how I began to identify as a (radical) woman of color

I made a commitment to a close friend that I would write about my personal journey from being a right-wing, flag-waving evangelical fundamentalist to a proud, disabled, queer, radical woman of color that is always growing and never having the answer… however, it is too much to tell in one story so I’m going to make it a series of posts. (See, Ry, now the pressure is officially on! <3)

My sister would never come to me to talk about race. I’m too irrational and “out there” in my politics.

Still, my mother told me tonight how on the way home from a church group meeting, my sister had asked her to pray because she wasn’t fitting in at church and was dreading the trip she had signed up (and already paid for) next week. Though my sister is devoutly religious, if she asked her to pray, it must be serious.

“dah hin sadahm ya, guchee?” I asked in broken Corean so my brother and dad wouldn’t understand.
“yes. all of them.”

While my mom talked to me, I could see her playing back memories in her head. Recent memories, though very painful, that had actually brought us closer (finally she understood what I had been saying for years about where we fit in with white people and why I didn’t go to church). My own head was busy with thoughts. Sterile white-walled classrooms. Clean white girls laughing over inside jokes. Role-model white women teachers telling us how to be good Christian girls.

“I should have kept us at the Corean church, right? Your sister went to Johnny’s graduation party yesterday and all the kids there were his friends from Corean church. The Corean church was like a fishbowl, I wanted you kids to have an aquarium experience so you could go far.” She cupped her hands like a bowl and then stretched them like a box.

After thinking long and hard, I told her I didn’t have an answer. I was an outsider at the Corean church and it wasn’t cause of race or cultural values. All the kids there were half white, half Corean too. It made an interesting dynamic— the white army daddies stayed home and Corean women ran the whole church. Though this Confucian, strong Corean woman background is part of me, I didn’t fit in as an ugly, penguin-steppin (I walked bobbing from side to side) kid who wore FOB clothes that emo sent from Seoul.

Not knowing what else to say, I told my mom that my sister would be okay. After all, they couldn’t get their deposit for the trip back. “Umma. Remember I met Desiree, Henry, Angie, Richard and the others at church? She’ll meet people too. When she comes back from the trip, she can switch to Johnny’s church. She’ll be okay.”

Even though I reassured my mom that everything would be fine, the pangs in my heart told me different and I felt bad for my beautiful, perfect younger sister (how could SHE be an outsider?). Maybe my sister would be lucky enough to meet good people like I had. Des’ mom, though born in this country, forced her to come to church for the same reasons my mom had. We became best friends and when a few latino, black, and Lumbee kids trickled in, we formed an impenetrable group of teenagers (you know how we folks of color multiply!…sarcasm noted hopefully).

The environment was so hostile that this group was the one place there that love seemed to grow. From the outside, we looked liked we had nothing in common (I was the only gimp and one of the few non-black kids of color) but inside our friendship flourished. And in a world where White Jesus loved us but told us we were bad (but white kids were less bad), we managed to go on without being too heartbroken about this…

Anyways. I am forever thankful to those friends and thankful for the experience of hammering out such a space. This is one of the stories in my journey in which I have begun to call the place I build with other rwoc home.

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11 Comments

Filed under community, woc

11 responses to “how I began to identify as a (radical) woman of color

  1. I really can’t wait to read the rest of this. So interesting.

    Have you read any of the oral history files from the disability rights movement, housed at UCBerkeley? Or listened to Story Corps on NPR? I really, really dig personal histories. I wonder what it is, but I could listen to it all day.

  2. YES!– I stayed up til like 5 one morning just pouring over the interviews. I didn’t know story corps was online, will definitely have to check it out! I want to hear what the ADAPT folks recorded in May, hope it’s online now.

  3. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this. Great posts. You know I am not totally comfortable with a lot of aspects of feminism, and hearing personal stories like this about identity and activism is important to me in my ongoing exploration of my own identity as a woman.

  4. harrietsdaughter

    This is beautiful. I am looking forward to reading more of the story. I’m glad you kept your commitment to your friend and are sharing it with all of us!

  5. Katie

    Yes. Awesome. So looking forward to the future installments.

  6. I can relate. I have always felt outside and outcast being queer and being disabled. It is hard to make your way.

  7. You are a fabulous storyteller.

  8. I’m waiting with bated breath for your next installment ’cause I’m positive that I’ll catch snippets of my own story in yours…

    Btw, I haven’t heard anything yet about the Story Corps recordings, if and when they will have them on NPR. I was told after doing my recording, that if my story was selected that I’d get a call from the producer.

    I do have a copy of my interview on my laptop, so if we get a chance in DC, I’ll be honored to share it with you!

  9. threeriversfog

    it felt like falling flat on the floor when i read your mother’s beautiful words — “like a fishbowl, i wanted you to have an aquarium experience”…

    i’m still behind in reading, maybe there’s more waiting for me to read 🙂

    (where/when are you [going] in dc? i’m going there for my first vacation since like eight-years-old next week…)

  10. threeriversfog

    ok, that comment got screwed up. (that wink was supposed to be an ending parenthesis) also, wordpress has decided i don’t have a name, just my blog’s name. lol.

  11. amanda, i think we’re just missing each other re: dc! i’ll be there the second and fourth week. but maybe we can be facebook friends and compare schedules, i’m doing some heavy traveling these next few months and then back to the grind..

    dread1myn (still can’t get over your awesome name), you know i want to see that interview… so excited to see you next month! : )

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