My original plan was to post something before the month started, but whenever I sat down to write, I found myself struggling to pinpoint what exactly I wanted to say.
This is due, in part, to my lack of awareness about the APA community. I’ve never hesitated to check “Asian/Pacific Islander” when prompted on a test form or write “Seoul, South Korea” as my birthplace but until recently, I never gave much thought to what it means to be Asian American.
Then, in my senior year of college, I took a seminar focused on public memory and public history. My professor was (well, she still is) Filipina and for the first time I was in a class where the syllabus was comprised of work by and about Asians and Asian Americans. It was like my blindfold had been removed. I was the only Asian student in the class and I felt a much different connection to the course material than the other students. I found it difficult to read some of the novels at times because the stories hit a little too close to home. It was hard to be objective in discussions because it felt like we were analyzing me.
I grew interested in they hybridity of Asian American culture. As a Korean American adoptee I have sometimes felt that I was “too White” in some situations but “not White enough” in others. This constant feeling of being at odds pushed me to try and blend in or not focus on my race as a defining characteristic, but I couldn’t ignore the fact that unless a person got to know me, there were certain assumptions that would be made based on my being Asian.
When met with my professor, I told her how the course material was affecting me. The protagonists in the works we studied that I connected to were angsty, angsty ladies. I was feeling something, but I couldn’t fully explain what it was. “I feel like I should be angry,” I told her. “But I’m not sure what I’m angry about.”
A few months later, I found my anger…
Or at least something like it. I read this book. I followed this blog. I took a closer look at the media I was consuming, looking for faces like mine and coming up blank. I remembered times when I was younger…
I wish I had been angrier then.
It’s not all anger though. Like I wrote in my last post, there are millions of Asian Americans! We’re teaching you how to do makeup. We’re making beautiful films. We’re signing major recording deals. We’re starring in Golden Globe nominated television series. We are poets and activists.
Okay, I digress. I’m obviously in a little bit of a honeymoon phase with the APA community but this month is the first APA Heritage Month where I’m celebrating—like, truly celebrating—how great it is to be Asian American.
On a more mushy note, I wanted to write about how this weird awakening of my Asian pride has done more than just make me watch KevJumba videos.
Growing up, my brother and I were like any other brother and sister. And by “like any other brother and sister” I mean, we kind of hated each other. And a lot of it was on my part because he’s younger than me and I wanted to be cooler than him and blah blah blah.
Then he came to college (the same one as me) and got involved with the Korean student group—something that I was not about during my time in school. I resented how he only hung out with Asian people and also how he never seemed to want to hang out with me—because what kind of brother doesn’t want to hang out with his bitchy older sister when she suddenly wants to be friends after 18 years of fighting? I also felt a pang of jealousy that he suddenly seemed “more Korean” than me, even though we are exactly the same amount Korean and by that I mean 100% Hanguk blood flowin’ through our veins.
Fast forward to January of this year. I’m all fired up about being Asian and trying to get involved in the APA community while I’m still in town and I find myself attending the same events as my brother and probably irritating him because, suddenly, he can’t. escape. me.
And now, (to be really general) things are better. We talk more—like, really talking. We fight less. He even allows me to hang out with his friends, who have all been very nice and don’t seem to notice that I’m new at this whole Korean American thing.
So the blanket message here is that finding my identity has been a sneaky, lifelong process–one that is certainly not over yet. Sometimes I feel like I am still “learning” how to be Asian American even though I’ve been one all along. But now I feel like I have a community and, holy crap, is it a great one.
So, happy APA Heritage Month again, everyone. And shout out to my little broha, who I love very much.