David Byunghyun Lee over at Gawker writes an excellent essay about the tensions between Korean and American culture, and struggles with Asian-American identity. Lee does a fantastic job illuminating some of the mixed messages thrown as Asians by the media — whether it be the lyrics in rap songs, the casting (or lack thereof) in Hollywood, and the stereotypes we see in media.
Some excerpts that I found remarkably insightful:
“Nobody I knew had ever articulated what being an Asian American really was. Having an accent was a failure. Not speaking their parents’ language was not. Having no white friends was a failure. Having no Asian friends was not. Having a white partner was a success. Having black and brown partners was not. Many Asian American kids ate kimchi at home, loved ramen noodles, had Asian parents, and had exposure to Asian culture and language. Yet, they hid and distanced themselves from Asianness. They tweaked their last names on Facebook to sound white and separated themselves from Asian kids from Asia saying “I’m from New Jersey,” “I’m from North Carolina,” and “I’m just American.”…
America tries constantly to ignore the weak and break the strong. Korea has no love for itself or for the others. We worship, consume, and imitate forms of whiteness, forms of blackness, and forms of Asianness, but we still label them Yankees, niggers, chinks, and Japs. And America and Korea both don’t love their beautiful or the ugly. We define and limit beauty. Korea decided that double eyelids are beautiful, so we put them artificially on those who don’t have them. America can’t love a crooked smile, so our kids live with metal in their mouth for three years.”