What are you?

I wanted to share with all of you a major pet peeve of mine.  You may, or may not, know that I was adopted from Korea when I was just an infant and grew up in a small, almost 100% white community.  My family, friends, neighbors, and even my, now, husband are all white.  And though I dealt with my fair share of ignorance growing up in a small town, I almost feel that my physical appearance is brought up more frequently now, that I’m living in the Maryland/D.C. suburbs, than ever before!

Working with the general public I encounter people from all walks of life on a regular basis.  Probably, at least, once a week I have the following conversation with someone:

Person:  Can I ask you a personal question?

Me:  Um…I guess (right there I know exactly where this is headed)

Person:  what are you?

Me: what am I??  (playing dumb)

Person:  What are you? Where are you from? What’s your nationality?

Me: Oh. I’m American (they look surprised by my answer)

Person:  You know what I mean, like what’s your ethnicity?

I usually let them off the hook at this point even though ethnicity is not technically correct…

Me: I’m Korean.

At this point, some will even comment on my “perfect English,” which depending on the day, and my mood, I might thank them (and try not to let my sarcasm bleed through) or tell them I’m adopted.  The latter sometimes opens a whole different can of worms.  I have even had people ask things like if I know my real parents, if I’m angry at them for giving me up, if I would ever go back, and the list goes on.

I’m not sure if these interactions stem from human curiosity or just good old-fashioned ignorance but people never cease to amaze me in this department.  Perhaps, they want to relate in some way, often the person will quickly start telling you about a friend of a friend who also has an oriental daughter…what am I, a rug or something?  It seems that most of the time people are not even aware of a) how ridiculous they sound, and b) how personal and emotional some of those questions are for adoptees.

I wonder if it is just due to being non-caucasian…Do people of other races all have the same weekly conversation with random people they encounter? I can’t figure out why I am asked these questions on such a frequent basis.   What I really want to know is, what gives people the idea that this is okay?  I don’t go around asking every caucasian person I see questions about their most personal struggles and complimenting them on their English…

Here is a funny clip that portrays what I am referring to above.  Some of you may be able to relate to this one.  Enjoy!

Thanks for reading 🙂


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