Being Half Invisible in America

Have you ever felt like part of you was invisible? That is how I feel every time I’m out and about. I feel as if only half of who I am is recognized and the other half is not.

When people look at me, they automatically perceive me to be a certain race based on the color of my skin, eyes, and hair. With these perceptions come the stereotypes that flicker through their minds. Without even saying a single word to me, I become The Asian One or The Exotic Looking One. I’ve been experiencing this all my life. You would think I would be used to it by now. You would think that I wouldn’t care and that I shouldn’t let it get to me. But it does.

What people don’t realize when they look at me is that I am more than what they think. There is another ‘half’ that I still proudly claim. There is another half of me that I desperately want people to recognize. People fail to see me as who I truly am because they are ruled by judgements and assumptions. I look a certain way with a certain coloring; therefore, I must be this.

But everything is not always black or white. Everything must not always be judged by its cover. In order for us not to be ruled by judgements and assumptions, we must be willing to look closely at the minute details. We must be willing to not just look at the coloring, but the shape of the nose, the tilt of the chin, or the shape of the mouth.

My entire life, for as long as I can remember, I have always been told that I look more like my white father. And yet, people look at me and say that I am Asian. These two things contradict each other in my mind. How can I look like my white father and yet still look more Asian? How is that even possible? What does that even mean?

I grew up in the Deep South where there aren’t a lot of Asians or even half Asians. When people see me, they automatically brand me from what they’ve seen in the media. If I had grown up in a more Hapa-dominated community, then people would probably brand me as a Hapa. When I visited Korea a decade ago, I was able to seamlessly fit in, because people assumed that I was one of them. It is definitely all about perspective.

So, what is it like to be half Asian and half white? It feels the same way as being half Asian and half invisible. I feel like my white half is hidden from view. I feel like it’s lurking deep inside of me, only coming out when I reveal my utter ignorance in K-dramas or K-pops, or my inability to read Korean. It reveals itself when I need to google a word in Korean or google a Korean recipe.

I love being half Asian and half white. I wouldn’t have it any other way, mostly because this is all I know. I don’t know what it’s like to be full Asian or full white. And yet, people treat me as if I am. They expect me to behave as if I am. But that’s not who I am.

I am a person who is the product of two different races and cultures. I am a mixture of both, but not one or the other. I am my own person, someone who is slowly coming to terms with who I am despite the societal assumptions that weighs heavily on me.

But most of all, half-invisible or not, I am me.

5 Best Things About Being Half Korean

Photo by Ethan Brooke on

Being half Korean, half Caucasian is completely different from being just Korean or just white. Being biracial feels as if you’ve got one foot in each “world.” You aren’t just one, but part of two whole entities, as well as one you. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be mixed, unless if you’re mixed yourself.

Today, I will talk about the five best things about being half Korean.

1–The Language

Growing up, I spoke Korean at home with my mom. One of my earliest memories is of her reminding, even gently warning, me to never stop speaking Korean. She knew that when you stop speaking or using a language, then you are more likely to forget it. She didn’t want that to happen to me. She wanted me to be able to speak Korean so that I can communicate with the relatives in Korea.

It was really cool being able to speak two languages at home. The best thing about speaking another language is that you can speak that language in public and no one knows what you just said. And Korean isn’t as widely spoken as Spanish or French, especially in the south. It’s definitely like your own special language.

2–The Food

I remember many mornings waking up to find my grandmother or my mother in the kitchen, sitting on the newspaper covered floor, and making kimchi. I loved to see them making kimchi. I was the unofficial “taste tester.”

I would often sit across from them and dip my finger into the spicy, red kimchi sauce. I would shiver in delight as the spice ran through my body. The expectation of soon seeing a huge, fresh new jar of kimchi made me giddy with excitement. Of course, I didn’t like to think that I would still have to wait at least one week to eat the kimchi. Because older kimchi tastes so much better than new, freshly made kimchi.

Besides kimchi, there are so many other Korean dishes that are so delicious. I love to eat a bowl of white rice with some banchan, or side dishes, such as seaweed, little anchovies, braised eggs, omelets, bean sprouts, and more. I love the stews and soups, such as kimchi jigae and bean sprout soup. I love to eat noodles with gochujang (hot pepper paste) and sliced cucumbers. I love to eat melon bars (ice cream made out of Korean melons). I love kimchi pancakes. There’s just so much. Maybe I’ll do a separate blog post on some of my favorite Korean foods.

Photo by Vicky Tran on

3–The Clothes

When I was younger, my grandmother would bring us — my parents and I — hanboks from Korea. If you don’t know, hanboks are the national clothing of Korea. They are made of very fine, delicate, almost silky material. I always felt so special, wealthy, and like a princess whenever I wore my hanbok. I’ve never worn another even close to a hanbok before.

