Korean-American Tug of War

Entry #9 – March 1, 2017

Dear Kath,

I don’t think I ever told you about how I struggled with this, but I’m going to talk about it now as a part of a general questioning/conflicted kind of entry. But I struggled with balancing my racial identity (I’m Korean) and my very American lifestyle and upbringing.

You know, my father once told me that international students and immigrants have wider, more open minds that are more accepting of different experiences as children of two different cultures.

I don’t entirely agree with that. While I think being an immigrant and belonging to two different culture definitely opens you up to different points of view or allows you a different take on things, I don’t think being that necessarily makes for a more open minded person.

To illustrate- I was so frustrated with the Asian culture that I perceived and experienced as a high schooler. I looked around and I saw a constant nostalgia for the culture and the lifestyle of a far off country and a denial that we weren’t there anymore. I grew up in the midst of constant competition against my peers, in a desperate free-for-all to be the student who performed best, got into the most well-known college, under the eyes of all the probing parents. I either saw students with a singleminded, ruthless focus on achievement, competition and a future in an office and the Korean equivalent of a white picket fence or students who were like a hive mind, only hanging out with people of the same nationality, sharing the same opinions, continually static and shit-talking people who they thought were beneath them.

And the whispers I’ve heard made me angry. So what if the new kid transferred out of private school and back to our public school because of a video game addiction? That doesn’t make him any less of a person, and that doesn’t give you the right to treat him like an idiot. So what if that person is trans? What gives you the right to dictate what bathroom he or she or they should go into?

So what? And how dare you?

So, no, I don’t entirely agree with my father’s statement. Internationals and immigrants don’t necessarily have more open minds.

I am certainly no exception.

Because I did my best to get away from my culture and to Americanize myself. I distanced myself and showed a resentment for my race because of the unhappiness that I blamed on them. Because something I didn’t consider in the past that I consider now is that my former peers do not represent the people of my culture as a whole.

Sure, I can be angry, I can always assume the worst of people, but that would make me no better than anyone else. As I’ve aged, as I’ve matured (I’d like to hope the word fits me, but who knows?), I’d like to hope that the people and the culture are better than I gave them credit for, that there is compassion and tolerance and understanding there and that my hatred is misplaced.

I own my mistakes and I apologize for them.

While I’m never going to be an exemplary or a typical Korean, I also promise that I will never generalize and assume an entire culture is represented by the malignant actions of one person or one twisted collective.

…So, if you need an insight into exactly how fucked up I am, there you go.

Thanks for listening.

-D

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