Originally published on August 7, 2012 on T.H.E. Blog.
Hey there! My name is Claudette Jones and I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a dancer, a woman, a Korean drama addict, a gamer, a Calvin and Hobbes fan, a product of FCCLA, a RMWC alumna, a Blasian, an optimist, a reader of books, a scholar, a food lover… buuuuuut, first and foremost, I am a human being.
Personally, I am not the biggest fan of labels because I do not understand why people need to know my sexual orientation, what “race” I am, etc. As much fun as labels can be, I see a lot of the negativity it can bring about, too. Seriously, is the point so that others, who may be just as uncomfortable with their own identity box, feel the peer-pressured need to put me into a box society created, too? I’d like people to be able to get to know me not by the labels I may fit under, according to society’s standards, but by talking with me and getting to know my story.
Why do I feel this way? Well, I guess like any story- we all have our beginnings- profound moments that gives reason to why we think the way we do and act the way we do. Essentially, a story might share an idea of how we evolved into the person we are today.
I’m not going to spout my entire story (24 years is not forever, but it’s still a lot to log), but let me start my segment by describing a typical interaction I have with perfect strangers, almost every day:
Random person (RP): “Hey, so what are you, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Me: *looks at them like- What kind of question is that? Right now, I’m fighting the urge to tell them to open their eyes because I’m obviously a person, a human, a walking brain…*
(RP): Recognizing that I don’t understand by my facial expressions, he/she rephrases “I mean, where are you from?”
Me: *oh ok, that is a real question* “Here, America.”
(RP): He/she starts to get this kind of frustrated look on their face and again rephrases “No, no, no, like REALLY, what is your nationality?”
Me: *I continue to look at them dumbfounded, in my head I’m scolding them, Did I just not say I’m from America? Like an American?*
(RP): He/she is obviously frustrated at this point with one hand on their chin, trying to find a way to translate their question “Like, what is your culture?”
Me: *At this point I give up on this person and I yield to their clueless insensitivity. I give out a big sigh, I smile and I might put my hands on my hips, and say, “I’m Blasian.” Sometimes I’ll elaborate and say that I’m mixed with Korean and Black.
(RP): “Huh? Oooh ok! That’s cool! I knew you were something different!”
And there is that word, that word I had spent a lot of my childhood trying not to be, a word that has diverse meanings depending on who you are talking to, a word that I have had to learn to find peace with, a word that is probably a root in why I lean away from labels
And then comes my usual mental, sometimes vocal response-
What the hell does that mean?
I still do not know what people are trying to convey when they call me different, because they say it is a good thing, but it just accentuates everything that I am being compared to that IS “normal”, that IS accepted unconditionally, without contest. No one really talks about it, but as you grow older you see that there is this concept of “the other.” What is “the other” being compared to that it can be called “different” and not normal?
A lot of people say that being different is a good thing because you stand out, but you do not realize that different can mean a lot of things in our culture, and I happen to be a product of two parents from different cultures (I would say nationalities, but my mother became an US citizen in 2003). I grew up in a bi-cultural household, yet with this household came a very traditional and conservative setting. Somehow my parents combined the traditional 1950s Korean customs with that of the 1940s and 50s American ideology. I have a hard time explaining this to those who do not understand Korean culture.
I do not want to say my parents are crazy, but honestly, to those who are not familiar with anything Korean or old-school, that is how they could be described. (I know I often jokingly do!) Elders are highly respected in Korean customs. Even if you are trying to explain yourself to them, you have already made a great sin, because you do not ever talk back, like ever, even if you are right. My father also grew up with this conservative idea, which I think was a main reason my mom’s father wanted her to marry my dad. Interracial marriage at the time was a modern phenomena, but that is about as progressive as my parents have come I am afraid. If you can imagine times where it was normal to have a chaperone while on a date, to get jumped in a back alley just because you were brown, perhaps even by the police, as well as to have a white entrance and a colored entrance to any and all buildings, then you can imagine a little about the times my father grew up. If you can imagine the countryside before modern technology, as well as how poor Korea was throughout the Japanese occupation and Korean War, with special attention to the lack of food and the number of deaths due to starvation, you can imagine how my mother grew up. I am a product of two parents who were independent before they were 10 years old. They have seen great horrors, sacrificed and struggled for their successes. And honestly, their world has been stubbornly transported to present times, having both lean towards overprotective tendencies.
