The plight and success of Amerasians since American exposure at the beginning of the 20th century has been a story much ignored in main stream and university settings. Learn about the story of Natasha, an Amerasian child from Korea, told by photographer Rick Smolan and how children are left behind by their American fathers often never to experience their paternal heritage.
As an Amerasian born in the Philippines and immigrated when I was four, I was deeply touched by Natasha’s story. I can identify with her story of embracing two worlds and cultures and that of countless children abandoned by American G.I. after the end of their tours. I have several cousins who were abandoned by and have never met their American fathers who departed from Asia without even recognizing their children or sending financial support. My cousins who are American by blood have no right to step foot on American soil because their fathers never signed their birth certificates. It’s a sad way of coming into the world when your own father prefers to deny your existence and your paternal heritage denies you over a matter of paperwork.
My cousin’s mothers are now American citizens, but they cannot come to America because of the difficult immigration laws. Imagine, their mothers sending money for decades to subsidize their lives because its difficult for them to get jobs in their local economy thus creating a welfare dependent existence. It’s a vicious cycle all because they’re denied their citizenship and their opportunity to create possibilities in their other home land.
Attitudes towards Amerasians in Asia have changed, but social barriers still exist. They are mocked for being abandoned and unwanted by their American father or for their obvious western appearances. Some Asian mothers to Amerasians were prostitutes to often American men because they had no education or job opportunities, so they are stuck living in absolute slum-like poverty and cannot provide basic care and food for their children. Some were truly in love with their American boyfriends who left as soon as their tour ended or as quickly as they discovered the pregnancy.
I’m sure there are viewers out there who will say, “What was so wrong with her situation?”, “She didn’t need ‘rescuing’!”, “She already had a family to take care of her!” I don’t think many western viewers truly understand the financial strain an extra mouth to feed has in Asian countries. My mother was raised in a “house” with her seven brothers and sisters that most Americans wouldn’t see suitable even for a dog. Living in an orphanage all your life isn’t glamorous as it seems in the photos; every child in an orphanage wants a family who will accept them and value them for who they are. The grandmother specifically asked for Natasha to go to her other home in the United States where she could have the liberty, freedom, and fearlessness to create a joyful world for herself and for her children without the threat of war in the streets.
Fortunately for Natasha, she was a natural born leader and was able to profit from her new world and to survive in her old. Not many people born in poverty and discrimination have this type of energy instilled in them; many people – even in America – pay people to remind them of their capacity for leadership and greatness. What was great was that Natasha never forgot her roots and honored them with her new family.
To me, Natasha’s story is a story of courage, integration, and perseverance in a changing world; a story that brings to light the long term affects of American presence in foreign lands long after American soldiers have packed up and get shipped back home to their families.