Voting for a Goldfish

Our guest blogger this week is Nicole Freeman, a reader who has connected with us via Instagram. Nicole is a web developer currently living in Queens New York.  She was raised on Long Island (her accent is really gross, but she secretly loves it).  When she’s not being a code monkey, she loves training for triathlons, playing with her dog/daughter, and eating all of the peanut butter within a 5 mile radius. She can be found on IG @nlfreeman88 and Twitter @nlfreeman888

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

First, let me start off by saying: I am a huge fan of We the Lees.  When I saw their Instagram post calling for guest bloggers I thought, “YAS!”  After mulling over what I could write about, I was overwhelmed.  There are just so many things I can ramble on about.  Fast forward a few weeks, where the empty email sat in my drafts– I had no intention of going back to it. How could a little blog post encapsulate all my feels?  #alltheadoptedfeels

But as the world seems to continue to spiral out of control (#Election2016) I want to have something in the digital ether that covers my experience — particularly my experience as a Korean American adoptee.  You might be asking, what does #Election2016 have to do with being a Korean American adoptee?  My quick pitch on this topic is as follows.

I am an Asian American woman living in the United States at a time when one of the political parties is throwing shade at females and also non-white citizens (and undocumented people, which is another issue I have many feelings about).  I am not making assumptions about other adoptees’ ideological positions or self-identification.  I am merely sharing my perspective and experiences.

My mother’s heritage is Italian and my father’s is Irish.  I don’t remember ever being told I was adopted, I just always knew it.   I’m sure there was a talk at some point when I was younger, but I don’t remember it.  I never felt like I was treated differently because I am adopted.  My relatives have not treated me differently from anyone else in the family.  I love these people like anyone would love their family.

I would look at myself in the mirror and hate the face staring back.

I also have a brother who is adopted from Korea.  We are the only non-white people in our family.  I used to joke that I was just a white girl trapped inside of an Asian’s body.  But I would look at myself in the mirror and hate the face staring back at me.  I’d imagine what I’d look like if I was my mother’s biological daughter.  Would I have her big brown eyes?  Would I have the same lidded eyes and straight nose bridge?  My mother’s heart broke the first time she realized I felt this way.

I was a little girl and she was giving me a bath. I asked her, “If I have kids, will they look like me?” She said yes.  I replied, “I don’t want to have kids then, I don’t want them to look like me.” My mom told me that she had to leave the bathroom to cry in the hallway.  (Thinking about this story as an adult I can’t help but think, “You left a small child in the tub alone?! I COULD HAVE DROWNED!”)

But the lesson here is that being around no one who looks like you your whole life can fuck you up a little bit #somuchtherapy

Another fun tidbit about my mom’s family:  They are Trump supporters.  My aunt repeatedly says non-white people are constantly using the “r-card.”  My family tells funny stories about their kids making fun of the ladies who do her manicures.  And not one person ever stops to think, “Hey, this must be weird for Nicole and Brendan.” My aunt loves to do her Asian accent or send me memes that are akin to the idea of “Long Dong Duck.” My mom thinks these are funny, too.  My mom also loves getting manicures and tells me to go with her whenever I’m home.  “Oh, you’d love the girls, they’re so great.  I tell them all about my Korean kids.” I had to explain to her that every time I meet a white person (WHICH IS LIKE EVERY 3 MINUTES), I don’t tell them in a precious voice, “Ohhh I have a mom who’s white!”  It’s fucking offensive, Mom!

Every time I meet a white person, I don’t exclaim, “Oh, I have a mom who’s white!”

So back to #Election2016. My mom would vote for a goldfish if she heard someone she trusted say it’s a good idea to vote for that goldfish. Her family is very vocal about voting for Trump. I’ve had many lunches with my mom over the past year minoritysplaining the microaggressions and outright racist shit her and her family say. “But it’s just a joke,” she said. And then I would counter, “Why do you think it’s funny?”  She couldn’t answer. I continued, “Perpetual depictions of [insert race] as subhuman butts of jokes.  You’ve been conditioned to think offensive accents are funny.  You’ve been conditioned to think that it’s funny if an Asian man dates a white woman.  You have an Asian son.  Do you think him effeminate? Do you think it’s a hilarious notion for him to date a white woman?”

She got it.  And if my mom can understand it, I think the rest of America can.

A candidate like Trump who is running on demagoguery is dangerous.  The baffling amount of people supporting him validates every feeling I have ever had that I’m “less than” because I’m not like my parents.  I am not white and I was not born in the United States.  His condemnation of undocumented people makes me feel uncomfortable.  I immigrated to this country, but since a white family was like, “No, Donald, it’s cool, she’s with us” I get a pass. If I had just come here on my own, half of America would be like, “GTFO, stop killing my people and stealing my jobs!” (It’s such a crazy idea, I’m having a hard time sarcastically typing it.)

I want to support a candidate who will work towards making our country the kind of place where kids are confident and carefree, no matter what they look like.  I want to see government officials combating hatred, racism, microaggressions and bigotry, rather than using the words “political correctness” as a pejorative.  I want a government that works hard to preserve women’s health services, rather than regarding unexpected pregnancies like some moral failing (don’t think that’s not implied during this whole “women’s health” issue). I’m not some physical proof of my biological mother’s lack of character.

If my mom can understand it, I think the rest of America can.

Being adopted is complicated.  You don’t look like your family.  You don’t quite fit any traditional narrative.  I spent so much of my life feeling like I didn’t fit anywhere.  I’m not white enough; I’m not Asian enough. I’ve felt like so much of my life was marked by an asterisk. Everyone I love says these horrible things but then shakes their head, laughs a little, and squeezes my arm as they say, “But not you, you’re different!” I’ve had white friends tell me, “…but you’re not really Asian,” as if being Asian was a bad thing.  Adoption isn’t going anywhere, but these backwards social schemas will.  I just hope I live to see that day.

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2 thoughts on “Voting for a Goldfish

  1. OMG Nicole, you are hystericle! My wife and I are parents to 2 KADs, our son is seven and our daughter just turned 4. So much of what you said is so true for so many mixed families. I had a very similar conversation with my dad as you had with your mom shortly after my son came home. My family structure is very similar, my dad Scotch-Irish and my mom is Italian and are in CT and my dad has always had a definite “opinion” of other races (product of his time). One day he made some back-handed racial comment and I just came out with it. I said to him that he now has a grandson who looked differently than the rest of his family and would more-than-likely look different from most of his friends. How would he feel if his grandson was to someday show up at some girls house to pick her up for a date and have that girls father answer that door, take a look at him and say ” my daughter is not going out with any slant-eye kid” and slam the door in his face? I totally took him off guard but he totally understood once I stated the obvious to him. So, as you said, if our parents can get it, the rest of America should too. I love that there are people such as you, Lee & Whitney ( and many others…..) setting a strong example for adoptees like my kids; resources you didn’t have, that can help them to know they are not alone. My wife and I like to feel that we providing them with exposure to their birth culture and not pushing their Korean identity to some dark corner of their being but you never know what their true feelings will be until they are older and having voice such as yours will be a HUGE help.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for reading John! Another thanks for your super kind words– who knew that my constant self deprecation / defense mechanism humor would come in handy one day! I think it’s awesome you are so aware of the micro-aggressions towards your kids! I think your actions to dismantle those schemas will be a great benefit to your kid’s ability of being comfortable in their own skin. I agree that your kids true feelings probably won’t fully develop until their older, but I’m sure the road might be a bit easier by acknowledging their culture and racial identity. Wishing you and you family all the best 🙂 – Nicole


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