Angry Asian…Woman?

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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…

Screen shot 2013-05-18 at 5.17.42 PMOr 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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pardon the Interruption

If you are one of the three people that read this blog (mom, dad, and Third Person), this post might come as a bit of a surprise to you. I’m not going to update you on my feelings about Water for Elephants or how I haven’t watched anything on Netflix for a good six months now. I’m not going to write about how I seem to have no time for writing boo hoo hoo. No, I’m gonna throw yall a total curveball and bust out my handy dandy deck of race cards.

BAM.

Hey, why are all the face cards White? THESE CARDS ARE RACIST.

Hey, why are all the face cards White? THESE CARDS ARE RACIST.

Today I watched a clip from a new show on Comedy Central called The Jeselnik Offensive. I will admit have never watched anything from this show before so the following is bound to be uninformed. I also only watched this clip because of a post about it from Audrey magazine, so the following is also bound to be angry.

Go ahead, watch it. I won’t even judge you for laughing at it. Do what you want.

If you guessed that, as an Asian-American, I am offended by this clip then, COME ON DOWN BECAUSE WE HAVE A WINNER.

And it’s not just that I’m offended. I’m tired. Tired of living in freaking 2013 and having to see lazy humor like this. I can pull any rando from the street and ask them to make an Asian joke and you know what their response is probably going to be? Some combination of a bad-driving joke, dishonoring-your-family joke, or dog-eating joke. Like, the ultimate Asian joke for non-Asian people to tell would outline some situation where an Asian kid tells his mom he got an B+ on a test while they’re in the car and she gets so mad that she chokes on the dog burger that she’s eating and causes a traffic accident.

LOOK. I DID IT TOO. I MADE A RACIST ASIAN JOKE AND IT TOOK ME LITERALLY 30 SECONDS TO COME UP WITH. I’M NOT EVEN A COMEDIAN. I CRACKED YOUR CODE.

I'm coming for you, brah.

I’m coming for you, brah.

This is in no way an isolated situation. On an episode of Kroll Show earlier this month, one of the “Oh, Hello” skits involved an Asian woman whose race was not the defining part of her character at all but seemed to be the only source of jokes she was involved in. This was very sad to me because I don’t hate this show for the most part. This skit also involved Adam Brody AND an Alan Alda pun. THESE ARE TWO THINGS I LIKE VERY MUCH (three if you split up “Alan Alda” and “puns”. However, racism is a thing I do not like, so good job Kroll Show, you ruined everything great that happened after the racist first 30 seconds by being uncreative.

**note: I am trying to find a clip but my searches are returning fruitless. What happened was, any time the non-Nick-Kroll character spoke to the woman he made some creepy, racist comment, calling her “Yoko Ono” etc etc**

Yes, this is just me venting as an angry, minority person in modern-day America. But here is why I truly, TRULY want some of you to read this, and really read this:

I am all for humor. Believe me, when I was younger and still in school and actually still had good grades, I made jokes about doing well in math. I made jokes about doing poorly at science. I made jokes at my own expense which is a different form of The Poorly Executed Race Joke as is. And here’s another thing: I’m adopted! My parents weren’t even crazy Tiger Parents or whatever. And after a while, it got boring and unfunny to make jokes about being Asian because I realized that it’s just lazy humor (and self-hating). (**This is a very reductionist anecdote and I have a whole lot of stories about me dealing with being a Korean-American adoptee).

I am 23 years old. I am in that target audience for these Comedy Central shows. And I’m not alone. There are MILLIONS of Asian-Americans who I’m sure have televisions and a cable package that includes Comedy Central. WE SEE YOU.

Always watching.

Always watching.

There’s some part of me that is nervous to share this because I am a coward and I hate confrontation and race is a ~~*~sensitive~*~~ topic. But, there are ways to talk about race that are not serious. There are ways to talk about race that can be fun and funny. As much as I hate racism, I also get annoyed when other minority people get super butthurt about a supposedly racist incident that is merely a display of ignorance. An innocent question about where-am-I-from-because-you-just-got-back-from-a-trip-to-China-and-the-girls-there-kind-of-look-like-me is annoying. So, so annoying. But you, silly White person, are not calling me derogatory terms and you’re the one opening this discussion about me as an Asian person so I’m going to tell you that I’m from Korea but I’m an American citizen and maybe in the future when you approach a random stranger, maybe start out with some light small talk instead of just playing guessing games with my nationality.

But I digress. I think that people should be more comfortable talking about people that are not of the same race as themselves. However, I think the first step in doing so is maybe to not be an asshole about it.

When the last “contestant” for the Jeselnik Offensive’s “Which Kind of Asian Is This” tells Anthony Jeselnik that he is a movie critic, Jeselnik replies “Oh, we need more of those…” which is ironic** because I was going to just re-title this entire segment “Asian Jokes? Oh, We Need More of Those…”

So, go ahead predominantly White comedians. Go ahead and make race jokes. But step your game up. If you can’t think of anything original to say about minorities and have to fall back on stereotypes, maybe just skip that segment for your show and use that Kim Kardashian bit you had shelved instead.

**if this is the incorrect usage of ironic, I apologize. However, if it is the incorrect usage of ironic, and that’s the only thing you take away from reading this, you’re doing it wrong.