Belonging to two racial groups might give you the idea that I must feel a connection to both. I should feel like I belong more, right? I belong to two groups, not just one.
I would say it’s quite contrary to that belief. Being mixed-race is such an odd middle ground to be in because you never feel like you really belong to a group. Instead of feeling inside of both racial groups, I feel like the outsider of my white and Korean background. I can never fully relate to either group.
As a half-Korean raised in Utah, I can’t completely relate to my white peers. I realized this once when sitting with a group of friends in college. I was in a group with mostly white people when the subject of racism came up. A friend began to argue that racism wasn’t an issue, people just take things too personally.
Their comment struck me as offensive. As they continued I was stunned no one was saying anything to contradict her comment. I realized no one in this group had ever experienced racism. They had never been the butt-end of an Asian joke or had someone mock their eye shape.
This made me realize I can never relate to the people I grew up with because of their inexperience with racism. However, I can never fully relate to Korean culture either.
I was never raised in a Korean household. My father was adopted from South Korea when he was a baby. I don’t speak Korean, I have never had authentic Korean food and I know nothing of my real ancestors from Korea. Essentially, I have no tie other than my race. The only thing I can relate to is experiences with racial prejudice.
I am stuck in the middle. I can’t fully identify with a group because of my race and culture. I am an outlier who sees both sides, a person who was raised in a white culture that still struggles to accept me. However, I am also a person who doesn’t feel qualified to go to an Asian ward in Provo.
So you see, that’s my conundrum. I don’t fit into the white culture because of how I look and I don’t fit into Korean culture because of how I was raised. It’s a weird middle ground only a niche group of people understands.
This brings up so many issues for personal identity. Can I identify with a race I am only tied to by genetics? Can I identify with the culture I was raised in, or does that mean I am disrespecting my ethnicity? How do I balance it? I am not completely either, so I can’t say I am white OR Korean.
Don’t even get me started on the confusion I feel when demographic questions come up on applications or surveys.
“Oh no, there’s no mixed option… I guess I will just put Asian? Because I am not really white? I am also not really Asian though?”
It’s always a weird internal struggle! This is your friendly reminder to please include mixed as an option when you survey for racial demographic.
I can’t ever really belong to either group. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t find belonging. I have met people in my life who feel the same whether that be because they are LGBTQ and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or adopted and raised in Utah.
Belonging can be found in shared experiences. It can be in the shared experiences of hard trials or because of a love of Star Wars. I think we get this wrong idea that belonging is all about race. We can feel marginalized because of racism or different experiences, but our sense of belonging comes from connection.
I have many friends who would never make fun of the way I look or who I relate with because of shared interests. I may never belong or fully identify with a racial group, but that doesn’t mean I have to always feel alone.
To be honest, I feel more belonging when a person accepts me for who I am than when I am around someone who is white or Korean. Belonging is created rather than inherited.
— Kelsey Mae Nield