Loving Who I Am [Creating Space]

Creating Space is a 5 part series that will be featured on Hugs & Lattes every Wednesday through the month of November. This is the 3rd installment. To view last two posts, see here and here. Please note that the interviewee’s experiences are their own; they cannot speak for anyone and everyone in their circumstances. While stories may be similar, each individual has their own perspective. 

I believe that I found Ro through Twitter, and boy am I glad that I did. I was instantly attracted to her blog, Chicken and Bliss, purely by the name. I thought it was fun and quirky, and knew that I would find a fun and quirky writer, too. Ro is a newlywed, so we’ve found common ground in newlywed life, being in an interracial relationship, and our love for exploring. I love how Ro articulates her heart and thoughts, and she has brought some more thought provoking gold to Hugs & Lattes today. I’m excited that you all get to meet her and read about her experiences growing up as an African-American and being in an interracial relationship.

loving who i am

Tell Me About Yourself 

 

Tell me a little bit about where you grew up, your family life, what you do, etc.

I grew up in Pennsylvania where I was the youngest of two children. My mother worked as a nurse and I believe that seeing the sacrificial heart that she had helped me to develop this love for helping others.

I am currently a teacher working in an inner city school, serving a wonderful group of energetic and intelligent 5th and 6th graders. When I’m not teaching, I’m exploring with my husband, spending time with family and friends, or brewing up blog posts.

What has your experience been as an interracial couple?

Honestly, it’s been great! I feel that although my husband and I come from different cultural backgrounds, we truly respect each other and genuinely desire to understand the other’s background. While I am definitely not fluent in Korean, I make an effort to learn the language out of respect for him and his family. Although he doesn’t understand some things about African-American culture, he’s always open to conversations about it.

It’s also really nice to be able to be with someone who gets it. Koreans have dealt with oppression in their history and so have African-Americans. We often share stories that have been passed down from generations of the pain that has afflicted our communities and how they’ve risen from it.

It’s so refreshing that although we’re both from different cultures, I don’t have to explain why something is offensive to my culture and neither does he. We both truly respect each other’s culture.

What are some things you and your husband celebrate about each other’s culture?

Other than getting to eat a lot of delicious Korean food, I love being able to participate in Korean events with my husband and our family. For example, my husband’s mother is a wonderful dancer and sometimes has performances where she’ll perform traditional Korean dance. It’s always a pleasure getting to see her perform and getting to learn more about the history behind Korean culture.  

For my husband, it’s been the same thing. It’s really an exchange of information and I feel that we learn something new about each other, about our cultures, and about the world through our conversations with each other.

What has been difficult being in an interracial relationship?

Honestly, it was difficult in the beginning because we would get some of the nastiest stares from some people we’d walk past. I’ve had people walk past us and say, “ching chong” to my husband as we walked down the street together. I’ve witnessed other men glaring at me as if being with him means that I suddenly despise my heritage that I love. Although, thankfully I don’t notice it as much as I used to, it bothers me sometimes when I see it. I remember, recently, there was a woman who stared at my husband while we were walking on a beach in NJ, so I glared at her as if I was shooting darts in her eyes. Probably not the nicest thing to do, however, hahaha.

Additionally, the assumption that by marrying my husband, I must hate myself or my race or must be looking to have “mixed” babies is hard to deal with.  It couldn’t be the furthest thing from the truth, but the people who make these assumptions don’t care about that.

I love who I am. I love where I come from and I love my race. I am proud to be a black woman, but I also love my husband. If my husband was a black man, I’d still marry him. It’s his personality, his love for God, his values, and his heart that I fell in love with. It’s just sad that for some people, I cannot love my race and yet love my husband, who just happens to be Korean, at the same time.

loving who i am

On Identity

How has growing up in America shaped your identity?

Growing up in America has shaped my identity because everything I’ve known has been here. I believe that I am very blessed to grow up in a country where I can be open about my faith without fear of persecution and where we have access to so many things. I am definitely aware of how blessed I am to be an American.

Do you have any pivotal memories growing up that strengthened or weakened your perception and identity of who you are?

Yes, I’ve had memories that have both strengthened and weakened my perception and identity. While I had a strong mother who encouraged me to not be afraid to advocate for myself, I also had the media consistently portraying negative images of black women as lacking beauty. It was hard sometimes to believe it when family would compliment me, because society often portrayed images of women who looked nothing like me growing up as more desirable. I had internalized this is ways that I didn’t realize, but also articulated in a couple of posts on my blog.

What is something that you love/embrace about your race/culture?

I admire the perseverance and strength of my race so much. Despite the hardships and oppression my culture has faced, there’s this consistent theme in every challenge of not giving up. My ancestors were knocked down so many times and yet time and time again, they continued fighting for the rights owed to them and I admire that so much.

What is something that is difficult to embrace about your race/culture?

Honestly, I think other people’s perception of my race as being lazy and moochers. It’s not only an incredibly offensive generalization, but I would like to think you have to be pretty strong and determined to be able to endure years of racism and still be standing.

loving who i am

On Racism and Faith in America

What are some microaggressions you have experienced in the US?

