Why Asian American Stories Are No Different From Each Our Own

Crimes against Asian Americans are rampant in the news today. I recently read on Facebook a colleague of mine was punched in the street in Washington, DC. He was sharply intelligent and was a wonderful human being.

He shared his experience with nuance and compassion – especially toward the man who hit him earlier today. I cannot say that I have as much tolerance.

Growing up, wherever I was, I was considered Korean – to the young kid of Italian descent in sixth grade who was struggling to understand my presence in the class, to a woman at work who asked me if I was “oriental.” Try as hard as I may have to fit-in to the mainstream American culture, I was Korean and American. I grew up in Korea until I was eleven-years-old. I also was not Korean, as most of my education background and my professional career had been in the States.

Juggling this fine balance has always been a challenge growing-up and as I understand it, will always be a part of my life.

Some might just call the continued hate crimes against Asian Americans from mental disabilities or lack of education or even lack of knowledge of how COVID-19 is spread. Some Asian celebrity figures, Sandra Oh, Eric Nam, have called out on news outlets that have called the shootings as another shooting incident, as racist acts against Asian Americans.

I do agree that these violent acts come from a place of ignorance or lack of education. At the same time, there were moments during my time in the U.S. where I did feel different as the only Asian in the room or felt discriminated against.

And as with many movements, the Me-Toos, Black Lives Matter, I hope this is a time for us, for all of us, to challenge our assumptions, and to listen to the stories. It takes effort to calm the voices of presupposed judgments when you look at someone who looks different or even to think outside of our comfort zones.

The United States is also a place I call home. And as with me, we all have incredible nuanced and complex layers of experiences unique to all of us. And again, I hope this is a time for us to self-reflect on the complexities of our own identities and to listen to voices seemingly different.