19 November 2016

Setting aside my whitish ways …

When I was a white, I talked like a white,
I thought like a white,
I reasoned like a white.

When I became Korean,
I set aside my whitish ways.

When I was a white,
I was “chosen.”

When I became Korean,
I was lost.

When I was a white,
I mourned my mother at her gravesite.

When I became Korean,
I mourned a mother in Korea.

When I was white,
I called myself, “Oriental.”

When I became Korean,
I called myself “Asian.”

When I was white,
I used the word, “Caucasian.”

When I became Korean,
I used the word, “white.”

When I was white,
I rejected the Asian men who loved me,
calling them affectionately, “brothers.”

When I became Korean,
I realized that the men I loved
were always white.

When I was white,
I dated white men.

When I was Korean,
I realized the implicit privilege
I had from my white partners.

When I was white,
I dated a white, Wisconsin-born GI.

When I was Korean,
I realized he never loved me.

When I was white,
I married a British man.

When I was Korean,
I realized he loved me.

16 November 2016

No Fragility Here

A powerful guest post by Melanie Chung-Sherman.
This is where I'm at tonight, and frankly, where I have been for the last several days. It has been somewhere between grief, denial and rage. 

I’ve stayed off social media, but after word of Adam Crasper's deportation (Though his deportation is separate from the events of last week — I want to be careful not to conflate.) and the countless stories of fear and heartache I have heard all week, my silence does nothing. 

If you want to unfriend, unfollow or dismiss, that is your choice. But understand I will not do that to you. I'm trying very hard to listen and learn. But unless we can sit in the pain of marginalized groups without reproach, guilt or defense … very little will change. 

To some extent, I understand the angle of the “safety pin” movement. Frankly, I want to see intentional action, not a stinkin’ pin. 

When someone comes at me with “Go back to your country, chink!” Your safety pin symbolism is useless. First, I can’t see your safety pin when I’m being assaulted verbally (God forbid physically.) because my brain goes into survival mode everytime I experience overt and covert racism. (And, BTW, that really did happen to my dear friend last week in Dallas while she was doing her job … going about her day). 

Secondly, I find that pin is more about you feeling better. 

I'm not looking for safety pins … lately, I’m looking over my shoulder in large, public places so that the renegade, white nationalist doesn’t feel too bold, especially when I'm alone with my boys. 

Where were these “safety pins” as the level of hate-filled rhetoric rose over the last 18+ months? Now this man has risen to power – so give me space and grace if I don't immediately fall into rank and file. Especially after some jackwagon spray-painted a swastika on a public venue with the words “Trump won” to remind me and other minority groups, where we stand. (And, yes, that happened last week, too.) Yeah, that’s painful and scary. 

This level of bigotry and intolerance has been legitimized, unleashed and emboldened over months of saturated fervor — and it is not normal. It is not okay. For those attempting to justify his actions — Do not tell me that you did not know this. Just don't. You did. Where was your safety pin? 

And, no, I get it, not every single person who cast their vote for him believed THAT part of his rhetoric.

But here’s the thing … diet racism and xenophobia is just as complicit. Fragility is exhausting. 

And, yes, I know other people of color who voted for him — my arguments and curiosity remains — because we all have unchecked bias. All of us — including me. Marginalized groups marginalize, too — and we are all accountable. If you did not have to worry about the potential impacts related to your physical safety, race, religion, sexual identity, gender or immigration status after this election, lean in first. 

The fact that I have to reassure my children that I will not be deported should not be a conversation following any U.S. election. As much as I would have liked to shield my kids from that toxicity, they hear it at school, church and on the playground. Where was your safety pin? 

Professionally, I sit across from adoptees, particularly transracial adoptees, who are genuinely scared because they have been already removed from their birth families – so the possibility is real for them. The fact that they have already experienced the trauma of separation and many have experienced the stress of direct racism — this is a real issue for them. Wearing a safety pin does nothing to quell body memory, nor does dismissing their fears. 

Consider what your safety pin will be.

Will you contact your state legislatures to ensure citizenship for all adoptees, under the Adoptee Citizenship Act, particularly minority adoptees? ACLU? Trevor project? Foster care organizations helping youth transition out? 

