Kate is a Korean-American student currently attending college in New York. Read her story on experiencing her first bout of “otherness” here, as well as her childhood in a predominantly white school.
Samantha: Why don't you tell us first of all about your cultural identity and how you still interact with it today?
Kate: Yeah, so I'm Korean-American, and honestly it's a little difficult for me, I don't really live around this area, I live in a super.... majority White area. So, it's definitely difficult, especially because being surrounded by not a ton of people of color, I don't really have a lot of contact with my culture, and my parents don't really either. But I guess it helps reaching out to other people who are also Korean, and trying to I guess, mingle with them and find shared experiences and interests.
Serena: That's super cool. Have you lived in that area—the majority White area - your entire life?
Kate: Yeah, I mean I'm in college now, so I definitely - like I go to college in the city, so it's definitely a lot better. But it was tough growing up, you know?
Samantha: Do you feel like when you were growing up, was it just because of the people around you being different? Or was there any like, direct hostility towards you?
Kate: I feel it's definitely... Like for me, there were only two other Asians in my entire school, so there was always that feeling of like, otherness, and being constantly seen as some foreign. There wasn't a lot of direct hostility, but there were a lot of people who did make sure I knew I wasn't one of them. It wasn't necessarily overt. I guess it's just a lot of microaggressions that have just kind of added up over the years.
Serena: Did you notice a big change when you went to college? I guess in the city, that would happen.
Kate: Oh, yeah, god. It's just like, I was able to connect with so many more Asian-Americans, which is such a nice little change. But also, I experienced a lot of different other cultures too, which is fun.
Samantha: Was there a specific moment growing up when you were hit by that moment of otherness that you mentioned?
Kate: There was another girl in my grade who is Chinese, and I remember—I was in second grade, and her class came to our class for recess. And I remember that day, a few kids in my class who were my friends went up to my teacher and were like, "is it possible for two people to not be related and look exactly alike?"
Serena: Oh, no!
Kate: Which is like, it was innocent, like they didn't mean any harm by it. But obviously, I was like, "yup." That was like, the first moment I felt really different, and I grew up hating my identity because of that, just for how different I felt from other people.