SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies


Accepting My Race

            When I was about 9 years old in third grade, there was a talent show coming up for my school and my class was going to do a number from the movie Orphan Annie. When my mom heard about it she wasn’t happy because my sister was adopted out of an orphanage in Armenia and she did not think it was appropriate for me to take part. My mom explained to my teacher and me why she didn’t want me in the show. I was completely fine with the decision and I didn’t think it was a big deal.

            I come from a family of five and between us all we are of different races and ethnicities. My parents adopted me and my two other siblings from different countries: South Korea, Armenia and the United States. Growing up my parents were very vocal about us being adopted and educating us on each others cultures, as we got older.

            I attended Desert Sage Elementary School located in Arizona, which was grades kindergarten through 6th. My school was fairly diverse with different races and ethnicities within the students. The next morning after my mom had explained to the teacher about not wanting me in the play my teacher told us she had something important to discuss with the class and gathered us into the middle of the room.  I remember her talking about how everyone is different and how we need to respect each other for that reason. I honestly wasn’t paying too much attention until I heard her say ‘ -- is adopted and for that reason we are no longer going to be able to do the talent show.’ The rooms’ atmosphere went from being loud and excited to dead silence within seconds. For a while everyone just stared at me. I could feel my face turning red because I felt embarrassed.  A kid next to me whispered to me “what does being adopted mean” and I responded by saying “I don’t really know.” My teacher had to explain to the class what adoption meant and it was the first time that I realized I didn’t share the same race as the rest of my family. My understanding of adoption was just a small part of what it meant. It was more than mom not being pregnant with me. 

            For the rest of the day students would just stare at me and I would hear some people calling me a freak and saying no one else is like me.  It was very confusing for me because I had never really thought about the reactions people would have towards adoption and the affect it could have, it was just a word to me. I remember going home feeling both angry and alone but not wanting to talk to my parents or anyone about the incident. I just wanted to forget it happened.

            From my mothers point of view she thought she handled it the right way. She had never had to deal with this situation with my other siblings. Neither one of us thought being of a family of different races would have the impact and reaction that it did on my classmates. My mom grew up in a family of all the same race and ethnicity, so she could not relate to what I was feeling and going though because she had never experienced it. 

            The reason why my incident is meaningful to me and has made such an impact is that it was the first time that I was educated about and becoming aware of different races and ethnicities. I was around ten years old when this situation happened and I think I was too young at that age to fully understand that everyone has different backgrounds. At the time I didn’t know very much about different races, so realizing that I was the only Hispanic and Native American in my family was something that upset me.  I didn’t like the fact that I was of a different race; I just wanted to be the same race as my parents.

            As I’ve gotten older my views have definitely changed from when I was ten. I have become aware of other social issues that have taken place throughout history dealing with race and ethnicity worldwide and within in Arizona. I love coming from a family that has a lot of diversity of races and ethnicity just between the five of us.  My incident is what really made me become interested in other people’s backgrounds and being open minded and accepting of all different kinds of people. 

            Back then the situation seemed awful but when I look back at it now I'm glad that it happened. It took some time for me to accept being adopted; because my classmates’ reactions to it seemed like such a negative thing at the time. I think this situation made me a more accepting person towards others because of the way I felt that day, different and ashamed. I would never want to make someone else feel the same way because of who they are.

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