Student, Christian, Artist
Hi, I’m Ellice Park.
It’s interesting that this question of “What is Korean American” came up with Mina Cheon’s email, a reflective memory of the question “Are you Korean? Are you American?” at Korean School sessions on Saturdays. It was a question I’ve been asked since 2000. It was asked seriously, but none of the students took it seriously then. But it reverberated with us, some of us traveling to Korea, some of us refusing to eat Kimchi or having anything to do with the traditions, some of us taking on other distinct and celebrated cultures, some of us … doing whatever we had to do to answer the question that our blood asked.
I guess at the moment, since this website IS named “I am Korean American” I have to say that I’m something of both. But really, I’ve always felt that I’m American. Being American doesn’t mean I’m WHITE or a particular personality. So really, I sometimes say I’m of Korean descent or allow for people to assume I’m from Korea, because my blood deems my “otherly” face. Superficial, but it’s hard for the eyes to pass by what it sees.
When I was in first grade, I was introduced to the idea of colors signifying races by a fat, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who asked my skin color. I told her I’m not sure. It was arts and crafts time, so she pointed to the crayons I was using and told me to choose from the options. I chose probably 10 crayons and said “a mixture of these”. She said her daddy told her that people are red, black, white, and yellow. I looked hard and long at the crayons. I decided I’m pink. She made me mad, and said that I can’t be pink. We argued a little, and then I punched her. The principal called our parents in, and her parents apologized to mine. My parents decided to make us friends.
Fast forward to 2005 where my family moved from Irish and Italian Catholic-suburbia of greater Boston to the, I suppose, “yellower” land of golden sunshine and many Asians in the Bay Area of California. I moved there, enrolled in another private prep school, and met some new people. It was scary seeing so many Asians in one place, or actually–everywhere. Within the first month of being at that school–no, the first two weeks, I was told that people are saying that I’m the “pretty new girl” and “extremely, very White.” White as in caucasian. Talk about confusing.
Especially for being at the tender age of sixteen, where you think you’re on top of the world, and at the same time, insignificant as ever.
Well, I’m 21 now. And yes, like I said earlier, I think I’m American. I grew up in America, and did a couple camps in Korea–but home is America. America has English, wide roads, big food, big people, and big hearts in those big bodies. I tease. But, really, I think of myself as American not only because I love playing with English, but also because I see America as a big melting pot–as so many others do, too. And I think of myself as one of the little pots of clay that get added onto the ever-growing big melting pot. We all stir the soup together of what is “American” and then projectile it, or serve out and share ladels of ourselves to the rest of the world.
I’m happy to have my Korean heritage, I think it’s lovely. And I think I’ll always feel kind of different for it–i.e. my body can only happily digest Korean cuisine, i.e. I only seriously consider Korean American guys to date, i.e. I have to take off my shoes in living quarters, i.e. I can’t resist popping out Korean phrases every now and then because they are most appropriate. But I can’t say that I’m both Korean and American because it makes me feel like a split personality, bipolar or something. Maybe it’s like a Jewish thing (for some Jews, not all), where you have the heritage and love the culture, but don’t know if you really believe you’re that status spiritually. I don’t know if the nuts and bolts of me include Korean, but I do know the nuts and bolts of me definitely include American. I suppose until I answer it with definition, “Yes, I am Korean” or “No, I’m not Korean”–I’ll always answer “Sure, I’m Korean American” with a question mark at the end.
I’d love to meet you and really, all the Korean Americans out there, or Koreans, or Americans… (that might be part of the 21-year-old thing of wanting to see and know the world =) ) .. so feel free to Facebook me. I’m an artist, and will have my website up by the end of February 2010: elliceypark.blogspot.com.
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