I met the constraints of discrimination upon my first and only “F.” A stunned freshman, I approached my Mythology teacher to inquire how I could improve my weaknesses. Her response left me speechless. It was apparently clear I plagiarized because, as an Asian, my English skills inevitably fell short of her high standards. Despite my protests of earnest work, the English department could not challenge a teacher’s discretion. While she offered a chance to redeem myself, I felt shackled by the injustice of stereotyping.
Although I always kept my grandmother’s letter on my desk, it held a different meaning when I sat down to rewrite my essay. After years of questioning my grandmother’s choice to write her letter in Japanese, I realized she had used an intended tool of oppression to overcome that same oppression. She proved her Korean identity was stronger than the impediment of language.
I began my own climb to overcome my supposed inadequacy in English with the English language itself. Essay after essay, I transformed each word to break assumed barriers and establish my capabilities. Instead of choosing between two distinct cultures, I used each culture to strengthen the other. Just as my grandmother’s letter gave me the wisdom to overcome oppression and form a unique Korean-American identity that I am proud of, my words will find their own niche of immortality.