It’s OK to Call me Korean…I Am!

Our guest blogger this week is Bethany Kenstowicz, a fellow adoptee we met via this blog, who has become a dear friend to us! Bethany is a KAD who seeks to encourage other first-generation college, graduate, and law school students throughout their own journey of identity and independence. She currently lives in Tacoma, Washington with her husband and fellow fan of Korean food, Andre.

Note: Our guest bloggers do not represent the views or opinions of We the Lees. They are friends and followers of our blog who have voluntarily submitted their work for posting on our site. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog on any adoption-related topic (KADs only at the present), please email us at

There I was.

Sitting in the middle of a popular restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania among a dozen other young professionals. Chatting about sports, eating sandwiches with fries and coleslaw, thinking everything was normal.

“Normal,” because I was, once again, the only non-white member of the group – a scenario I was quite used to, having been raised in rural central Pennsylvania. But then, someone started telling a story about an Asian man. The story had nothing to do with Asia. The man in the story just happened to be Asian. However, in this predominantly white crowd, the storyteller paused anytime she referenced this…man. She whispered as if she held top secret information: “He, you know, had really dark and small eyes… you know what I mean… he was from somewhere else…”

Finally, I offered, “Was the man Asian?”

Blank stares. All around.

I could see the panic in the crowd. “Are we allowed to say Asian when there is an Asian person sitting here?!”

For years, I’ve heard the adoptee assimilation narrative of “But you’re here now…” and my favorite, “Well, you’re not really Asian…” These phrases symbolize the overly politically correct world we live in. As children, we are taught to not talk about race, but to be “color-blind.” However, now as an adult KAD, I am no longer hiding the fact that I am Korean. Now I am just waiting for everybody else to be as proud of that fact as I am. “Korean” is not a bad word, so why treat it like one? It’s okay to call me Korean… because I am!

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, our reality is much trickier. For example, a certain presidential candidate has also been encouraging people to stop being “so politically correct,” but in a much different way – blatantly attacking people’s race, ethnicity, appearance, disabilities, etc. Derogatory terms are never okay. Name calling is never educational. Widening the racial divide is not productive. Yet, by acknowledging differences, we would not be enforcing stereotypes. Instead, we would finally see how alike we really are.

Until I met Lee Fritz, I thought I was the only self-proclaimed Pennsylvania-Dutch Korean-American in the entire world. I thought I was the only one who compared sauerkraut to kimchi. The only one who had to explain why I looked the way I looked, talked the way I talked, and somehow existed in an all-white world. But now more than ever, I know I am different just as much as I know I am the same as everybody else.

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© We the Lees, 2016. All Rights Reserved


One thought on “It’s OK to Call me Korean…I Am!

  1. Oh, my goodness! I thought I was the only PA Dutch Korean American! And, yes, sauerkraut is PA Dutch kimchi.


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