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What Brought Me to CSRE 173S

           Last year, I attended a cultural event on campus where I was introduced to a new person—he had heard of me before, and smiled knowingly as he pointed and said, “You’re the girl who looks Black, talks White, but is secretly Asian!”  His comment surprised me and I laughed uncomfortably, not sure how to respond.  It is my hope that this course might help me to better understand my reaction in those types of situations.  What exactly am I carrying from my past into my interactions with others, especially discussions of race?  How might others respond if they had been in my place?  Most importantly, I would like to explore how my physical attributes, language, and behaviors or practices interact to build my multiethnic and transcultural identity.

            Because of the three-part structure of the aforementioned assessment of me, it would be useful to examine how each of the three “races” that were claimed to belong to me have in fact brought me to this class.  My identity as a Black woman is, to say the least, insecure; this is why I am drawn to the topic of “Shades of Black.”  I was raised in a Black neighborhood, by parents who can both claim Black heritage, and have attended predominantly Black schools throughout my life.  However, there is something that separates me, that holds me back from the family-like connection I can observe in many groups of Black friends—whether they be formal organizations like a club, sorority, or church, or just a community at school or in the workplace.  When I was in 6th grade, I tried my best to emulate the speech, dress, and overall culture of my Black friends, but I was confronted for my actions and told to leave the group, because I “talk White, and no one likes a follower.”  When I came home in tears, my father told me that I should never have to try to be something that I’m not, because the people who can’t accept me as a multicultural person do not deserve to be my friends.  Still, my identity as “not Black enough” began to take hold like cement, weighing me down with insecurity in future years.   

            I sought out new friends who would not be disturbed or made to feel uncomfortable by my presence, my academic life, and my mode of speech, and more often than not, this path drew me away from the Black community at my high school.  Instead, I focused on school and experienced the politics of class and race firsthand; in homeroom, when awards for high academic achievement were distributed and I received one, my classmate asked loudly, “How come no Black people got an award?”  The class erupted in laughter at the implication that I had been stripped of my Black community membership, which had been replaced by the “race of my voice,” White—some other people in the class whispered with amusement about me being an “oreo” who is Black on the outside, White on the inside.  That same week, I was shopping and was followed by a store employee who wanted to take extra precautions that I did not commit a crime in her place of work.  Months later, I entered a public online video chatroom with some of my friends, and one of the users exclaimed, “We have a nigger in here!  Go back to African chat!”  The politics of Black and White identity have emerged in both subtle and violent ways throughout my life, and this has built my curiosity to understand the idea of “shifting” as it relates to inclusion in more than one community, and if this is even possible.

                 Recently, I spoke with my mother about what she thinks my cultural identity has evolved into, and what factors in my life have contributed to its current state.  I am now deeply involved in Asian and Asian-American affairs; in addition to being a marketing manager for SOOMPI, the largest community of Asian-Americans online, I have coordinated several Asian cultural exchange programs and on a lighter note, I teach myself Asian languages and enjoy Asian food, music, and television daily.  My mother believes that my multiracial heritage has made it difficult for me to fit in with Black or White groups, and that I have been driven by “curiosity and a need for belonging” to the Asian culture as an alternative.  Her analysis could be correct, but through this class I would like to explore further what it means for me to act out both multiethnic and transcultural lives.  

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 It's been quite a long while since I was last on LiveJournal..so long that I forgot my account AND no longer have access to the e-mail address I used to make it :(  Nevertheless, I'm back by (somewhat) popular demand and what better day than today to spark a new conversation, a new blog.

When I boarded the Caltrain to SF this afternoon, I was feeling: sad because it was raining and I was all wet, tired because I hadn't slept much the night before, nauseous because I think I had some bad cream cheese at breakfast, and SUPER EXCITED because I was going to the office of SOOMPI for the first time!  Pretty much anyone who knows me has heard me at least mention Soompi (maybe unintentionally >.<) but it's a website where people get together to appreciate Asian pop culture.  My fall quarter research project was on Soompi, so when I heard that they were offering internships in community management and marketing, I JUMPED at the chance to get more involved.

I arrived at the San Francisco office about 45 minutes too early, so I decided to dip over to Whole Foods and grab some lunch before my interview.  I got my meal together and paid at the cash register when I felt a light poke on my shoulder.  I turned to my left and the woman standing behind me in line said, "Stephanie, I'm Susan from Soompi!" I jumped with surprise and shook the hand of the legendary queen of Soompi.  She flashed a gorgeous smile and invited me to eat lunch with her, the lead developer Kevin, and Joyce back at the office.

I entered the Soompi office and immediately recognized Joyce Kim - she looked exactly like her picture in Chosun Ilbo!  I was ecstatic to finally sit down and talk with the ladies at the top of my favorite website, and what made the experience even better was THEIR excitement about meeting ME for the first time.  We went over what my position will be like, talked about the site overall and where it's headed, and got to know each other a little better =) A productive and satisfying meeting indeed!  I am very excited to tackle my first assignment, wear my Soompi T-shirt around, and truly become part of TEAM SOOMPI! 

And now...time for some homework! Haha



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