Raising a child Asian-American

by Anti-Racist Parent columnist Mike Lee

My wife and I recently had a beautiful baby boy 3 months ago, and sometimes talk about how to raise him with a strong sense of his Korean-American identity. My wife and I are both Korean-American and were essentially born and raised here— she born in the U.S., and I born in Korea but immigrated to the U.S. at 1 year of age.

Growing up, I definitely had my struggles with my Korean-American identity, and I still ponder what makes me Korean besides my skin color, heritage, food I eat, and a language that I don’t even speak well. Growing up in a school where I was maybe 1 of 3 Asian-Americans in the class, it was difficult because I was always being pointed out by my fellow Caucasian classmates as being different.

In regards to raising our son, we know that it is going to be challenging, and anticipate he will ask many questions about Korean culture as he gets older, many of which we may have no answer to. For instance, what makes someone Korean and what makes someone American? How do you merge the two? Are we even good examples of being Korean-American? And what does that mean exactly?

If anything, we are probably more American than we are Korean, being raised here in the US. Fortunately, though, our baby’s grandparents are still alive and will be the closest thing he has to exposure to Korean culture. We want our son not to lose his Korean identity, but are afraid it will already be significantly diluted through us. Will sending him to Korean language school, going to a Korean-American church, or spending more time with the grandparents really make him any more Korean? We hope that he is able to take pride in his Korean American identity and would love the advice of other parents who have dealt with this issue. We are challenged by this struggle, but hope do everything we can to teach our son more about who he is.

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.

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