Tuesday, March 21, 2006
As a Korean-American guy, born in NYC and raised in a predominantly white environment, I have often felt the pull of being trapped between two cultures. I would imagine many of you whom are either Asian-American or are raising part-Asian children can understand what I mean by that.
Personally, I cherish that duality in myself. Growing up, I used to make turkey and kimchi sandwiches all the time. Sometimes, it would be bologna and kochujang sandwiches. And though now that type of cultural melding of foods is considered "fusion," back when I was a 6-year-old kid, I liked to think that, by combining the best of both cultures, the sum of the parts was greater than the whole.
Now, despite the fact that I'm about as American as apple pie, I've still got a great sense of Korean pride. When the World Cup or the Olympics are on TV, I always find myself rooting for the Korean team. Part of the reason is obviously due to my family's Korean heritage. However, another part of it has to do with rooting for the underdog (Those of you familiar with the Korean concept of HAN may understand how poignant it is to root for the underdog, especially when that underdog is related to anything Korean.)
Why am I babbling about all this today? Because recently, Korea beat the U.S. 7-3 in the World Baseball Classic. Keep in mind that the U.S. team is a collection of Major League Baseball All-Stars. The best players on the Korean team aren't even stars on their own home teams! But collectively, the Koreans persevered and basically spanked the snot out of the U.S. team!
When I heard the news, I practically jumped for joy and looked around for someone to high-five. Unfortunately, I couldn't find anyone so I just high-fived myself. Then, I started thinking about how interesting it was that I could feel such enormous pride for the Korean team. I barely speak any Korean. I have virtually no family living there. And when I go back to Korea, people still very much consider me a foreigner.
And you know what? I realized that, paradoxically speaking, all those things are relevant only in the sense that they make me MORE AMERICAN.
Because isn't it true that the greatest thing about this country is the fact that we're ALL from somewhere else? That this experiment in democracy and melting pot of ideas is what makes this country so great?
As future American generations become more racially and culturally mixed, I think the actual notions of race and culture will be diminished. And while I think that's a beautiful thing, I hope that everyone always remembers where they came from. Because as a wise man once said, it's only by looking back that we can see where we're going.
But is it me or do other people feel the same way also? Is it strange that I consider myself a very patriotic American but I always find myself rooting for the Korean team? What about those of you who are half-Asian or raising half-Asian kids? Do you think my 3rd-generation daughter will feel marginally less pride in her Korean heritage? Is there a law of diminishing succession?
Talk to me, people. An inquring mind wants to know...