Korean American

I’ve never viewed myself as a Korean American, even though technically I am one. I was born in Busan and lived there only long enough to know I wasn’t wanted before I was shipped to Mississippi. As a nationalized citizen, I take a lot of pride in being a citizen of this nation. I almost feel like I remember, and maybe it’s from the photos I’ve seen, the day I stood before the judge and became an American and was given a coin. It was one of those memorable moments like when I was baptized.

I’m a pretty white guy and it’s not just the last name of Cushman that makes me feel that way. Growing up we’d order take out from the Oriental restaurant in Memphis, that was until they found squirrels in their freezer. I didn’t have many Asian friends and my school was mostly full of Viets, Cambodians, and Malaysians so I never really fit in with them. This became apparent when they’d go to their ESL class and I stayed in my English class with the rest of the white and black kids. Those are the moments I truly knew I wasn’t Asian.

There were brutal reminders I wasn’t white or black though. The constant jokes and taunts from the other kids. The fights… the many fights I got in as a child that I never started, but I was going to be damned if I was gonna let some kid talk shit to my face. I mean, I was a Cushman and we had a lot of pride in our name. But I was an adopted Cushman and boy did the kids remind me of that fact. I felt that outlier even from my own relatives and this underlying feeling that we were just… different. I’ve never even been invited to a cousin’s wedding and I don’t talk to any distant family members much since all my grandparents are dead. When I lost my college scholarships due to a board suspension my senior year of high school, I learned the hard fact that self defense is not a defense in the face of the greater majority. I was a true minority.

I’m almost 39 years old now and many things have changed in my life. I found my first Asian friends in college, I fell in love with my birth nation… then fell back out of love with it after the rejection of my birth mom. I thought I’d grown used to the incredulous comments when I say my name like “are you sure you are Jason Cushman?” I thought I’d finally grown to know my nation, even after the military.

And then this virus hit. The side glances are normal, I’ve always lived in either white or black neighborhoods where people wonder if I belong there. But fear brings a new factor and new layer to people’s perceptions and I find myself again feeling like I have to prove I belong where I’ve always been. It gets old and I’m getting older.

I’m tired of it.

-Opinionated Man

44.1

23 thoughts on “Korean American

  1. Wow Jason! I so related to this. I used to have the same problem being half white, half Hispanic. In the area and time I grew up, it was not all that common. I remember daddy telling me, “if you think you’re different, you’ll be treated differently” and pretty much that was my attitude and it worked most of the time. There was one time, someone looked at me sidewise. He had watched every move I made or syllable I uttered and after awhile, said, “You know, you’re alright!” I hadn’t realized I was being so scrutinized, so I was justifiably offended. I responded, “why wouldn’t I be?”
    So, I get it. There are a good many assholes in this world, but never forget there are still a good many people out there too. We love you Jason!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “If you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.” — Jean Sibelius

    40 years ago I married my wife (neat how that worked out), at that moment my family cut all ties to me. No reason given. No actual acknowledgment. Just no invites to births, weddings, graduations, nothing. I have accepted it as fact and have moved on, sadly, but resolutely.

    People, even ones you know, are assholes, and we simply don’t have enough proctologists to cure them. Just ignore the people, you’re better than they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t listen to them, their behavior is a reflection of their parents’ bad parenting, you belong were your heart is whether that’s USA or Korea or anywhere in between as it happens in a lot of cases. As a black person raised in White Europe I understand your concerns, best of luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jason, your value is not based on others’ opinions, when they do not know you. You are valuable,, unique and special. God created you and no one can say different. Ignorant people try to put down others based on their own issues. Ignore them because they are not worth the effort. Hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. My love affair really launched with the K-drama Crash Landing on You. But long before that, I now can see, seeds were planted. My next younger brother and I were friends of a brother and sister who attended our school. These kids were American Koreans.
    When my dad lived in Seattle during a time of marital separation from my mom, he met a guy who became a very good friend. I don’t recall the man’s name but I felt like I knew him; he is Korean.
    More recently my husband and I discovered a small, wonderful, local Korean restaurant. It is there I discovered why my dad would rave about his buddies Kimchi. Not only did I grow to love the food, but also we have grown fond of the proprietor; a lovely kind lady.
    But my true interest and fascination in the culture, the people and the history of Korea really blossomed as I fell in love the with characters of Crash Landing on You. While I realize this is a fictional drama, it nevertheless has served to awaken me to an interest in my brothers and sisters of this culture.
    My adult daughter feels the same and thus it is we are frustrated and disappointed with the changes this world wide pandemic has brought about as we were planning a vacation to go to South Korea.
    In the meantime, she is perfecting the making of Kimchi.
    ps. one of my longest and dearest friends is American Japanese. I adore her bi-racial kids (who are now grown up and having kids of their own). Another of my best friends in life is an American Mexican; she was a kind and lovely friend. I see my friends as my sisters; my friends; skin color and “race” is irrelevant. I believe mankind started out at the beginning of creation a composition of all races combined. I believe with the separation of languages and thus the segregation of peoples, combined with time is what brought about different races. I believe underneath our skin we are all the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 😦 People can be such self-centered shitheads who don’t take into account anything that goes beyond their own shit-filled vision. Ignore them whenever possible, and for God’s sake don’t get into any fights. They’re not worth your energy, or even your attention.
    Sending you even more distant air hugs than usual.

    Liked by 1 person

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