2020 Protests

To believe in nonviolence does not mean that violence will not be inflicted upon you. The believer in nonviolence is the person who will willingly allow himself to be the victim of violence but will never inflict violence upon another. He lives by the conviction that through his suffering and cross bearing, the social situation may be redeemed.”

MLK JR

My heart goes out to suffering African-American people. I want to support as best as I can, however limited I am. To disseminate the kind of helpful information that will propel the movement forward might be one thing I can help with. One thing that has helped me the most gain perspective is to go back to history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past but rather learn from the greats who achieved justice in the past.

One heated debate lately is around looting and violence. My belief is that the seed of violence used to achieve a certain goal reflects itself in the results that come out of it, perhaps not right away but eventually and surely slowly eroding the culture of the people engaged in it. The means used to achieve an end have a direct impact on the end itself, per Gandhi many years ago. Justice achieved through violence have a tendency to fall back to injustice through violence that proceeds it.

What makes the matter even more complicated is that most looters may not actually be passionately involved with BLM at all. There seem to be subgroups of people who, disguised as BLM protesters, are seriously looting stores down in Soho for their own profit, and then when people question their behavior, they lash back out to the questioners and call them “racists.” There needs to be much more clarity around who’s actually causing the looting because it’s a whole another debate if it’s a symbolic gesture from BLM leaders to target only racist businesses or slaver statues and etc. (rightful targets.) Or if it’s really just people, not caring about BLM at all, causing chaos.

When people say I should be caring more about black lives than property damage, I care about both: black lives and destruction in neighborhoods. Small property damage itself is not what I’m concerned about. But the unintended consequences to BLM from looting are far more important than minimal property damage. It carries so many negative consequences. Votes, for one. Votes that we need to create actual change with.

I’ve learned a lot and changed my positions on various things over the past few weeks of protests. But when it comes to looting, even George Floyd’s family condemns the looters saying the family is a God-fearing family that will never condone the looters.

When people jump to it saying that “we don’t get to judge how African-American grieve over Floyd” or “we should just be listening,” we are not actively engaged in bringing justice and fighting injustice. We should be more actively engaged in bringing justice while actually fighting the forces and behaviors that will amplify injustice or slow down justice. Looting will slow down justice and keep protests off-focus. “We will disobey the law unless you give us what we want.” is short-term thinking at best when there’s so many other tools and actions in our disposal. It’s a mild form of “the end justifies the means.” That path may hold very bad less obvious consequences down the line, that we might not be able to realize right away. Most importantly, we haven’t exhausted all options before going down that path. With civil war comes more innocent deaths and a cycle of vengeance and hatred. It doesn’t have to come to that.

Per Dr. King’s autobiography, he was inspired by Gandhi who mobilized the highest number of people in the history of mankind at 230 million to fight for independence of India. He told us a good seed bears a good tree. A good tree cannot come from a bad seed. Therefore, when violence and rage are used to incite looting and riots to fight oppressors, the same kind of violence and rage will continue to ensue even after the fighting has stopped, destroying future moral code for younger generations.

I believe in the way of truth that is modeling Jesus, Gandhi, MLK. Jr. They knew the incredible longevity and perseverance of nonviolent resistance that garners public unity slowly but surely. What most young people seem to be confused about is how to choose whom to follow. Whether they will follow the charismatic “rage” types who are screaming from the top of their lungs condoning violence and arousing everyone emotionally. Or if they will listen to the words of truth and love that Jesus, Gandhi and Dr. King taught, being able to think about the long-term consequences of the means of protest. I pray that God will show us the answer.

