Welcome back, Hip Hapa Homeez!
This week’s guest is transracial adoptee Yun-Sook Kim Navarre (pictured here). A Los Angeles resident since 2006, Yun-Sook was raised in Detroit and attended grad school at San Francisco State University in 2002. Although she’s an outspoken spoken-word artist and community activist, her proudest accomplishment is being a loving mother to her six-year old daughter.
Q: How did a nice Korean girl like you end up being adopted?
A: Due to that time period (1970’s), politics, history and economy, I will never know. My adoptive parents were white, but I had a Filipino brother and a Native American sister who were foster kids. I was like 5 or 6 when they turned 18 and left home. Thank god, I had them! We were all people of color and had to look out for each other. There were no Asian people, let alone integrated neighborhoods, then.
Q: How did your adoptive parents choose you?
A: My family wanted a white American kid, but white American kids are hard to come by. White women have abortions or keep their babies, or else their kids are wait-listed. My adoptive dad couldn’t have any more kids. So, they became foster parents so they could be more eligible for international adoption. They had no other choice because they couldn’t reproduce.
Q: You don’t think they chose you because they wanted you?
A: You’re not adopting by choice or to give the kid a home. It’s not like an alternative, but more like a default. And, if you adopt internationally, you’re damn sure never going to get that kid reunited with her birth family again. You’re in the clear.
I was an international adoption worker in Detroit in the late 1990’s. Black males are the cheapest kids. Do you know how many black males are in foster care? They’re never going to get adopted. White Americans will bend over backwards to get a passport, income verification, and immunizations to get a precious white Russian kid.
If you want a kid, you want a kid. Why does race matter? There are still undercover racists and imperialists. If you’re so cool, why not adopt a kid from Brazil or Africa? Why a little China doll? Because they’re what Americans thinks are smart and easy. Cool adoptive parents will adopt black males because they know adoption is about the kid, not about the parent.
Q: How much do you know about Korean culture?
A: I live in Koreatown (Los Angeles) where we have a large Korean population, but I always had a Korean culture. At 16, I started working in a Korean store selling handbags and beauty supplies. I went to Korea in 1998, and lived there in 2000. I was looking for my birth parents, volunteering and helping other Korean adoptees find their parents. I also taught English.
A lot of adoptive parents don’t want their kids to know how fun and developed Korea is, but it’s like Tokyo on crack. The clubs are opened until 5 in the morning. I think the parents want their kids to have this Westernized notion, to keep Korea exoticized. They feel threatened. They don’t want to lose their kids to the Korean community.
Q: What are your duties as a community activist?
A: I talk at camps and schools. I’m considered “the angry one, the crazy one, self-destructive”, but I’m a good advocate and activist.
I tell the kids about how much they’re programmed to love their master. ‘See that cute dog in the window?' their adoptive parents might’ve said. It’s a little bit ingrained in our Asian blood to be grateful. You’re supposed to think if you hadn’t been adopted, ‘Oh, I would’ve been an orphan. I would‘ve been a prostitute.’
Q: How long have you been a spoken word artist?
A: Since 1998, my work has been performed and published in Korea, and in black and Korean adoptee communities. I haven’t really broken out in the mainstream. I do a lot of hiphop festivals, and “angry women of color” and Korean adoptee events. I continue to be loud, proud and radical because I’m tired of us Asians being relegated to food and martial arts.
Q: How has your childhood impacted the way you raise your daughter?
A: 1. Exposure to art and culture. 2. Know yourself and love yourself. 3. The world is yours, really.
I hope that I can be in the position that allows her to be whatever she wants to be, and not have the pressure to choose a major or study something specific. If she wants to be an art brat, she can be an art brat. If she wants to join the circus, she can join the circus. I hope to be middle-class or upper middle-class so she can do her thing and not be like me--practical and holding it down.
Thank you for sharing, Yun!
Watch for Yun’s most recent project, Black Pearl Greetings, coming soon. Featuring her writing, it’s a personalized video greeting service offering irreverent videotaped cards you’ll never find at Hallmark.
You can also connect with Yun on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter through her user name: seoulflower
In case you missed these on the Hip Hapa Homeez Facebook page, here are some links to a couple of interesting articles:
After reading this one, I wondered how conflicted Lena Horne must’ve been over her MGM (multi-generational multi-racial) heritage:
And, here’s a story about a beauty pageant in Cote d’Ivoire that encourages African women not to bleach their skin—a major problem in the area:
Finally, an article I wrote about mixies for OneBrownGirl a few weeks ago:
Hey Hip Hapa Homeez, keep coming back for more interviews with intriguing multi-culti personalities. And, don’t forget the film at http://www.watermelonsushi.com and the Hapa*Teez t-shirts at http://www.cafepress.com/hapateez
Join our Facebook group, Hip Hapa Homeez, and our Fan Page for Watermelon Sushi. We’re on Twitter now, too, so follow us for updates! User name: WatermelonSushi
Until soon, I am…
Your Hip Hapa,