Un-discovery

Kaia Wirth, Editor in Cheif

Coming to terms with the simple fact that people will see my brown skin before my white upbringing is something I’m still learning how to do. There is an underlying beauty to knowing your identity. To be viscerally aware of the demographic that fits you best, to have an understanding of your place in the world. This is an awareness that I lacked for a great majority of my youth. I’ve spent years trying to find a place for myself, in classrooms, on sports teams, and in my own town. Yet, to truly understand the racial barrier in Kennebunk, Maine, I’d need to return to a much earlier period of time in my life, to the first days of my education. Kennebunk Elementary School, ten years prior. Mrs. Goldberg’s kindergarten class. I wore bright pink leggings, a purple backpack (because as us kindergarteners knew, there was no better color combination than pink and purple). I remember making pasta necklaces and sorting buttons. I remember how the wood chips would sink into my heels when I climbed up the plastic jungle gyms. I remember a young boy pulling the corners of his eyes taut until they made slits in his face, indicative of a racist pantomime. I remember not knowing what it meant. I mentioned it to my parents over dinner that evening, in the tone one uses when passing the butter or salt. I soon knew what it meant. It’s just youthful ignorance they told me. In the real world, when they grow up, they’ll realize that they were wrong. I really wish that were true. 

To be a member of those who assimilate with my asian heritage is to endure blissfully ignorant questions. 

Where are you from? Oh, just down the road. No, no, where are you really from? 

Or, as the adopted special edition includes, 

Who are your real parents? 

Every time, I resist an urge to slap the wide-eyed and willfully ignorant inquirer across the cheek. I can sense the questions now, before they escape the asker’s lips, before they roll across their tongues and present me with an unwanted gift tied with a ribbon of discomfort. To some, these questions may be a minor inconvenience to me-although racist, sure, they don’t harm anyone. I hate these questions not for their content, but more so for their insinuation that I don’t know who I am. And the frequency of them makes it hard to forget that I don’t read work by adopted female asian authors who grew up under the influence of an incredibly un-diverse town. I don’t see strong asian women on my Instagram or TikTok feed. Conversely, I am pelted with thin caucasian women and girls, people who look nothing like me. If an ethnic woman happens to float across my screen, they’re a waif thin model cookie cut out of a fetisher’s wildest dream. 

So far, I know that in the real world, some grow out of their racist tendencies, but many do not. I know that when I walk the streets of Portland and a man in a bar stumbles onto the streets for the primary purpose of calling me a “filthy asian nigger” I do not make eye contact, and run the opposite direction, as opposed to crying on spot as I did two years ago. I know that I’m in an in-between sort of area when it comes to finding a demographic that fits me. I don’t associate with native born Koreans, nor am I accepted in immigrant communities. And although I may think I am, I won’t ever truly be a part of the caucasain society that I’ve been surrounded by since I was six months old. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to incorporate myself into specific cultural aspects of the world, but if I never can, I don’t think I would be necessarily bothered. I can make my own identity, and albeit lonely, I think I could figure out myself for myself.