Some Cultural Insight

July 17, 2009 at 1:30 pm Leave a comment

This morning, I took part in a company held diversity training workshop as part of my on-the-job training. It was meant to be a few exercises in tolerance, diversity, and understanding one another better, but I came away from it with a couple of new thoughts about my cultural identity that I felt I should share here.

The first exercise of the morning was designed to break the ice and get us thinking. The instructor laid a piece of tape along the floor, dividing the room in half. We were supposed to stand on one side of the line if we agreed with a statement he read, and supposed to stand on another side if we disagreed. The statements were vague items written to be open for interpretation. Culturally speaking, the other participants were very diverse and their input was enlightening. I see myself as having a unique view about culture (well maybe more confused than unique) due to the fact that I was adopted and have missed out on my culture for most of my life.  

The question that triggered my thought process didn’t actually have a lot to do with culture. The trainer asked “Does the way you were raised affect how you deal with things in the work place?”

My answer was undeniably a huge yes.

My life has been shaped by my losses and my triumphs. For a large part of my life, I was a sad, confused, lonely girl. I have used my experiences to learn and grow into a young woman who is finally starting to figure things out on her own. I believe the trials I have weathered have led me to be a strong individual. I also know the lack of Korean culture and the loss of my natural family has forever marked me in an irreversible way just as my adoptive family have forever changed me.

Recently I’ve struggled a lot with my racial identity. Who am I? How do I be Korean when I don’t even remember Korea? How do I balance and shift between White Katie and Korean Katie? Is it possible to navigate between two cultures that are not really mine?

I can’t be Korean Katie as she would have been had I not been adopted. I can’t be White because that is not my race. It does not belong to me, it’s borrowed from someone else. So who am I supposed to be? A combination of the two things I can never be, no matter how hard I try?

No. It really shouldn’t be that hard. I should not be damned to a life of confusion.

In my mind I have reconciled my Korean heritage by the belief that I am my mother’s daughter. Come what may, I am always hers. As long as her blood runs through my veins, I am her daughter. I am Korean. That is something that cannot be taken away. My mom, my family, my birthdate, and my culture were taken, but my Korean-ness cannot be taken. Even though it is not something conscious, it is always there, waiting for me

I also am undeniably American. I love America. I really do. The core values of hard work, determination, freedom of speech, and perserverance are all things I strongly believe in. I have cried on the fourth of July, moved, as the flag was raised and fireworks celebrated the tenacity of the people who fought so that I, among millions of others could be free. I love the mish mash of cultures and ideals and the beauty of such a great country where anything is possible. America is something I may not have experienced had I not been adopted and it is a silver lining in a sad situation.

The only way for me to be true to myself, is to be mindful of both who I was when I was born, who my ancestors are, and where I began, and also of the good and bad experiences I have come through as a pretend white girl. Both of those things are pieces of me. They are beautiful shards of broken glass that put together a reflection of who I am.

The answer is not as simple as I would have liked, not at all cut and dry. I still have a long way to go with realizing fully who I am and where I belong. But I am one step further, one little bit more at peace with myself.


Entry filed under: adoption, Connection, History, International Adoption, Race, Transracial Adoption.

A Tidbit of Information Financial Difficulty…

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