by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Mike Lee
It is a privilege to be asked to be a guest blogger on Anti-Racist Parent. Until high school, I grew up in a predominantly non-Asian environment. I was one of those Asian-American kids who wished he was white with blond hair and blue eyes. A significant portion of my high school years was spent near or at the beach in Southern California, where most of my friends were either brown haired or blond. They always got the attention of the girls, and I was usually the nice “Asian” guy that the girls wanted as just a friend. The main Asian exposure I got back then was the Korean Church I attended, my best friend who was Korean, and my family. I look back at those days and think about how ignorant I was about the whole race identity issue. My friends back then never talked about race or racism. They were too busy trying to hook up with as many girls as they could. I just remember having low self esteem and trying so hard to fit in that I did not care so much for my Asian identity. If I ever got teased for being Asian, I would just shrug it off and smile, since I just wanted to be part of the “cool” group.
It was not until college that I started to develop my identity as an Asian-American. Being at UCLA, I had never seen so many Asians in one place before. I hit an extreme and joined every Asian-American organization I could. I started to realize how important it was to understand one’s heritage and history. I learned how important it was to be sensitive and knowledgeable of other people’s ethnicities and background. As a sociocultural anthropology major, I learned the beauty of diverse cultures and peoples. I started to enjoy being Asian-American and being able to share experiences with other people of diverse upbringing and cultures.
Currently, I am a physician married to the most beautiful Korean-American woman I have ever met. In medical school, they spent a few days discussing practicing “Culturally Sensitive Medicine”, but I don’t really feel like most of us understood it until we started to actually practice. Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of physicians still don’t understand it even though they have been practicing a long time. We have our first child on the way, and are nervous and excited. From my past experiences, I want to teach him to strive to be anti-racist. I hope to teach him how to love differences and not to fear them. Unlike me, I hope that he never is ashamed of being Asian-American, and that he never categorizes or looks down upon someone of a different color or culture. My wife and I have started to talk about things like how are we going to expose him to Korean culture. Should we go to a Korean church, etc. We both hope to be good role models for our future children. The struggle to be anti-racist is hard, and I never want to give up on it. I see the Anti-Racist Parent as an opportunity to dialoguing, sharing, and supporting others in this struggle. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be part of this.
Mike Lee currently works as a family practice physician. He was born in Korea but came to the U.S. after turning 1 year old and spent much of his life in Southern California. He blogs for Rice Daddies, and is very interested in the issue of dealing with the struggle for being anti-racist as both an individual and as a parent. He and his wife currently live in California.