catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 11 :: 2007.06.01 — 2007.06.15


Strangers and aliens

I get asked all the time, “So, is your mom Asian?” Well, sort of. One is.

I am an ethnic Korean with a Scots-Irish last name. I confuse people all the time. It’s awesome. In 1985, a white couple—German, Irish, Scottish, and maybe even a little French in there, we’re not too sure—adopted a baby girl from South Korea, a little girl who’s sitting here writing this article and eating a sandwich. When they did so, I doubt they had any idea what their daughter would go through trying to figure out her ethnic identity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for interracial adoption, but understand: it’s hard sometimes, no matter how much exposure your kid gets to his or her native culture, for a kid to figure out where his or her place is.

It’s strange: I’m too “white” to really fit in to Asian culture—I haven’t been immersed in the food and the music and the general attitude—but I look too Asian to completely fit in with “white culture”, whatever that means. I was eligible for affirmative action-based scholarships in college; I was solicited by all the Asian sororities. It gets a little confusing at times.

But this is one of the interesting effects that globalization has: we can adopt children of any ethnicity we want, really. One of my professors in college grew up in small-town Minnesota, but he can pass for a Spaniard if he wants to because he’s spent so much time there. Not that his Minnesota roots don’t mean anything, just like my Korean roots mean something, but they’re not everything. They don’t define him. So it’s okay.

More importantly, though, I am ultimately not defined by the color of my skin or the culture I grew up in. Christ erases those borders, so that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”—or Korean or Spaniard or Texan or German or what have you, for that matter—“for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). My justification, by grace through faith, is what makes me who I am, not my ethnicity.  Christ transcends national and racial boundaries.

Is there anything wrong with having a strong ethnic identity? Of course not—it’s your heritage, what has shaped you into the person you are today, and you ought to give that respect to your ancestors. But for those of us who have been displaced, and even for those who haven’t been, it’s a great comfort to know that our final citizenship is of the Kingdom. Amen.

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