain. From the time I was little, I knew this: I am different. I look different than my family. Don’t come at me with, “well we’re all different, Molly.” –no kidding?! Duh. I know. Remember—I’m talking about me. Unlike most of you I have no idea who my parents are. I feel like that little duck from the book that’s walking around and asking everything under the sun, “are you my mother?” *time out
*I know most of you know these things. I know most of you know who I am and where I come from. I know most of you know who my parents are and who my brothers are. I know most of you know a lot of things about me and my life, but I really need you to take that hat of knowledge off and look at me differently right now. **Time in
I don’t know who my biological parents are. I don’t know their names or their birthdays (as I write this it’s my Mom’s birthday—HBD Donna Mayer!) –but back to these people I don’t know. I don’t know their allergies or any of their medical history. I don’t know what they like to eat or what makes them really mad. I don’t know what their laughs sound like or what they’re afraid of. I don’t know if they’d require a padded room if anything happened and I ceased to continue living. –I don’t know any of that. The basics—I don’t know if I look more like the lady that birthed me or the man that contributed to my physical creation/conception. I just don’t know.
All I know is MY family-- Mike-Donna-Molly-Drew-and Brad...and now Shelby-Paisley-Cal-Brynn-Wells-Gus-Cora-Sofi-Luke-Dwight (Yes we include pets in our family.) I know my friends. I know where I went to school. I know travel. I know heartbreak. I know joy. –and believe me, I am very aware--I know all too well: I am different. Again, I know you are different, too, but let’s keep the focus on me.
My life hasn’t been particularly hard—at least nothing outside of what society has told us is “normal.” I grew up with a solid roof over my head, three meals a day, snacks, both of my parents, two brothers, and a dog. I grew up with my friends –the same friends since I was in preschool with and growing up together, we’ve made memories—countless memories that I look back on with love and joy in my heart. I’m guessing you are thinking you share these things with me. Good for you. Focus on me.
I said before I can’t point out the exact-minute I knew I was different from my parents, but I DO remember being little and trying to make it work in my appropriately-sized-child-brain. Tiny Molly would [often] think, “I see my mommy and daddy have black hair like me, but their noses didn’t look like mine. I don’t have green eyes like either of them, but I have eyes like my brother, and people keep saying my other brother looks like my dad, but I don’t see that, and I think those people don’t know what they’re talking about.” I remember having conversations with my mom and dad about where I came from, and I remember watching my “coming to America,” video ON VHS…and talking about that day with my parents. It was always and still is kind of like an out of body experience. Obviously, I know where I came from and I know I was handed off and all my family was there to support. Then like most babies do, I grew.
To keep the suspense to a minimum, yes, when I was growing up my classmates had questions and it made me feel shame. They truly didn’t mean anything by it, but because I didn’t know how to answer, I slowly began noticing I was stepping into a hyper-sensitivity to the questions. I also knew I was/am supposed to be proud of who I am—that I’m Molly and I’m beautiful. –but that’s not how it felt. I know we were children, literally under the age of 10 and it was innocent curiosity, but somewhere in my brain it gave me the following feeling:
“I am different, I stand out, and I don’t see anyone else around me getting asked these questions, there must be something wrong with me…right?”
I honestly do not have any idea why I automatically assumed being different was bad, but I did. Lucky for me that thought really took up a sizable plot of real estate inside my brain and continued to high-five each opinion, choice, story, idea, dream…basically anything that entered my brain that had the chance of impacting me significantly.
I don’t want to sit here and make you think that I was riddled with anxiety and was painstakingly shy…I was shy until I wasn’t. Honestly, I was sheltered as a kid—not in a bad way, just in a way that you are when you grow up in a small town. Plus, it was the 90’s—social media didn’t exist, the internet barely existed by the time I entered high school. –so don't get nervous yet. I also want you to know, I am not writing this whole post to make you feel bad for me—or my parents. *TIME OUT
*Please STOP whatever you’re thinking, close your eyes, take a deep breath, open your eyes and please be kind because, again, let me remind you, IT WAS THE 90’S. Mental health was not what it is today. IN FACT...Glennon Doyle paints a glorious picture of the different generations of parenting. The ‘instruction manual’ Glennon’s mom got when she was born said,
“…Here is your baby. Take her home and then get together each day with your friends who also have these things. Drink Tab before four o’clock and wine coolers after. Smoke cigarettes and play cards. Lock the kids out of the house and let them in only to eat and sleep…”
Minus the drinking and smoking…I like to think that’s fairly spot on for my parents. I was fed when I was hungry, had a ridiculously early bedtime as a child, and was given all the screen-time with Jane Fonda, Julia Child, Bob Ross, Fred Rogers, and Big Bird. My parents raised me appropriately for the time we were living in, so please be kind and please do not jump all over them thinking they should have done anything different. If you so choose to say one thing, I want you to come with the 1993 edition of raising your trans-racial adopted baby in the 90’s and beyond. That manual better come with a clean workbook for mom and dad individually, one for the pair of them, and an activity book for each gender of baby. Have I made my point? Please leave my parents out of this, this series has nothing to do with them or how I was raised.
If it is one thing I definitely do not want, it is this: PLEASE do not feel bad for me. My life isn’t a sob story –it is definitely far from a sob story. This post and those that follow are not meant to make you feel pity for me. Truly, I want you just to try to understand what I’ve experienced in my life, without interruption, without any question (until I’m done)—without trying to play any devil’s advocate—there is no devil’s advocate, this is my life. These experiences are my own, and they actually happened, none of them have been overly dramatized and I promise you I am not leaving details out. I don’t know if I can express this enough: my one and only goal:
I JUST want you to try to see the world from the top of my tree.
I will, however, leave a little hint for you. So, here’s a little nugget of bitter honesty for you:
The best of the best of the best of you, those that feel closest to me, or those that feel the most “woke” in 2021, not even you will ever be able to understand what a differently colored human may experience today or has experienced in the past. SPECIFICALLY, anyone that is of a different color than WHITE. AND with that, since this is my blog and I am the sole author, I am sincerely asking –from the bottom of my heart, I am asking you please, I just want you to TRY—PLEASE just try to understand what we experience, please just try to understand what I experience.
I know I jumped around some and parts of this are redundant, but I'm human, and I'm doing the best I can. I have a lot of thoughts and I'm trying to get them all out in an orderly fashion so I can do my best to give you a peep-hole view into my world as an Asian-Amerian-transracial adopted woman raised and living in the midwest.
Tiny bit of homework to help you sit with that lil’ nugget. Take another minute or come back to this…but please read this: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/introduction-2/
Get pumped, part II is coming soon…
Part II: My Experiences I Experienced Growing Up as Re-Told with My Fully Developed Adult Brain