Like many immigrants who move to the United
States, my parents immigrated to the United States in order have a better life.
The American life. My dad gave up his engineering career in Korea and my mom,
an accomplished dancer, immigrated to the United States in 1987 to start anew.
Like many others, my parents firmly believed that the possible future outcomes for
their children were much greater than those possible in Korea.
Growing up, I always
believed I was an “average American kid”. I always suppressed and de-emphasized
the ‘Korean’ in Korean-American. I tried to be more “white” by playing sports
and avoiding stereotypical Asian extracurricular activities like orchestra.
However, as much as I tried to assimilate into the white culture, my parents
always felt like an embarrassing reminder that I was different from the other
kids at school. Meeting the parents of my white friends, I’ll admit I always
felt a bit of frustration with my dual heritage, which I viewed as a
shortcoming in American society. I was emotionally tired of trying to reconcile
my outside appearance with what I yearned to be inside. I always felt ashamed
of my parents because they didn’t fit the mold of an average American family.
Knowing my interest to
pursue law, my brother insisted I meet his friend David. David is a DACA
recipient. Although I knew there were recipients of all races, I never
consciously thought about Asian American DACA recipients. We talked for several
hours and met several more times after that. Sharing his experiences as an
“alien minor,” David described the struggles, but more strongly emphasized the
effort to give back to other immigrants who were trying to find their way. I was deeply moved to know that someone who had
endured so much pain could overcome so much and still be so selfless and
thankful. David’s testimony resonated with me and I began to open up my heart
to my heritage which I had suppressed for so long. I finally began to embrace
what I had seen as the seemingly detrimental half of my heritage. For so long, I viewed my
Korean heritage as a drawback in American society. Eventually, I understood the
nature of my frustration. I wanted to fit the mold of what I perceived as
an “American” and had tried to renounce my culture at every turn. Yet by
doing so, I was casually brushing off the sacrifices my parents made.
I took for granted the
struggles my parents faced in order to make my life what it is today.
As a child of immigrants, I am the embodiment
of my parent’s American Dream. My story isn’t unique in that I am the son of
hard working immigrants. However, I have recognized ______ and I have
reconciled my past “shame?”
. Hearing narratives of many
immigrants, I humbly learned the challenges that many immigrants had to face in
order to achieve succeed. The testimonies of family members and friends has
inspired me to want to help others in similar situations.
Many immigrants, including my parents and David, know what it is
like to navigate a complex, and often unfriendly system. As a second generation
American, I want to use my gifts, including my fluency in other languages, to
be an advocate for minorities and help them achieve their American Dream. Looking back, it seems ironic that I have found solace in
embracing what I had tried to reject for so long.