(Oh-Muk) (Rah-ow) (formerly Lee)
36 / Korean American
“[Growing up/living in Iowa as a WOC has been] an interesting crossroads of social systems related to ethnicity & economics. It certainly wasn’t easy being a non-white of about 5% or less in an upper-middle class schooling system. It was easy to hate myself and traditions of my parents – why couldn’t we just be more white with more money? Why did we have to have weird smelling foods and parents with weird names? but those kind of questions just stem from lack of understanding and knowledge by myself and from my peers – the unknown is scary.
I wasn’t intending on being part of a project, but to have the discussion is what felt right. Being in middle America and with faces of this current political system pushing white is right mentality, it felt like a necessity to express what felt wrong and why, why things hurt and still hurt and what can I do to help myself. I want to get more connected. I want to have an Asian Sisterhood. I want to have a more diverse personal community and because of this I’m on my way. This has been a blessing.”
“My mom [has influenced my cultural identity] the most. my dad has an incredibly tragic story. the second I start thinking about it I start to tear up. because of these things, he’s not in my life much these days which spurred my deeper dive in to things related to “han” and my culture.
I feel like I’m just in the beginning stages of understanding my culture. I didn’t care about it growing up and because of much resistance, our parents quit trying to teach us. I’m starting to understand where “han” stems from.
[My Advice to someone trying to understand/figure out their cultural identity is to] express yourself. expressing is what we can do to help others feel comfortable in their skin and understand that you’re not alone. say it, feel it, process it, then grow. it is not a burden to be a person of color. we bring life to this country!
[I think others can get] some peace and hope [out of this project.]”
WOC Iowa is a passion project I’m working on to showcase, focus and center on WOC in Iowa. I want to reach out and have an open, honest and deep conversation about cultural identity and to draw parallels from our experiences while understanding the differences.