As a first generation refugee, I grew up wanting to be American. So many times, I believed I was born the wrong color because it was just so hard being my color. My little heart understood it was a disadvantage to be in the minority because I was treated less than based on my ethnicity and our family’s socioeconomic status.
I was almost ten years old when I began third grade in the United States. I learned English from scratch in an ESL (English as a second language) class with kids from different ethnic groups. Eventually, we learned to communicate with one another thanks to our teacher, Mr. Caserta. He was such a patient, understanding, and caring teacher who still remembers me years later when he taught ESL and French at my high school.
Thanks to Mr. Caserta, I made progressed quickly in learning English and was bumped straight into fifth grade to catch up with other kids my age. This would be the beginning of my identity pains for I was no longer surrounded by refugee kids like me.
The crazy thing is, I had to make not one but two awkward entrances into my first real non ESL classroom. I was transferred from Irving to Emerson Elementary about a month into the school year because I was mistakenly sent to a school that was much farther from my house.
So, I walked into yet another room full of kids I didn’t know and none of them had my color. I stood out as an unwanted addition in a classroom of mostly white girls and boys. Even as Mrs. Lombard asked them to welcome me, I could hear the whispers and snickers as I begrudgingly walked to my desk. It was scary but I felt safe under the watchful eye of my protector and teacher. Until recess came….
I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the ritual for all my school years thereafter. And it would be the reason why I came to the conclusion that I was born the wrong color. I guess the constant teasing, name calling, belittling stares, and noises coupled with slanted eyes mocking my dialect and ethnic features messed with my mind.
These tauntings continued into middle school, high school, college, and even into my first job. Crazy right? I promise you it’s true.
I came to accept and expect such treatment as part of being different than the majority. After all, we (my family and I) were foreigners in this new home. We had anticipated hardships and adjustments, but not the prejudice and discrimination we would encounter.
My parents often had to do jobs which their co-workers considered to be below them. It wasn’t uncommon for us to receive suspicious, despiseful, and mocking glares in public.
I always felt underprivileged, inferior, and powerless as the minority race behind whites and blacks. I didn’t trust anyone and honestly believed I would never have a fair opportunity in life because of my ethnicity. Even as an adult, I couldn’t fully trust people to treat me right and give me a fair chance. If only I hadn’t been born the wrong color.
Then I met God and gradually, my perspective and view of self and others changed radically. The more I got to know God, the more I learned about myself and how He formed me to be like Him. Turns out I was not born the wrong color after all!!
Yes, I have experienced prejudice and discrimination. But not solely because I am Asian. I have faced these evils as a human being. The fact is, I have been mistreated by all kinds of people, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, and yes, even people in my own ethnic group. And I have met others who have experienced the same.
We humans are prone to mistreat one another because we are sinful. Without God’s intervention in our lives, we cannot do right or treat others as they should be treated, even some of the time.
Now that I know and believe God uniquely designed me as He intended, I no longer feel underprivileged, inferior, and powerless because of my ethnicity. I am privileged to be God’s child because of who I am on the inside, not because of what I look like on the outside. I am neither inferior nor superior to anyone because I am created in the image of God just like every person on the planet. And I am not powerless because I have God’s supernatural power in me through faith in His Son, Jesus.
This does not mean I will never again be mistreated because of my ethnicity. It just means I understand my place as God’s child. I understand I am not born the wrong color. Regardless of how people view and treat me, my worth and position with God does not change.
My young friends, you are designed special by God to be the exact color He intended. He created each human life in His image, gave each one significant value, and assigns a purpose to each person. Treasure the unique person God made in you. Value others in the same way. Take extra care to treat everyone the way you expect to be treated, with kindness, respect, and love.
God made only one of you, so you can uniquely impact the world you live in right now wherever you are. Each day, practice these things as you care for the humans around you, including your family 😉. Speak less. Listen more. Learn continally. Love deeply. In doing so, you will help build a kinder, more loving world.