American Born Korean


I’m an American born Korean and at work I’m being mistaken for a German born Vietnamese. There is another Asian girl at my workplace who happens to be around my height and with longish black hair but is more “known” in the company because of her administrative position (plus she speaks German), for example emails being sent to the entire company with a distinctly Asian name. This has led to several employees thinking I am this Asian girl. Some apologize, some ignore the fact they have made a mistake and almost seem to blame me for not being the right Asian girl, and others are embarrassed for the mistake, essentially the whole gamut of reactions. Now I wonder when someone says hi, if they’re really saying hi to me or the other Asian girl. Ironically, I doubt this other Asian girl is being mistaken for being me since my contact with the others in the company is limited to the English/ Dutch speaking ghetto.

There was also formerly an HR lady who would send out mass email introductions of all the new faces starting at the beginning of the month and for the Asians, including myself, the introduction was always the standard, this person comes from (blank) and will support the (blank) team whereas for the other Europeans, she would write interesting facts like, this person studied this or travelled the world or was an Elvis impersonator or is bilingual or likes to cook but for the Asians it was always the same non-informative, boring, I can’t distinguish or remember any “personality” from this person therefore resulting in a sentence that represents a presence, this person will be working here but offering no unique, distinguishing contribution.

The graphic novel American born Chinese was recommended by a German friend who actually wrote her Masters thesis on this novel. The graphic novel depicts the role racism (which in high school means being uncool) plays in the manifestation of self-hatred but eventually learning to accept one’s true identity. That Asian-looking boy wearing the blue shirt above literally assumes the body of a blond-haired white guy and as a result of the initial rejection he experienced, his perception of other Asians becomes a caricature, all Asian qualities become über-Asian.

There are of course, Europeans, Germans, Americans who confirm my American identity but sometimes, when they do I am surprised, I realize experiencing other people deny my identity has led to my doubting my own Americanness or at least, how much “American” I can claim. That makes me angry.

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