As an Asian-American, I'm particularly excited to be inducted into the annals of this excellent publication. Sharing pages alongside 김 진아, Fumiko Kimura and the Maruki Hiroshima Panels is a big deal to me. My being a person of color plays a sizable role in my interactions on the road, but rarely warrants a mention in the more affluent circles of art, publishing and filmmaking through which I move in my off hours. One day I'll have the perspective to write intelligently about it, as Seattle jazz giant Chris Icasiano (and childhood friend of mine) does here, or as fellow Korean-American singer Michelle Zauner does in her hauntingly insightful New Yorker essay, "Crying in H-Mart." For now I'll simply acknowledge my gratitude at being included in the publication, and offer a note to my fellow Hapas:
Multiracialism is usually discussed in negative contexts. Having an invisible culture, being rejected by both your cultures, being mistaken or slighted or ignored and so on. Without taking away from the validity of those points, I'd like to add how much it has benefited my experience in a positive way.
In belonging to no single culture and being actively rejected as a member of Korean culture, I've lived for so long with the sensation that I belong instead to all cultures. To a universal human culture. I feel belonging to no single tribe, but to the collective all of them. I imagine this plays a larger role than I'll ever know in my interactions with the folks. People consistently think I'm "half-whatever they are," in the sense that Dwayne Johnson's universal appeal mostly to do with his welcoming attitude on top of the fact that nobody can tell what his heritage is... Yes, you may feel invisible and I don't blame you, especially in the shadows of this city's history of internment; especially in the exclusionary derision in which various Korean staff laugh me out of the building when I speak my own family's language– with a perfect accent, no less– with them. You've felt such things too, I'm sure, and probably privately. These are not moments which get discussed, and they can fester, not least because the first rule of Asian-American identity isn't that you don't talk about it, but that no one else does, which usually– and ultimately– means you don't either.
But let's remember what is also true.
You have something tangibly in common with a much larger swath of humanity. This cab driver, that software developer, this dishwasher, that nurse, that ophthalmologist, gas station attendant, operator... You share the Asian immigrant tendency toward hard work, toward unglamorous working-class surfaces and humble rooms and faded family photos from far away, unused languages, formative traditions no one around you knows about... These are the echoing textures of your family's experience and an enormous host of people of all colors, white included.
We all have more in common than we don't. I'm not qualified to be an expert on these subjects, but I can certainly speak for myself: perspectives that involve divisions and otherizing tend to hurt, and outlooks that involve coming together always help. When was tribalism ever a healthy solution? Let's think of where we overlap. I wouldn't be where I am without the sneaking sensation of comfort that comes from this very loneliness, which only you know about. You are an island with no harbor, sure. But you also have something in common with every harbor. Every island. You've got nothing... and everything, in a way no one else can lay claim to. You are not invisible, and as time passes you will only continue to be less so.
A big thank you to Roxanne, Jill, Alan, Tom and all the others who put this together. Pick up a copy, or click the link below!
INTERVIEW (text): "Positive energy has an interesting way of building on itself,” says Nathan Vass, artist, writer and route 7 Metro bus driver