Mandela’s absolute determination to keep moving forward on a peaceful path, in the face of intolerable provocations, rather than resort to revenge or violence, was unheard of at the time. I recall two USA diplomats commenting that if the multi-party negotiation process succeeded, it would be a world first.There’s no doubt in my mind, it was Mandela’s unique and leading role in seeking a peaceful and negotiated constitutional settlement that prevented the country slipping into civil war.

https://www.peacedirect.org/us/nelson-mandelas-choice-of-a-peaceful-path/

Ethnic Identity is your Special Fusion

People say weird things to you when you are an Asian-American. One thing I realize is that for many Korean people, I will never be a true Korean to them. And for many American people, I will never seem a true American to them. Many times in life, people have put me in a ‘box’ which made me question myself: ‘What am I?’

I’ve spent life in the States for the past 20 years. It still hasn’t made me fully American though. I never forget my Korean side. I appreciate my Korean side. Whenever people mention my Korean-ness, it’s a source of pride. Same with my American-ness. When I go to South Korea, I often stand out based on my open-mindedness, frankness and the American-ness engrained in me now. I appreciate my American upbringing as much as I appreciate my Korean upbringing. I’ve had more American mentors of multiple ethnicities than Korean mentors in my life.

The problem is, there’s many “pure” Korean people who don’t seem to get along with me very well. Granted their life arc is very different from me, based on military service, having spent their entire life in Korea and having problems confidently speaking English and so forth. I must rub them the wrong way, or maybe they have trouble relating to me. In the beginning, I felt hurt because they wouldn’t always consider me their own. Eventually I realized something. I don’t have to belong to them to be happy with myself.

On the bright side, There are Koreans who appreciate me. Not all Koreans are close-minded against Korean-Americans. For those people, I’m a unique, special blend. They don’t relate to me just because I’m Korean but because I can offer them a new possibility. By being true to me. Not having to be somebody else. It goes to show that you cannot please all people all the time. Some of the people will accept you all the time for no reason. All the people will accept you at some of the times for no particular reason. But you cannot make all the people accept you all the time.

In a way, many Korean-Americans and Asian-Americans are operating on a scale system, not a binary system. You are not just completely American or completely Korean. Oftentimes, you are an amalgamation of both to a varying degree. You might have spent 1o years of your life in Korea and then 20 years of your life in Connecticut, North Carolina and New York. So Are you Korean now? Are you a New Yorker now? I don’t know. I would say mathematically speaking, 34% Korean, 66% American. In that manner, we retain a piece of the environment around us wherever we grew up in. I know Koreans who spent most of their childhood growing up in Germany, India, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia, France or the Philippines. It doesn’t make them any less lovable or less respectable. They have their own valuable identity, which is separate from the pure Korean identity. And yet, we share that commonality, as the ‘in-betweeners’ which is also important. That alone is a unique identity in its own way. Being a precious hybrid.

For those of you who might be suffering from identity issues, believe me, it’s not an easy puzzle to solve. Especially if you are half-Asian or multi-racial, I can only imagine how much tougher it is for the outside world to consider you one way and then your internal world trying to express another. In a really funny way, I suffered from color discrimination from my own people based on my unusually dark skin tone growing up in South Korea. I was made fun of, along with my mom and sister growing up.

At the end of the day, the path I believe is “self-acceptance.” Not all Koreans will accept me, and that’s okay. Not all Americans will accept me, and that’s okay. But that doesn’t make you a watered down version of a Korean or a watered down version of an American. I am both of those identities and none of those things. Some people understand this better than anybody, especially those in America who call themselves ‘mutts,’ whose identity is so mixed from several generations of ethnic intermixing. Some people just like to disregard issues surrounding race and ethnicity altogether because it’s much easier to live that way in America.

I’ve recently been reading Professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu’s Book “When Half is Whole” which is an amazing read written by a leading scholar on the subject of identity. It’s been one of the best recent books I’ve discovered. He mentions that the 3 steps to living with your multi-ethnic identity is 1) Knowing and feeling different from those around you often in a negative way + 2) Struggle to belong, social pressure to conform and loneliness + 3) ultimate self-acceptance through self-definition of your own identity.

The ‘tweeners are a weird, special bunch. I truly believe that.