I’ve been so blessed to not have experienced overt racism before. Most of the racism I’ve experienced has been covert. It’s the compliments that are actually insults in disguise or use of the n-word, despite knowing it’s offensive origins. It’s a nervous look when I walk past someone who’s uncomfortable with the color of my skin. It’s when while reading a text that’s talking about fried chicken and watermelon, your professor looks you in the eye in the middle of a lecture class and says, “you know what I’m talking about – right?” Yep, that really happened.

What has been your response? 

Sadly, my response to these things have normally been to be almost over-polite to prove to them that I am not as harmful as they’ve assume that I am. I make sure to say “excuse me” in the sweetest voice that I can when passing them. Regarding the n-word, I have spoken about it before, but the conversation is usually met with the “why can’t I say it?” Lately, I’ve definitely been more vocal, when led, about these issues.

How do you reconcile your faith with the racial tension we have witnessed this past year?

The events of this past year have left me feeling angry at times. I’ve found myself really becoming enraged with the hate crimes occurring and just the evil actions of the people in this world. Yet, I remember my husband and I were talking one day about despite how hateful they’re being, I am no better than them if I am sitting there wanting bad things to happen to them. It was honestly one of the hardest things to have to get to a place where my husband and I prayed for supremacists. We prayed that their heart would be changed and that they would come to faith. It was so hard praying for someone who hated people who looked like me so much simply because I looked different. As much as this grieves the heart of God, I know that He wouldn’t want me to fight hate with hate and would instead want me to do what he commands us to do in Matthew 5:44.

I’ve also found myself praying more about how God wants us as a church to respond to the injustices in the world.

How has your local church responded/how has the global church responded in your opinion?

Our church has been holding drives and having very difficult conversations about race in church. I know conversations about racism can be uncomfortable to have in any setting let alone church, but I’ve been so grateful for their transparency and for them condemning it head on. I believe these are conversations that the church should be having, globally, because it is something that grieves God.

However, I have been disappointed in how some churches have been responding to this. While it’s probably easier to not have these discussions, it is an important conversation to have – especially if people desire to end racism and seek reconciliation. It starts with having adequate representation in leadership in the church and not just in the pews. It starts with prayer and acknowledging the plight of people in the world rather than ignoring it for the sake of not ruffling any feathers. It starts with boldly condemning racism, but unfortunately I’ve only seen a handful of churches actually do this.

We were all created in God’s image and as the body of Christ, seeing our brother or sister hurting should grieve us. It should move us to the point where we want to pray about it and want to do what we’re being called to in order to help this issue.

What is one thing you wish the white community could understand when it comes to race and racism in America?

Hmm, I’m not sure how to say this, so I hope this comes out the right way. I would love for them to know that acknowledging privilege is not a bad thing. As an American, I also have privilege because there are people in third-world countries that don’t have half of what I have as a result of where I was born. However, the question is do we live acknowledging that privilege and then turning a blind eye to the oppression of those around us that don’t have the same privileges or do we lend a hand? Do we lift one another up in prayer? Do we advocate as an ally for our brothers and sisters?

loving who i am

 

On Unity

What does unity look like to you?

To me unity looks like how the body of Christ that’s talked about in  1 Corinthians 12. I believe that each person has a particular gift and a unique calling that God has given them. I believe that each person has something to offer and that when one of us isn’t doing our part or is saddened, it’s felt throughout the entire body. I would imagine that unity looks exactly like that. It’s being unified, despite our backgrounds and upbringings, for a common goal. It’s supporting one another by grieving with those who grieve and rejoicing with those who rejoice. It’s by helping one another and not just when it’s convenient to us or worthy of an Instagram post. It’s genuinely living in community and loving our neighbor.

What are practical ways the white community partner and align with the minority community?

This is a hard question that I often feel like I don’t have the right answer to, because it’s one I find myself still wrestling with. After conversations with friends of mine who are white, I realize that it can be difficult to find ways to do this without seeming like as an ally they’re taking over or washing out the voices of African-Americans who are experiencing these struggles. As someone who stands as an ally alongside groups of people that I don’t necessarily identify as or with, I can understand the difficulty with this.

I’m still praying for wisdom in determining this, myself, but in addition to prayer, I think that publicly denouncing racism and to continuing to advocate on behalf of people in the black community by contacting representatives regarding certain issues is helpful.

Thank you so much, Ro, for sharing a convicting, yet uplifting post on the raw effects of racism in America. Next week we will turn to Divya from Eat, Teach, Blog, to hear about her life in a small town of East Tennessee.

 

creating spaceRo is a believer in God, a wife, an educator, and a self-proclaimed coffee-aficionado who loves traveling. She is the blogger behind, Chicken and Bliss, which is a faith and lifestyle blog fueled by copious amounts of coffee. When she’s not teaching or drinking coffee, she’s writing, serving, reading, taking photography, and spending time with loved ones. To connect with her, feel free to reach her at any of the links: TwitterPinterestFacebookInstagramChicken and Bliss

 

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