You’re Korean? Most of you are as surprised as I was to learn that! Many people are because my sister was the one blessed with my mother’s physical attributes. As a matter of fact, I can vividly recall the day she came home from school ranting about her 6th grade class picture. Aside from being a tween (a word not yet invented), I couldn’t understand her disgust. It was beautiful as far a school photos go. She didn’t like it because her friends said she looked Chinese. By this time in my life, as a college freshmen majoring in Elementary/Special Education, I encouraged her to embrace her uniqueness. She didn’t look like anything but who she was designed to be.
The awareness of eternal value regardless of external differences had been a journey for me, and I was pained to know that she would have to learn that for herself. My path to discovery began the day I sat across from the boy stretching the corners of his eyes to make fun of my ethnicity.
It’s ironic that living in the projects taught me to see race and to ignore it. From my best friend to my boyfriend, Jimmy Mac, and from my drug suppliers to those I drug around to stake my territory, they all looked different from me. But, I wasn’t aware.
There’s a saying that becomes clearer as you age: “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” That could have applied to my new situation, but for me, the adage became “you don’t know who they were until they’re gone.” You see, due to the my mother’s limited ability to care for us and the ever-increasing danger of the community, we relocated to be closer to the only relatives we had. I moved into the projects afraid and I left the security of that insecurity resilient. Once again, moving to an income-based apartment complex, I was ready to become queen of the mountain. However, I quickly realized the communal setting was not what I was used to. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
No, wait. I think this is far more like Kansas than I’ve been used to.
As a ten-year-old, diversity became crystal clear to me when there wasn’t any.