Photo by @thiszun (follow me on IG, FB) on

4–The Privilege

When you are half Korean, you do have a certain amount of privilege. I remember growing up and everyone in my mother’s side of the family praising my looks. They always remarked at how beautiful I was because I have certain western features that are considered to be very attractive in the eastern world. They often praised my double eyelids, long eyelashes, long, thin nose, and thick eyebrows. As a result, I grew up with an overinflated self esteem, believing myself to be beautiful, all because I was mixed.

I also feel like I have a certain amount of privilege being half Korean, half Caucasian. Asians are often thought of as the model minority. You very rarely see an Asian in the news for doing something terrible. Asians have the stereotype of being smart and rich. I have benefited from this throughout my life. Because of my race, many people look at me and assume that I must be very smart. I have never been scared to walk alone at night. I have never been scared of going into a store and being followed by the sales people.

So, in regards to that, I feel like I am doubly privileged. I am doubly privileged because of the way I look and how I am treated within this country.

5–The Freedom of Choice

One thing I loved about being biracial is that I get to choose more than one race on college and job applications. If I want, I can choose white. If I want, I can choose Asian. If I want, I can choose both or neither or even other (whatever that is).

I can choose whatever I want. When you are biracial, then you have the freedom and the luxury to choose what you want to be identified as. No one has the right to make that choice for you. I love that I can choose all of my races.

But most of all, being Hapa has given me the opportunity to experience both worlds. And for that, I am doubly thankful.

What is the best thing about your life?

What It’s Like Being Hapa in America: Part One

My daughter and I. My daughter is part Asian and I am half Asian.

For as long as I can remember, my mom described America similar to how most foreigners of her generation did: as a place where people can go to achieve their dreams. America is a place where people of many different races live together. In theory, this is great. But practically, this is far from the truth. Particularly if you are Hapa.

I was born to a white father and a Korean mother. The ambiguity of my “race” has always been something that I’ve had to embrace and try to accept from a young age. In fact, one of my first memories in America was my parents telling me that my mom was Asian and my dad was American. They said that made me Asian American. 

I was six or seven years old when they told me this. 

I just nodded obediently, hardly caring. At that point, the only differences I noticed between my parents was that my mom had dark hair and dark eyes and my dad had brown hair and green eyes. I didn’t understand why my parents were telling me what I should identify as. What did it matter? I was a girl, I was happy, and at that time, that was enough for me.

It should have been enough. But I was forced to face the issue of my race at my elementary school. I remember the kids at school looking at me asking me “where are you from?” I remember they didn’t ask the other kids. Only me

I’ll be honest. I didn’t know what they meant. What do you mean? Where am I from? I’m from America. I was born in Texas. But they kept asking me. I told them I was born in Texas but they didn’t seem satisfied. Because it wasn’t the answer that they were looking for.

Obviously, they were asking me for my ethnicity, my heritage, my parents’ nationality. They looked at me and automatically branded me as a certain race. They were the same age I was.  Already they were asking me where I was from. Already I was different. I wasn’t like them.

I wasn’t like them because I wasn’t able to fit into one box. Here in America, you have to “pick” what race you are on college and job applications. If your parents or even grandparents are of different races, then how can you choose just one race? Choosing one race or ethnicity is almost like denying part of who you are. Part of what makes you you.

It took me the better part of my teenage years as I struggled to figure out who I was. Of course, this is normal for a teenager. Teenagers are in a constant search to find themselves, To figure out who they are. For some that is easy. For others, it is harder. I didn’t just have to figure out who I am and who I want to be, but I had to figure out which race I was. Was I white? Was I Asian? I was American and that should have been good enough for everyone but in this country, it’s not enough. You are not just American, but also white American, or black American, or Asian American. You are something-American. We are defined by the color of our skin and the place(s) that are ancestors came from. And that’s not right.

Eventually, I learned about the word hapa. Hapa is a Hawaiian word which originally referred to someone who is half white and half Hawaiian. Now, however, it refers to anyone who is half-Asian. They could be half-Asian, half black or half-Asian, half-Hispanic, and they would be Hapa.

I soon discovered that there is an entire community of people who identify as Hapa. I finally found where I belong. I belong in this community. I am a Hapa. I am half-white, half-Asian. That is my race. My ethnicity. That is who I am.

I am so proud to be a Hapa.

Here are some books about the Hapa/multiracial experience.

What does racism mean to me?

In light of George Floyd and other recent events, this has been a hot topic lately. So, let’s discuss racism but more specifically what it means to me. To me, racism is what happens when people judge and make assumptions. Racism is when people just look at the color of your skin and make judgments on a person’s character based on preconceived stereotypes.

In this country at least, people are so fixed on putting people into a certain category of race. Well, not everyone fits neatly into a particular category. Some people, myself included, are mixed. We can identify as more than one race, or no races, or just multiracial.

