I’m a Korean adoptee who grew up in the Midwest where there were a lot of white people and not that many Asian Americans. This might be why I was routinely asked, “Are you Jackie Chan’s daughter?”
I don’t remember the number of times I was asked this, but it was enough for me to have a negative association with the name Jackie Chan. The fact that I was being asked if I was related to a super talented martial arts master did not register for me. At all. I had no idea who Jackie Chan was, only that the name sounded Asian, and that the question emphasized my Asian appearance. I was not at a point in my life when I embraced a single piece of my Korean identity, and for years, I think I avoided watching any Jackie Chan movies because the thought of doing so just reminded me of the uncomfortable racist sentiment that all Asians look alike.
This weekend I watched my first Jackie Chan movie: The Legend of Drunken Master. It was wonderful, and I realized that watching it and being able to enjoy it is the result of some real hard identity work I’ve done the past few years. For some Asian adoptees raised by white people, this identity exploration comes when they go away to college. For others, the transformation is perpetually stalled. For me, my time is now. It started with reading studies about psychological effects of being a transracial adoptee, continued with learning about the history of Asian Americans, and will go on for as long as I live—because identity isn’t a fixed entity.