In marine biology, there’s a term called “Biodiversity.” Researchers say the most diverse, creative forms of marine life can be seen at the point where two completely different types of ocean currents collide. In that way, multiethnic individuals are like the meeting point where those two ocean currents collide. Throughout history, it is those multiethnic individuals who have given us amazing innovation and creativity only possible through cultural fusion. Jewish-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Indian-Americans, Asian-Americans just to name a few.

We can think different from those of our origins who are set in their ways. What will you choose to create with your own fusion? The world is your oyster.

What were we trying to achieve with Crazy Rich Asians?

“The actors, the producers and the director, all shared the same sense of pride and responsibility to properly represent Asians in mainstream media with this monumental opportunity. This was our chance to show the world that we are just as brilliant, just as good looking and just as funny as everyone else in Hollywood. This was our key to open the doors for all the amazing Asian talents in cinema.”

Yang, Jimmy O.. How to American (p. 213).

I recently read Jimmy Yang’s book and was very impressed by his life story (ended up writing an Amazon book review 5.0/5.0 stars) But this one part kinda gnawed at me.

In Jimmy Yang’s book, he mentions his experience in the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, as above. As proud as I was to see more Asian representation in the media, it wasn’t that clear to me what this movie was trying to achieve.

A couple years ago, one of my Caucasian co-workers told me that she wasn’t impressed after seeing the movie, I had actually been a little upset at her and thought, ‘Oh, another Asian hater.’ Then I saw the movie and was like “Huh…..maybe she wasn’t being mean. Just honest.”

Here’s the thing. Is making a lot of noise around crazy, rich good-looking Asians of the world going to change people’s perceptions? Is it for the kids? Is it for the future generations? It seemed very much “in your face.” (Like the whole scene with a 3-minute sequence of the male lead actor’s naked body in the shower) It was like an Asian kid in a predominantly white elementary school’s playground posing for the camera in a tuxedo with combed hair and saying “hey I can be good-looking and classy too!” It felt a little forced, self-celebratory, with a hint of backlash toward the existing Hollywood community.

Granted, Hollywood currently sucks in its Asian representation, so maybe this movie was a natural reaction from creative, artistic Asian-American moviemakers who wanted to desperately get other Asians out there. In a way, a step forward (the fact that this movie even exists). In another perspective, Asian-Americans still have a long way to go, not just in the amount of representation in the media, but the consensus we need to achieve to say “WHAT stereotypes do we want to challenge? What image should we communicate to the world?” Projecting “Hey! we can be rich, crazy and good-looking too!” is not enough. There’s no depth there. Nowhere to go from there.

If we really wanted to change people’s perception of the race, or the Asian-American community or the global Asian community in general, we can’t do that by just putting up good-looking Asian faces in Hollywood movies alone. Yes, it’s important for Asian children in the fact that they get to see more representation of role-models who look like them. But that’s missing the larger context. A movie with funny jokes and aesthetically pleasing images of Asian people alone isn’t enough to make other racial communities think “Oh yes, this movie changed my entire outlook on how I should perceive Asians. They are so much better than I thought they were.” You have to win people over. Slowly. Through values that we live by that will actually touch and help the world regardless of race. Just touting from the top of our throats about how cool we are is going to backfire. Asian people have so much history, culture, philosophy, legacy just being ourselves. That’s probably something we should highlight more.

Hollywood shouldn’t be a petty competition-land where people from different ethnic communities try to out-muscle each other in terms of better representation. Media is important yes, that’s why we are fighting for it in the first place. However, more we fight for a louder voice here, more we miss the point of winning the actual bigger war of “correct representation.” Just like Michelle Obama used to say, “When they go low, we go high.” No matter how badly we are depicted in the media, we don’t just fire back by trying to get louder with more media. We are certainly taking positive baby steps in media. But at the end of the day, we need to do more than just pushing media to change people’s real perceptions. It will be hard. But I sure hope we get there.