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Running head: BIOGRAPHY

Cultural Biography Deborah Morrison Georgia State University

BIOGRAPHY Introduction I never contemplated that I had a cultural identity nor did I consider how my cultural awareness of my heritage, beliefs, or background would be helpful in my career as a social worker. I do recognize that I am culturally marginal due to my pretest reflection. A cultural marginal individual is a person who has detached themselves from an identified cultural and ethnic identity and lives their lives apart from distinct groups (Lum, 2011, p. 137). I hope my cultural biography will be able to shed some light as to why I am culturally marginal. In my cultural biography I will address my dilemmas of Americanization/family culture, my positionality/multiple identities, an inventory of my cultural awareness, and my internal and external intersectionality. Dilemmas of Americanization/Family Culture The beginning & understanding a lost family culture:

I was born March 17, 1980 in Tacoma, Washington to an immigrant Korean mother and a migrant Black father. Ironically, Tacomas sister city is Gunsan, Korea (South Korea) which is where my mother is from. My mother and fathers lack of communication as well as his lack of familiarity caused my father to move back to Georgia. Within a few months my mother brought my sister and I to Georgia to be with our father and his family. I was almost 3 years old, and my sister a little under a year old. My mother left and never returned for us. At the age of 3 years old I did not speak English, however I understood English, because my father spoke only English to me, but I spent majority of my time with my mother so I only spoke Korean. Moving to Atlanta with a predominately black family was very confusing for me, and it was extremely difficult for me to communicate with them. I remember feeling so alone and isolated, because my mother was gone, my father was at work all day. In 2005, I eventually reunited with my mother, and I discovered we have this bond that I know is only from a mother and child relationship. I have a better understanding of my Korean family, their beliefs, and her reasons for leaving us behind. As an immigrant she assumed life in American would be perfect, but she quickly realized its extremely difficult for people who are different. She assumed that by allowing my sister and I to live with my father and his family, we would have a better life growing up more American than remaining in a Korean community where we were not accepted. However, she now realizes that she should have maintained a relationship with us, and she regret that we lost her culture as well. My mother is very traditional, and it hurts her to know she allowed her daughters to not be accustomed to her ways. She stated her family is upset that we do not know their language and ways. Positionality/Multiple Identities During my adolescence (confusion/no voice): In 1994 I attended Alonzo A. Crim high school. Crim had a very horrible reputation for being full of fights, gangs, and providing very low standards of education. I did not understand why my family would want me to attend such a school. I was extremely depressed being at such


an overcrowded predominately Black school, and I was scared. I was bullied, because I was mixed, looked different, and did not have a mom in my life. I was teased because I loved books, and I enjoyed spending time alone. I became even more depressed, because I was ridiculed by my peers and family for looking different. I was called Jap and mutt by family, and at school I was called Indian girl and Chinese. I felt like I did not belong anywhere in my community or at home. I was involved in fights for having long hair and lighter skin. As my depression became more prominent, my grades started to suffer, so I turned to writing in a journal to keep my sanity intact; however due to not having a bedroom, no place to keep my journal private it was discovered. I was punished very severely for writing my thoughts, and I was berated in a manner in which I never experienced before. Shortly after that I attempted my first suicide. Suicide among adolescents has been an increasing problem over the past several decades (Rogers, 2013, p. 288). My depression never went away nor the pain did I experience. I believe due to the low self-esteem I suffered as a child, contributed to my depression. Researchers believe problems with self-esteem during adolescence may be related to mental health issues late in life (Rogers, 2013, p. 272). I had my daughter at 16 years old, and in the first time in my life I was truly happy. I finished high school in 1998 while on the honor roll; however I cannot recall much from high school, because I distanced myself from maintaining friendship or establishing any new ones. I had one goal in mind- to finish. My position in Adulthood: I was married in 2003, and I began a new chapter in my life. We bought our house in 2005, I decided to go back to school to obtain a degree in Pharmacy, but I eventually decided social work would fit me more. In 2009 my husband and I decided to start trying for our first child together, however I discovered I was not ovulating, so after getting on my medications, we got pregnant, and our son was born in August 2010 (pre-term). In 2013, I graduated with my associates degree in social work, and gained acceptance into the social work program. However, my depression never went away nor did the pain I experienced. I believe due to the low self-esteem I suffered as a child, contributed to my depression. Researchers believe problems with self-esteem during adolescence may be related to mental health issues late in life (Rogers, 2013, p. 272). Cultural Awareness Inventory During my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood I lived and was in constant contact with predominantly the African American community. I had a very favorable impression of other ethnic groups, because I went to a very diverse Middle school, and watched lots of television. My impressions about people of different ethnic groups did not change as I became an adult, because I was still in the same neighborhood and attended the same type of schools. As I became an adult I started to form friendships with people of other ethnic backgrounds. I was working at The Coca-Cola Company, and I encountered a variety of people. As I got older, I moved to Snellville, Georgia, where the community is mixed with a variety of ethnic individuals. I work PRN at DeKalb Hillandale, which employs a large number of African Americans;

BIOGRAPHY however that is why I am shocked that my cultural competence in the African American community was so low. Even though I have more contact with my African American family members I tend to be distance from them as well. I believe I try to identify with my mothers culture more than my fathers. Intersectionality: External and Internal

At the age of 21 years (age/life span), my daughter and I were homeless (residency). My boyfriend was still at home with his father, so his father allowed my daughter and me to move in for a few months (partnership status). I eventually found an apartment, but the conditions were deplorable, but I needed a place to live. In the summer of 1999 I applied for section 8 housing (social class), which I gain approval for in November 2001, shortly after I moved into that horrible apartment. With my housing assistance I moved into a nice townhome in Lithonia, Georgia. I was able to eventually find a full-time job, and I maintained a weekend job (career). In my opinion, once I become a social worker I believe my intersectionality would help me with a client. My intersectionality allows me to share a level of understanding with a client who may view my social status above their own. I will have empathy towards a client who is homeless. Conclusion After doing this cultural biography I feel exposed and vulnerable. I did not want to disclose so much personal information, and still left out quite a bit, but I felt it is important to reveal the things I felt impacted me the most. I am imagining that if I feel so vulnerable and naked by revealing these things on paper, I can only imagine what a client must feel when they speak to social workers or anyone regarding the things in their life. I feel this exercise has increased my empathy I have for others, and I feel I have an idea of who I am now. I feel in order to get gain clarity, awareness, and a sense of self, you have to peel the layers, and exposed true self just not to whomever is reading this, but to yourself as well.

BIOGRAPHY References Lum, Doman. (2011). Cultural awareness. Culturally competent practice: a framework for understanding diverse groups and justice issues [4th Ed] (pp. 137-50). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole. Rogers, Anissa Taun. (2013). Development in adolescence. Human behavioral in the social environment [3rd Ed] (pp. 272-88). U.S. Census Bureau. (2013, November 25). State & county quickfacts: Tacoma, Washington Retrieved November 25, 2013, from