I grew up being told that the world will not accept me as I am because they only see me as a black girl. I grew up being told that I could only speak English, because I had to succeed in school. I needed to stop speaking Korean, because it was impeding my learning of English, thus blocking my success. I felt compelled to shun my Korean heritage because I wanted to fit in so bad. I was told to have big dreams, yet within the parameters of my gender. I grew up in a conservative household, that was very traditional, and often felt like I was living two different lives. A modern life, at school with my teachers and friends and then my very unique life at home; yet my sister always served as the bridge between the two. Her genius IQ kept her ahead of the curve on these issues that normally left me swimming in identity crisis.
I feel like I can write forever just about the life of a Blasian. I used to think that it was hard for others to understand how it felt to never be black enough or Asian enough. I realize that many have the misfortune to bond over what it feels like to not be “enough”. Perhaps this is what led me to The Human Experience.
In general, being any sort of queer is not approved of in either of my parent’s culture, and how did I learn this? Well, playing house with your other 6-year-old girlfriends is not bad if you each imagine you are housewives and your husbands are at work, but you get in trouble when you are playing house as wife and wife. I mean, I’m the girl who had a school boyfriend at age 5 and then had an older boy crush on my neighbor. At home I’d always create a reason to try to (unsuccessfully) kiss the boy next door. I had my own melodrama throughout kindergarten and first grade; it is pretty hilarious and damn cute; considering that, who knows what my mom was thinking when she told me that I just didn’t know any better than to play house with wife and wife. All I really remember is that she was pretty pissed! Bringing shame on the family is another giant, neon sign “no-no” in Korea-land.
So, after getting in trouble for that, I remember sitting there, mad that my parents said I should be ashamed for playing house, and also confused because I hadn’t realized until that point that there was a difference, or that it really mattered which gender you pretended to play house with. I think I understood the world better and knew myself better at age 6 then I did at age 16.
Strange how that can happen because of what you are taught at a young age, but it makes sense because a child is just so eager to please everyone around them, but the lesson we all have learned (or for some, will soon learn) is that you can lose yourself if you spend all your time pleasing others.
My family is definitely a constant and the most positive force in my life, but they also have brought negative challenges my way. Nonetheless, it has all resulted in pushing me and challenging my views, which is a very positive thing. My family is part of my identity. Actually, many of my close relationships (I normally group my close friends in with family) have made such an impact on me, that they remain a part of me. Much of my human experience is my relationships. My parents and I are not best friends and I certainly do not tell them everything, but I love them and support them as they love and support me, despite knowing that I’m a little…different. No matter how much older we grow, we never stop learning or loving, and that is for sure.
In all, I fit somewhere on the spectrum of sweet and awesome. I love people and I don’t think too hard on it anymore. I have come to embrace my uniqueness. I am proud of sometimes living in language limbo, still confusing popular English sayings and analogies, pronouncing words wrong or letting my lisp slip out. My life, just a bundle of hardships and successes, has given me a special perspective on the world. What makes a person beautiful? How do and how can people communicate and interact with one another? I like to avoid what makes us different, because we see it every day. We hear it every day. It is everywhere, all the things that makes us different, and we always hear about how some are more different than others. Like, really? Now we proportion difference? It is these questions that led me to this project, The Human Experience, because there isn’t enough of just simply being human in this world.
Seeking the answers to those questions in my everyday life allows me to continue spreading T.H.E love! I hope that you join me in bringing The Human Experience into fruition. Let us redefine queer culture, let us redefine our communities, and let us redefine our relationships. Tell your story; share your struggles, your successes and your “Aha!” moments! We can all connect with the human experience, and really we have always wanted to.
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication,The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story. Find out how to share your story with the world.