Will you sit across the table from the disenfranchised and listen without judgment? Will you extend your talents outside your bubble? Will you denounce rehoming? Will you speak out against intolerance beyond social media — speak truth in love to your own family, friends and circles? Will you educate yourself on the historical context of marginalization? Will you learn about what is a vetted journalism/research article source? 

Let's get to work together. There’s a lot to do.

Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, LCPAA, CTS is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in adoption-focused issues. She has worked in child welfare since 1999. A Korean adoptee, she is a mom to two kids, married, and lives in Dallas, Texas.

12 November 2016

This is what my silence wrought.

Thirty-four years ago, I was called a swamp rat.

Thirty-four years ago, I was told to get back on the boat.

Thirty-four years ago, my church harbored racists who spoke these words.

And I was silent. I protected my white family from the ugliness.

Twenty-nine years ago, I lay half dressed on a bed.

Twenty-nine years ago, I felt dirty and used.

Twenty-nine years ago, the frat house I thought was a haven held sexual predators.

And I was silent. I protected the white men who I thought loved me like a little sis.

Four years ago, a studio mate told an inappropriate joke.

Four years ago, a studio mate slapped my butt in the empty studio.

Four years ago, the space that I saw as my solace became tainted.

And I was silent. I protected a white man I had thought was a friend.

Two years ago, at a gala, a man sat next to me and my husband.

Two years ago, this white man reached over and touched my cheek with his palm.

Two years ago, a nice evening turned sour.

And we were silent. We decided this white donor was too important to humiliate.

Four months ago, my son walked the two blocks from the bus stop to our home.

Four months ago, my son was stopped in his neighborhood.

Four months ago, a white man walking his dog asked my son what he was doing here.

And he was silent. He walked with his head down and picked up the pace.

Every school day, my son faces bullying.

Every school day, my son hears words like “rice fag.”

Every school day, my son dreads facing these white oppressors alone.

And he is silent. 

Now, I am no longer silent. We tried to be good, kind, quiet … the model minority.

We have watched our Black brothers and sisters die in front of our eyes, and we have walked beside them in protest. I hoped a white woman would save us, but white supremacy is stronger than we realized. The hold that racism has on the United States has taken my church, my white adoptive family and the public places we once thought safe.

So for now, we huddle at home. I hold my children close as they call America the land of Jim Crow and The Purge. What else can we do?

05 November 2016

Hate Ain’t Great

The word wall in my gray matter has frozen with its little rainbow ball spinning. Writing has always been natural for me … like breathing.

Oh my soul! It is pale blue from suffocation. There lays one lung unable to accommodate air, while the other … unable to exhale. We know what happens when the brain is left without oxygen. Parts of it die.

I cannot make sense of my life as a Korean, as a transracial adoptee, as an …

Do. Not. Say. That Word.

Save us all from that word.

… American!

Navigating through a multi-layered identity as a transracial adoptee is like the Los Angeles commute. All roads lead to absolute standstill. The standstill was tolerable if there was a good audiobook, but those days are over. Ignoring the systemic problem only sustained the status quo.

In my earlier straightforward life, I was that girl who loved America. It had saved me. I played the game well … good student … good wife … good parent. The American dream was mine … until it wasn’t.

What I hid, I regret. Alone without my white privilege, without my adoptive family, without my white husband, I was reminded that I was owned by those who saw me as an object … men who sexually assaulted me before my marriage, men who smacked my ass when my husband was not around, men who touched my face when my husband was seated next to me, and then, the agencies and people who lied to me.

Korea allowed me to face the truths and gave me the ability to swim the sea of like selves. It was euphoric, until I spoke. While Korea felt like it should be mine, it just wasn’t quite mine.

I returned to a place I once called “home,” to find a man who embodied hate, rustling the leaves to reveal the dog shit underneath. The shit is teaming with parasites that invade my home from the bottom of my shoe. They are looking to find a way into my body, and here, these parasites will infect me and eventually kill me.

The America I left has devolved into a hellish, toxic place.

In this place, my son can be asked why he is walking in his own neighborhood.

In this place, a young man can be beaten to death because he is Saudi Arabian.

In this place, a man can rape an unconscious woman and serve little time because the rapist has been traumatized.

In this place, a presidential candidate can talk about grabbing “pussy” as locker room talk and still garner a substantial percentage of the electorate.

In this place, a young transracial adoptee can be assaulted in an Idaho locker room.

This is not America, and may it never see hate as great again.