Adoption and Racial Identity

The Importance of Racial Identity

Mother never told me whether it was good or bad to be Asian; she didn't have to. The mocking voices of the kids on the bus had told me that many people thought Asians were second-rate and not as good as whites. A wave of regret washed over my mother's face when she saw the tears streaming down my cheeks. She looked away quickly, said nothing.

That first day of school taught me that not everyone would see me as I saw myself -- a little American girl who liked to show off by dancing to the Beatles. To many I would simply be the "Asian girl," my whole identity reduced to "someone who isn't white."

Today, I'm often asked by friends and acquaintances who've adopted nonwhite children whether I think it's important to address their child's racial identity. I tell them yes, that no matter how strongly they wish to ignore their racial differences, their child must also be ready to meet the world beyond the family -- and for that a child needs a strong positive feeling about being Asian, Latino, Indian. It has taken me years of hard work to understand what it means to be Korean. There have been moments of great joy, but it has also been, at times, a lonely journey -- a journey I wish my family had been willing to take with me when I was still a little girl.

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