Like many immigrants who move to the UnitedStates, my parents immigrated to the United States in order have a better life.The American life. My dad gave up his engineering career in Korea and my mom,an accomplished dancer, immigrated to the United States in 1987 to start anew.
Like many others, my parents firmly believed that the possible future outcomes fortheir children were much greater than those possible in Korea. Growing up, I alwaysbelieved I was an “average American kid”. I always suppressed and de-emphasizedthe ‘Korean’ in Korean-American.
I tried to be more “white” by playing sportsand avoiding stereotypical Asian extracurricular activities like orchestra.However, as much as I tried to assimilate into the white culture, my parentsalways felt like an embarrassing reminder that I was different from the otherkids at school. Meeting the parents of my white friends, I’ll admit I alwaysfelt a bit of frustration with my dual heritage, which I viewed as ashortcoming in American society. I was emotionally tired of trying to reconcilemy outside appearance with what I yearned to be inside. I always felt ashamedof my parents because they didn’t fit the mold of an average American family. Knowing my interest topursue law, my brother insisted I meet his friend David. David is a DACArecipient.
Although I knew there were recipients of all races, I neverconsciously thought about Asian American DACA recipients. We talked for severalhours and met several more times after that. Sharing his experiences as an”alien minor,” David described the struggles, but more strongly emphasized theeffort to give back to other immigrants who were trying to find their way. I was deeply moved to know that someone who hadendured so much pain could overcome so much and still be so selfless andthankful. David’s testimony resonated with me and I began to open up my heartto my heritage which I had suppressed for so long.
I finally began to embracewhat I had seen as the seemingly detrimental half of my heritage. For so long, I viewed myKorean heritage as a drawback in American society. Eventually, I understood thenature of my frustration. I wanted to fit the mold of what I perceived asan “American” and had tried to renounce my culture at every turn. Yet bydoing so, I was casually brushing off the sacrifices my parents made. I took for granted thestruggles my parents faced in order to make my life what it is today.
As a child of immigrants, I am the embodimentof my parent’s American Dream. My story isn’t unique in that I am the son ofhard working immigrants. However, I have recognized ______ and I havereconciled my past “shame?”. Hearing narratives of manyimmigrants, I humbly learned the challenges that many immigrants had to face inorder to achieve succeed.
The testimonies of family members and friends hasinspired me to want to help others in similar situations. Many immigrants, including my parents and David, know what it islike to navigate a complex, and often unfriendly system. As a second generationAmerican, I want to use my gifts, including my fluency in other languages, tobe an advocate for minorities and help them achieve their American Dream. Looking back, it seems ironic that I have found solace inembracing what I had tried to reject for so long.