Korea is historically a homogeneous nation. The climate is now changing with rapidly declining birth rates. Talk of the potential extinction of the Korean population has the country opening its borders to increased immigration. But this isn’t another immigration story. It’s an ethnic one.
Think about the Koreans or 1st generation Korean-Americans you may know. Or even consider the Japanese, Taiwanese, Chinese, Thai, Filipino or other Asian friends you may have. Are they mixed or purely Korean or Japanese? I’m sure you’ll find most of them are 100%.
We’re Not all the Same
As a mixed breed myself, I am always intrigued by other ethnically mixed Asians. I’m not referring to the Chinese friend you have born and raised in California who marries a Caucasian and then presto, “hapa,” a mixed race baby, arrives. I’m talking about older generations of Asians who came together despite political and cultural divisions and raised blended families. I find these stories often involve war-torn disputes and secret relationships shrouded in some guilt or shame.
I’ve always felt this unspoken solidarity when meeting other Asian-Americans, particularly east Asian since that’s my heritage. It’s an immediate quiet acceptance of “I get you,” “we are more similar than different,” “I was also forced to play piano, violin, practice cursive, excel in school, smile and go to church.” There’s always some truth to stereotypes.
Asian-Americans are slowly but surely becoming more heard and seen in mainstream media. There’s an undercurrent of empowerment swelling that comes from standing upon the shoulders and achievements of our ancestors. Our parents made it over here, worked their asses off, followed the law and raised some hard-working, dependable genuine Americans.
A new identity is emerging among the younger Asian-American population. One that isn’t as congenial and polite as our parents, but an identity that’s raw and determined. It comes with honesty, gumption and the courage to speak its mind. It’s encouraging.
Many of our parents and ancestors fought hard for the freedoms we possess today. They stood under a flag and made an oath to a country “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” Now it’s our turn. What are we going to do to make a better life? How are we going to give rise to our children’s voices? Despite what’s happening in the political and societal spectrum, what can we do on our own to improve our ways? How do we balance legacy with the present?
OK, so maybe this is an immigration story after all. And maybe it’s realizing you can’t talk about immigration without recognizing ethnicity, history, and identity. We need to consider all these facets to tell our story. Let’s do what we can to preserve them and continue to make more.
Tell me. What’s your story? Where do you come from? Where are you now?
Along these lines, read about why I started this blog here.