Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this piece are solely of the author.
We are living in an unprecedented time, a time in which I believe will be the defining moment of many of our lives. At this point, many experts believe that coronavirus will ravage the country, with heavy human costs exacerbated by economic ones. However, while most Americans have to be concerned about not getting the virus and how they are going to survive economically, Asian Americans have to wage war on another front: the growing threat of hate crimes and violence. More troubling and confusing is the fact that many of these crimes are committed by people of color. However, the rift between Asians and other minorities is not a new phenomenon. It can be traced back centuries to how colonization, eurocentrism, and white supremacy has played a role in creating and fostering the conflict between marginalized groups.
At the age of 22, I graduated from a top U.S. university and was about to start a career in a coveted industry of management consulting in New York. On top of that, I won millions of dollars at the main event of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. By all accounts, I had “made it”, and was living out the “American dream”. But why wasn’t I happy? Was it in fact, my dream?
I grew up in what the media sees as the stereotypical Asian American experience as a model minority, a Korean American family bent on academic success above all else. My parents, children born in the aftermath of the Korean War, were conditioned to value survival and prosperity, moving over to America for these ideals. The New York metropolitan area is probably the collection of some of the fiercest academic crucibles of the country, especially for Asian Americans, and seemed to be the perfect spot for my parents to raise a family.