Ari Elgharsi

I am half Korean, half Moroccan. My father was born in Morocco and immigrated here, and my mother is of Korean descent, but was born in the United States. And I was also born here.

I think being mixed entails a very rich and varied life, just having those two different, very separate cultures within the household, and with the food that I was exposed to and ate, with my mom cooking both traditional Korean and Moroccan food. Between my parents’ experiences, obviously my father grew up in Morocco for most of his childhood, so he was surrounded by other Moroccans, and it didn't vary as much. My mom grew up in America and I guess she had more of an Asian experience. My experience has been, I'd say more on the Asian side, just based off of my visual appearance and having believed that I look more Asian on the outside, I think I've embodied that feeling more. Especially when I meet other people, I'm more conscious of how they see me as being Asian or half Asian, rather than any part of my being having to do with Moroccan. Although, the question is usually “what you're mixed with?” which most people just assume is white.

I've never been to Asia, but I have been to Morocco numerous times, especially just going on trips with my father, and so I'm more familiar with that culture on an actual, kind of physical level, just because I've really been all around Morocco and seen the people and the places and eaten the food and stuff. But I think I'm generally more exposed to Korean culture in terms of who my friends are—like the accessibility to having Korean friends, and to eating that food more frequently.

I think if I were to go to Asia and tell people I'm Korean, it would be a lot more believable than me going to Morocco and saying I'm Moroccan, just purely based on appearance. And so in that aspect, it feels a little bit harder [to connect] just cause I'm not as Moroccan-passing. I feel like I have a decent understanding of the Moroccan culture and the Moroccan people, and so in that sense, I don't feel distanced from them, [compared to] someone else, who, let's say looks Moroccan, but has no idea about Moroccan culture. There's that disconnect, but I feel like I have a good understanding of Moroccan culture and people.

Community has a lot to do with your environment and where specifically you grew up. And it's very specific because, just based on even the schools that I went to and the people that went to those schools, I didn't find or have many Asian, let alone Moroccan friends. There was this one girl at my middle school who was Egyptian and that was like the closest thing I had to a Moroccan friend, and there were basically no Asians.

My neighborhood, just to start more broad and then focus in, isn't very Asian. It's not like I live in Flushing, where there's a big Korean population, or even Midtown where there’s Koreatown and stuff like that. And the schools that I've been to have predominantly been white. So in terms of that community, it hasn't been very Asian. And I'd say the time when I actually started having Asian friends was in my freshman year of college. So it took a long while to find that specific community. And I'd say it was definitely easier to assimilate to that Asian community as opposed to a Moroccan or Arab Middle Eastern one. And that goes back to appearance, and people’s perception of myself and how I see myself.

I'd definitely say if I was half white, I would identify with my “white side” more. Just because I think being in those environments when I was younger made me feel like I was white. But there is literally no part of me that is [white]. It's almost like white is the default. I feel like it really just comes down to complexion, honestly. Sometimes people just categorize you by how light or dark [you are] and, that’s kind of like where you fall into groups sometimes naturally when you're looking for friend groups in a foreign environment. But you know, that's not always true.

I think as a general thing, this next generation is going to be the most diverse generation considering how many first generation kids are in this country. And so I think mixes like mine are going to become a lot more common in the future. I just think this is the beginning of something.