Reflections on Race: Karina Lieb

A couple months ago, as I was taking the PSAT, I puzzled over a particularly difficult question. The question was a bit different than the norm—it wasn’t concerning grammar, math or reading comprehension. The only instructions were “enter your race.” Would I bubble in white? Asian? Both? Was that even allowed? Was my half-Korean, half-European ethnicity better suited for the “other” category? My mixed ethnicity just didn’t seem to fit.

On my first birthday, my Korean mother invited her side of the family to our house, where we celebrated by conducting the traditional Korean ceremony of dol. Dol is a tradition that involves blessing a baby with a prosperous future during its first 100 days. My American father, towering over the Korean audience, watched with proud eyes as I donned my hanbok, a traditional Korean dress, and celebrated the life that lay before me.

Family reunions like these in which both sides of my family come together have always been a little awkward. The language and cultural barriers seem to take physical form and divide the room, pushing each race to opposite sides of the room or table. My sister and I, stuck in the middle, attempt to pull the two sides together by weaving back and forth between the multi-lingual conversations.

Sometimes it seems as if I don’t fit in with either racial side of my family. When I am with one side or the other, I am surrounded with a culture and people that are unlike the unique mix of my home life.

Despite this and various other issues that come with being multi-racial, I am genuinely grateful that I was born into a mixed family. Being able to be exposed to two cultures and two groups of vastly different people is such a wonderfully unique experience, and I could not imagine my family any other way.


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