Friday, I treated the day as any other. Kids to class and a haircut, a little pottery trimming, lunch with my daughter and grocery shopping filled the hours. I was looking for solace from the week. The clay was forgiving and conceded.
As I drove home from my last errand, courage welled in my chest … my index finger pressed the FM button. On the public radio station, the words, the words, the words. Just words, but more …
“We came back to OUR country where we no longer need to be politically correct!” said a former missionary who had been in Central America since Obama’s election.
I hung my head and cried in my car. Had you asked me many years ago, before I formed my identity as a Korean adoptee with Puerto Rican and Tennessee influences, I might have said the same, “my country.”
Back then, I was proudly “Oriental” and “exotic” as I tried to live the “melting pot” persona I needed to survive. One evening my prideful tears confronted a South African man in my Rwandan living room as he attacked the “Americans” he had met, white, safari goers with big voices and lots of cash.
I defended my background and the America I thought mine. Through tears, I told him he was generalizing. I told him of my family back in Tennessee. He laughed at my naïveté and my silly passion for a country. “My country sucks, but if you criticized it, I would NOT be in tears,” he told me.
My mother always emphasized that we came from very modest beginnings. “Never forget we came from nothing.” Her words would drive me to work hard, get good grades and do all I could to counter her “I never went to college, nor did your grandmother; actually she never finished elementary school.”
This was the young girl who cried when her country was slighted. She reflected on the poor county in eastern Tennessee, in the Appalachian mountains. That was her country.
But I am no longer that girl. I am a woman who has grown to understand the pain of marginalization, not because of the America I once believed in but because INSIDE the United States of America, there are those who see me instantly as a threat to the status quo. As a single adult, I coped, but I as a mother, I can no longer just cope.
My week leading up to Friday was filled with discussions of others’ perceptions that we were “dog eaters because of the eyes.” If only those who throw words to hurt my children and me could really understand the privilege they hold where they can choose what they eat and look down on those who may have survived a war by eating what meat was available.
This country I called home has mistaken me and forsaken me.