Birth/mark, Essays Front Page

The Color of My Skin

April 24, 2021

We’re almost home, on the border of Fort Greene and Downtown Brooklyn, coming back from a morning trip to Target. The weather is a perfect, sunny spring Saturday, warm enough to wear t-shirts. The cloth masks that I sewed from their favorite baby onesies are on. Because it’s still the Pandemic. Covid vaccines are rolling out and this feels hopeful. Emmy, my almost 5-year-old daughter, and Rainey, who’s a little over 3 years old, insist on walking. 

Our street is blocked off. Our neighborhood resurrects an outdoor street fair. There’s a cluster of people gathered, several folding chairs out. Two loudspeakers stand tall and high like totem poles. I’ve parked the huge stroller to the side. My daughters stand in front of me, my left hand over Emmy’s heart and my right hand over Rainey’s heart. 

Several African American children ranging in age from 4 to 8 years old are on stage. Feeling the music, they move their legs and arms in sync, skipping, twirling, hopping, and flying. The dancers are in bright yellow leggings, African print skirts, and black sweatshirts with bold yellow lettering that reads BLACK LIVES MATTER. 

They begin their chant. 

I said I love being black.

Tiny fingers reaching to the sky.

I said I love being black.

They wave their fingers like tambourines, which in sign language means praise or applause.

I love the color of my skinnnnn.

Their arms wrap themselves in hugs.

Because it’s the skin that I’m in.

My throat is tight. There’s a tsunami of grief wanting to push out. 

Grief for the 13-year-old little Lynne who hated her ugly yellow skin. 

Who could never sing and dance to such a message. 

I love the color of my skinnnn. 

I love the skin that I’m innnnn. 

Was not available in my lexicon.


At almost 3 years old, my strong, part Irish, Austrian, English, very blond, blue-eyed, 6-foot-tall unmarried mother adopted me from South Korea. 

I came from the “colorblind” and “love is enough” generation of international, transracial adoption.  In the late 1970’s, I imagine my mother marched into Catholic Social Services in Philly and said, “I want a daughter.” They, in return, smiled at her. Like she was an angel. Or a nun in pedestrian clothing. After all, every orphan deserves a family. Love. A true home. 

How that child was born, where that child came from, as well as why, when, and how that child was abandoned are not important. Adoption meant a full erasure of an orphan’s origins—from seeds planted, from the very soil they were birthed, from history and legacy and blood ties. 


Given my interest in interior design, even while standing in front of the wall of paint chips, a rainbow hue of hope, I am astounded by the various shades of white, like those that informed my childhood identity. My adoptive Mother was elegant pearl, my friends were parched doves. We lived in a suburb of Trenton, New Jersey, trapped inside a snow globe of blizzard white conditions.

Surrounded on all sides.

My mother was not a talker, an open or warm person. She was a proper, practical, very private, NJ State Librarian who preferred silence. We never talked about things that made her uncomfortable, like death, sex, and money. But we especially could not discuss race or my adoption, although overtly the bedrock of our family structure.

This silence, this absence of stories, from an orphan who had no family legacy, made me feel like I was in a vacuum of nothingness. That I came from nothing. Not acknowledging my Korean face, my body, and my skin that was not white led me to believe that I was wrong. Anything not white is wrong. And so, to be accepted, to be loved, to be right, I rejected myself. 

I wanted to be white, badly. But not just any white. I wanted to be blonde

When I was little, I’d pull a chair in front of the narrow hallway closet. I’d stretch to the very top and snag my prize. My mother’s full-blown, Sandra Dee-looking, blonde wig. Shoulder length with a curly bounce at the base of the neck. I wore this blond wig consistently as my Halloween costume. Like a nurse, just with blonde hair. Or a nun with blond hair. A ballerina, with blond hair. A bride, with blond hair.

In 7th grade, Eddie Peroni, a tiny little Italian boy, introduced me to the violence of prejudice by shoving my face in the dirt. He used to scream at the top of his lungs, “CHINA CHINA CHINA!” He did this in the hallway, in gym class, and at lunch. He announced it the way you’re supposed to scream FIRE FIRE FIRE. Or DANGER DANGER DANGER. 

I went home crying to my mom, who would calmly say, “Well, Lynne, did you tell him you’re not a country?” 

And yes, logically, my mother was right. I am not a country. If I was, a more accurate announcement would be KOREA KOREA KOREA. But logic was beside the point. The more he screamed, the smaller I became.

The more I wanted to become invisible. Disappear.

If only I could shed off my offensive yellow skin. The way snakes did. I tried to wash it away with my mom’s soft white Noxzema cream. I’d scrub and scrub and scrub. But I couldn’t get rid of the nonwhite ugly.

Looking back, I’m enraged that I had to navigate this bullying and the trauma that resulted. I don’t feel like my mother was there for me to help me through it. I was 13. Technically a teenager but still a child, a wounded child. If only my mom could have had a genuine conversation about racism with me.

Or forget conversations! If only my mom could have hugged me and given me emotional, maternal, squishy, pillowy support. 

Her reasoning and logic were not helpful. Felt more like a careless disregard, a backhand. Was it Eddie Peroni who spit hate in my face? Or was it my mother’s inability to see me and hear my voice that became the ultimate crime?

I remember after getting mad at my mom, I’d slam the door to my bedroom, curl into a fetal position, and bury my head dramatically in my pillow. Usually crying. I’d wish with all my might that my mom would come into the room and just hug me. Just say, “Lynne. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m here. You are not alone.”

She never opened my bedroom door. She never comforted me, much less addressed my feelings. Now, as a mom who is in a generation of positive parenting, now as an adult, I’m still that Little Lynne.  


The loud music and cheers bring me back to what matters now. Rainey is twirling in a circle, twirl, twirl, twirl. Her bright pink t-shirt with a rainbow ice cream cone looks like a 4th of July sparkler that knows its worth.

My daughters, who look like me, who match me, who are Asian American girls who will grow up to become Asian American women, will be proud of their slanted eyes. They know about their Chinese and Korean cultures. They will speak about race and grief. They will come to love the color of their skin.

I love the color of my skinnnnn.

Because it’s the skin that I’m in.

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Filed under: Birth/mark, Essays Front Page


Lynne Connor received her M.F.A. in Creative Non-Fiction from Mills College and has been published in Mom Egg Review, Gazillion Voices Magazine, Kartika Review, Adoption Today Magazine, as well as Pact’s POV Newsletters. She’s a certified Amherst Writers & Artists affiliate leading writing workshops through Lost Lit. She resides in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, Grumpy Bert, furry son Remy-the-Pug and daughters, almost 6-year-old Emmy and 4-year-old Rainey.