Actually, I am what I call a ‘second generation immigrant’, because, you know, I’m doing an English degree and happen to know my shit. You wouldn’t believe how many fights I’ve gotten into with white people saying that I am a first generation immigrant, because apparently my parents don’t exist.
People also often fail to wrap their heads around the fact that I am bi-cultural; biracial they can understand, probably because of the colour difference, but in general too many hyphens and country names in a person’s ethnicity tends to confuse people. My mother is Singaporean. My dad is Korean. My mother didn’t even know where Korea was on the map before she met dad. They don’t have the same mother tongue or anything in common.
So I am, like a lot of Asian Australians, caught between three worlds. I am not Korean. I am not Singaporean. And my passport claims I am Australian but my fellow Australians beg to differ.
I am also very Anglicized; and a lot of Asian Australians, especially bicultural or biracial Asian Australians and second-generation Asian Australians, are quite Anglicized. I am monolingual. I don’t fit any stereotypes. The cultures of the lands that gave me the colour of my skin are as foreign and uncomfortable to me as WASP culture. It’s double alienation and it is a deeply uncomfortable identity. People read my existence as an act of rebellion, an awkward slice of post-colonialism that doesn’t really fit anywhere into their Great Man narrative.
Constantly being cast as ‘the Asian’ is endlessly frustrating, because I am not. If you know me, as a person, you’ll know that I very rarely do anything out of character. But if you see me as an Asian, everything I do is random and weird and cause for discussion and criticism. I can’t science to save my life. I’m not particularly skinny or waifish. I don’t really like K-Pop. I can’t speak another language. I’m an arts student. This is not ‘Asian’; but I’m not Asian. I’m me.
Australians are a deeply patriotic people; patriotic to the point of bigoted, sometimes. So are Koreans. Singaporeans treat their nationality more as an elite club than as a nation, but whatever goes. And I have been routinely rejected by these people over, and over, and over again; since before I was born, when my parents casually caused a ruckus by casually eloping and producing Mudblood children. You may take patriotism with a pinch of salt, but I cannot begin to tell you what it feels like to know that you don’t have your own people; you don’t have your own team, and there’s nobody rooting for you.
And I don’t need the criticism. I can’t cook anything more Korean than instant noodles. Shoot me. I’m monolingual – but so are you; my parents, like your parents, only have English as a common tongue. I was rejected by the Asian community for being a wild, loud child and now for being a wild, loud slut; but they still rage when I don’t date their sons. I don’t need to be criticized for my lack of Asianness. The Asians don’t want me.
Let me own my Anglicization. It’s not an act; it’s not an aspiration to be white. It’s what I am. And as the child of three cultures, and the pariah of all of them, this is all I have.