DE&I Sharing Stories Series - Mary Buche, CREW KC
In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Month, the theme we have in the National Association of Asian American Professionals Kansas City Chapter this year is “I am”. I am a Korean American bank professional, daughter of a Korean immigrant. I grew up being asked “Where are you from?” “What are you?” My Korean mom instilled in me “You are American”. I pretended I fit in and denied who I was so I could feel like I belonged. The truth is that I was not accepted on either side of my family. My Korean side all immigrated from Korea. I was born in Seoul, South Korea as a US Citizen because my father was in the military. I was the first in my mom’s family to be a US Citizen. I came to the US as an infant. You have to think about that time in 1968 when just the year before in the US, interracial marriages were legalized. Of course, because I looked Korean, I didn’t look like anyone on my dad’s side of the family. We weren’t included or invited to many family events. And I endured racism from some family members. I’m not sure if it was any better on my Korean side of the family as I wasn’t “Korean enough.” I didn’t speak Korean, so I wasn’t included or invited to family events on that side either. My mom said, “You are American, you don’t need to learn Korean or anything about the culture”. I felt ashamed of who I was. When people assumed I was a different race, I didn’t correct them. I felt it was more accepted to be Hispanic than to be Asian. I was bullied a lot as a child and called racist names. When I was told “Go back to your country!” I thought to myself where was that? I wasn’t a Korean citizen, nor did I speak Korean. None of my family was in Korea, they all immigrated to the US. I was born a US Citizen in South Korea and I am half white but in some people’s mind, I will always be a foreigner.
As an adult I embrace my Korean heritage and celebrate my diversity. We are all individuals and different from each other. So as my German Grandmother said, you are like a Heinz Variety with different cultures mixed in.
Celebrate and be proud to be a Heinz Variety. When you are having those conversations about diversity and inclusion don’t forget the Asian Americans. My aunt said, we are not the model minority, we come from a poor uneducated family. There are 48 different countries in Asia, and we are all unique. Don’t stereotype and realize we are all raised culturally different.
Learn more about Asian American history in the US: https://www.history.com/topics/immigration/asian-american-timeline
Learn more about the National Association of Asian American Professionals Kansas City: https://kc.naaap.org/cpages/home and the Asian American Chamber of Kansas City: https://www.asianchamberkc.com/