October 28th, 2006

long winded

Culture, Roots, and Me

Don't you hate when you really want to update, really want to write something deep, have even gone so far as to choose the topic and make a mental outline, and then the words just won't come out?

Yeah, me too.

That's what happened just now. We've been talking about this story in French, "Pur Polyester", and I wanted to write about it and its effect on me, but when I put my thoughts down, they sounded so... artificial, almost as if I didn't really mean them at all and was trying to please an audience instead of writing for me. But I was thinking about the story and about where I fit into the mélange of society. After all, we're talking about finding my identity in this mixed-up world where everyone else is also mixed up, but at least most of them fit in the patchwork world a little better.

I thought of everyone asking "So what are you, anyway?" and my curt response: "I'm human. You know, just like you." After all, that's not the best way to ask about one's ethnicity, which was usually brought up by my name--Asian-sounding first name, American-sounding last name. Then I would tell my story, the story of my Korean mother and American father, the story of how I was born here and therefore assimilated into American culture, so no, I don't know any Korean (I wish I did, but not just because I get asked this all the time). However, as assimilated into American culture as I've found myself, some vestiges remain. The academic stereotype remained; it actually manifested itself in a rather odd way. I had to do well because of my inner drive, my motivations, and yes, my parents. There was a sort of stereotype throughout school that I would do well after awhile, not because I was Korean (or part so) but because I was me. If I didn't, though, I would beat myself up a bit for it (not physically; don't worry), but in the end it was okay because I wasn't Korean. This dual expectation was so strange, especially in high school when Polly, a friend of mine who happened to be Korean but pure-blood, and I graduated at the top of the class. The running joke with some of our friends was that you had to be Korean to be at the top of the class. Well, I was a half-blood, but I was still up there.

My oddball personality and interests aside, I can fit into mainstream culture until someone asks about my ethnicity. It comes up for obvious reasons. This makes me think of other minorities, though, those who feel as if they're representing their entire culture in a society where they're being oppressed. While I can blend in perfectly most of the time, I have to ask myself: Who exactly am I representing? I certainly can't be representing the majority white (wow, I despise that word in reference to a race) race, even though I can be mistaken for such, and besides, that's the majority anyway. And I certainly can't be representing the Korean culture as a whole because I... well, why can't I? Why can't I just represent both? We represent ourselves as any aspect of ourselves at any given time, don't we? It just depends on what aspect the world chooses to see: human, college student, Korean, American, female, writer, math geek, grammarian, linguaphile, triviac, Wikipedian, daughter, friend, lover, ...? Don't we just choose what we want to see in people and use our blind spots as long as possible? We can be selective quite easily and label people based on one or two characteristics. In fact, this is how labels are made. It would be a lot harder to label a group of people based on all the characteristics (and those are just a few!) listed just for me. If we were to look at the entire person and not just at a few characteristics, the world would probably be a better place.
Well, that turned out better than I thought.

In other news, it took me five minutes to open a can of chili tonight. I'm serious. To be fair, though, it was a new can opener, and I've used manual can openers before. I've just never used a huge manual can opener before. That can got sliced in places it shouldn't have. I feel for the thing.

Also, Mum bought me salted train mix instead of unsalted. Boo. It's not terribly salted by most people's standards, but for me it's terrible. Have you ever tried to get salt off raisins? I'm about to take a paper clip to it, but that would probably destroy the raisins.

Oh! I figured out what I was doing wrong in the DE problem I was having so much trouble with. I wasn't doing it wrong. I just didn't have a good window to see that I was, in fact, doing it correctly. That's always good to know.