As a multiracial person — someone of white and Asian descent — I’ve spent the vast majority of my life having people call me really derogatory names. I’ve had people make fun of me for the color of my skin, the shape of my eyes, or even the way I talk. Having grown up in the deep south only made it worse and succeeded at accentuating my differences from the people around me.

Being different from other people can cause misunderstandings, hatred, and prejudices. These racial differences are what is separating us in American society. The quicker that we can come together as one race, as one nationality — Americans — the better off we will be. Why are people called African American, Asian American, white American? What can’t we simply be American? We were all born here, we grew up here, so we are all American. We shouldn’t just be defined by the places that our ancestors were from.

We should be defined by who we are on the inside. We shouldn’t be judged every time we walk out our front doors. We shouldn’t be scared to call the police. We should simply be. We are Americans. Together, we can achieve much greatness, but only if we are united. After all, this country is called the United States. For as long as we are united, we will be great.

Here are some books about race that I really enjoyed:

The Biracial Experience

thinking image at

Being biracial in today’s society brings a certain amount of responsibility. The society of today expects you to be able to fit neatly into a certain box. But what happens if you can’t?  What happens if you find that you can fit into both boxes, but at the same time, neither one?

When that happens, a certain conflict rises within the biracial individual. Imagine a person who has a white mother and a black father, making him half and half. Who is he? What is he? Is he black because his complexion is dark brown, like his father? Is he white because he was raised by mother?Society would naturally want to identify him as ‘black’ because it is easy and simple. And let’s face it, society likes things that are easy and simple.

But sometimes choosing something that is both easy and simple might not be the right thing to do. Imagine that very same person choosing to identify as black because that’s what society says he is. Even though he does not know what that means, never having known his father. Even though he was raised by his white mother and grew up knowing and loving his relatives from that side of the family. So, should he continue to identify as black because of society? Or should he identify as white? Or, should he identify as biracial?

I am bringing up this hypothetical example because I don’t believe that it is right to label someone based on the color of their skin or their appearance. I believe that what a person chooses to identify as is solely his or her responsibility. No one else’s.

And yet, too often, many of us in going about our daily lives will see someone and we automatically cast them as ‘belonging’ to a certain race. Is that right? Is it right to quickly judge someone? And then, once you do, there are a certain amount of misconceptions and stereotypes that arise. Sometimes we focus too much on the outer appearance that we hardly give consideration for what’s on the inside, on the core. And yet, we still choose to label because it is what is easy and simple. But as we know, what is easy and simple is not always right.

As someone who identifies as biracial, this is a matter that is ultimately very close to my heart. Having grown up with two parents, a white American father and a South Korean mother, this issue is something that I have always carried inside me. I have always had this conflict inside me. The constant questions about who I was that were undoubtedly fueled even harder by society wanting to put me in one box.

But, I can be pretty stubborn so I resisted. I refused to let society label me. I refuse to answer strangers’ questions such as ‘where are you from?’ or ‘what are you?’ As far as I’m concerned, I consider those questions incredibly disrespectful and impolite. By asking those questions, they are simply asking me to choose between those two sides. By asking those questions, all they see is my outer appearance and nothing more.

It is certainly interesting that it is only when we start maturing into adults do we start to question who we are and where we fit into society. In the context of the biracial experience, I did not identify myself, or even my parents, as belonging to a particular race. To me, they were just my mother and my father.

But as I entered middle school and then high school, I was forced to question this more heavily, primarily because of what my peers, my teachers and even what strangers have said. Do you know what it feels like to have someone look at you as if you are exotic and strange and different and even unamerican? Do you know what it feels like to have strangers look at you with one of your parents and think that you must be adopted or how could you be their child? Or do you know what it feels like to have your neighbor think that you are a spouse of your opposite sex parent simply because of the differing skin color?

Well, I have and it’s not fun. It’s actually even downright hurtful. The natural human tendency is for us to belong to something, to anything. And when we are told from a young age that we don’t quite belong, it wakens all sorts of issues that are probably better off lying dormant within you.

Because of that, I have had to ask myself questions that your ordinary adolescent or young adult wouldn’t normally ask. I have had to wonder would things be different if my parents were the same race? Yes, things would be different.

But if my parents were the same race, then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow up bilingual – English & Korean – and even bicultural. I wouldn’t have grown up eating scrambled eggs and toast and grits for breakfast and then kimchi for lunch and dinner. I would have had a totally different perspective on life. And if I hadn’t been biracial, I probably would have made the very same judgments that people have made about me.

I can’t change who I am. Nor do I want to. The only thing that I can do is to move forward, proud and confident about who I am and how I came to be the person I am. I have both my mother and my father, as well as two very strong cultural backgrounds, to thank for that. And for that, I should be grateful.

By embracing both cultures and heritages, I ultimately fight against all the labels and judgments that I feel are aimed at me.  By focusing inward, I become the person that I was meant to be all along. Yes, I am biracial. But I am more than that. And that is what makes all the difference.

(Thoughts? Please comment below!)