April 16th, 2007 engraved a bloody mark as the worst school shooting in American history and gave a shocking jolt to the Korean American community, something that hasn’t been felt since the LA riots, which coincidentally marks the 20th anniversary this month.
5 years later, other Korean Americans reveal their thoughts on that dark time (made even more awkward considering that the South Korean government apologized to the U.S. for the actions of one man) and it has certainly gotten me to be somber that whole day. Because for those of you who identify being Korean, it definitely made an impact on us across the country, whether it be fear to go back to school/college/work, deep shame on their own countrymen, or for some, begin a serious reflection on our own issues as a Korean American.
I was the last one. This is an article of passion, so for more, follow me after the jump.
For most of my youth, I had some serious, deep-seated issues with being Korean. But when this tragedy came, as much as I don’t like to admit it..as bizarre as this may sound, as disturbing as it may be, this day back in 2007 was a pivotal moment in my acceptance as a Korean American, me finally being able to understand my father who I hated for so long, and cemented my resolve that I want to be an actor, to ultimately create stories that can in some way, help others like me.
I know, it sounds like a cliche Asian American identity story, right? But I guess mine is a little strange considering that there are elements of Cho Seung Hui I definitely identified with and that in itself freaked the living daylights out of me. This is where I change the tone of this article and remark that at times like these, our Asian American community is full of treasures, full of truly remarkable people that have inspired me to become the man I am today.
I gravitated towards to spoken poetry because it is there that I found the perfect place where I could express all the hurt, rage, and confusion that I’ve been repressing for so long. There I found Beau Sia, who creates poetry about the Asian American identity in a way that’s explosive, revealing, and at many times, pretty darn funny. He would immediately become a role model (even writing a happy birthday article to him) and knowing him in person has been a true blessing.
So I wrote a poem. A very uncomfortable poem that I continuously revised over the years, which ended up in its final form as a YouTube video that Steve Nguyen shot.
A good number of Asian Americans (and others) found this to be repulsive. I don’t blame them. It is therefore a true blessing that I would find folks who completely felt me and was excited to share this poem for others to hear and see. In the beginning was my professor, Francis Tanglao-Aguas, who gave me the space, patience, and love to express the words I could never say because I feared that I would be shunned. After that, there was Kate Agathon, a fellow activist and former graduate instructor at Purdue University who dug my poem and displayed it along with many prominent APA activists, artists, and poets for the ImaginAsian exhibit. Then there was Kai Ma, who showed this poem as Video of the Week for the KoreAm website. There was also Lac Su, a Vietnamese American author who had very similar experiences as mine in his novel, “I Love Yous Are For White People” and therefore completely understood where I was coming from.
These people are but only a few of many who have helped me on this journey. Like the lovely editors here at 8Asians for allowing me to express my busy thoughts as well as putting up with my irrational behavior, moody pouts, and late articles (or articles I just don’t even finish).
There is much to be thankful for, so many people to cherish in my life, something that I will work extremely hard to never forget even if I do get successful as an actor here in Los Angeles.
But to end this off, I thank Cho Seung Hui. Yeah, I know. It’s not a rational thing to say, is it? His actions are absolutely inexcusable but I wonder if there was a lot more to him than what the eye could see. Because I know I was in that similar position where nobody saw anything extraordinary in me, whether it be from my own family or fellow peers. I wonder if he had the people that I would encounter in my college years…if things would have been different. If he knew he was loved. If he knew he could continue to express himself through words, rather than resorting to the absolute despicable measure that resulted in 33 lives lost, lives that should not have been lost including his own.