Military B.R.A.T. Michelle Thomas has lived quite the eccentric life. She has travelled the world, developed a sense of self and started a family. She has managed to bring an immense amount of culture into her life as well as her child’s.
Thomas was born in Wonju, South Korea in 1981. Her mother is full Korean and father is African American. As a multi-cultured child, she was able to experience two different cultures under one roof. Her mother set out to raise her in a Korean household that she, to this day, embraces with pride and joy.
She lived in Korea until the age of four when her father was re-stationed from Korea to Germany. She went through preschool and elementary school in Germany and then moved to Georgia, USA where her younger brother was born. They are close but share a different cultural identity.
Since Thomas was born in Korea, she has grown into that culture more so than her brother. He identifies as an American because he was born and raised within that culture. Shortly after her brother was born, they moved to Aurora, Colorado, USA where she attended high school. Thomas then went on to graduate from the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado and now works in Denver, Colorado.
Today, Thomas identifies as Black, Korean and American. Though she embraces her Korean culture, she does the same for black culture. She enjoys the same music, dance as well as joined a black sorority in college. She spent most of her life in America taking away any Korean language. She does, however, speak conversational Korean.
It helps when she visits Her birth country but she doesn’t feel as comfortable there then one might think. She referred to Korea as a homogenous society. They don’t take well to change and since she has darker skin then those of full Korean decent, she is starred at and isolated—almost as if she were an alien.
“I feel like a representative of an entirely different culture. I go numb sometimes.”
Growing up in Georgia wasn’t all that either though. Since she was predominately raised in a Korean household, her mother dressed her in their culture’s traditional wear and sent her off to school with Korean style food.
“In Georgia, I was dressed in Korean wear but I wanted to wear Levis and Vans. My lunches were Korean. No body wanted to trade a fruit role up for dried squid!”
Though it was harder for her, she adjusted and learned to love who she is and where she comes from. With this optimistic outlook on life, she was able to pass that attitude down to her daughter. Her daughter was born to a black father as well as Thomas was but doesn’t share the same physical features.
She doesn’t resemble a Korean whatsoever so when she leaves the house she is seen your everyday African American. At home, she interacts with the Korean lifestyle with her mother by cooking traditional meals and using Korean products. It’s not a weird lifestyle for her because this is how she was brought up. Her daughter does choose to identify more the black community but she is not disregarding her love for the Korean culture in any way.
“She likes it, [she] doesn’t feel awkward about it.”
This expression of shared culture beautiful. Both Thomas and her daughter welcome all cultures with open arms and enjoy sharing their culture with others.