Rise up #StopAsianHate
It’s not very often I write on Dramabeans…in fact, this is my very first post. I respect that Dramabeans is a community of millions and not the voice of a few. This is one of the reasons I prefer to stay in the background and read the opinions, thoughts, and the famous Dramabeans comments from millions of dedicated K-drama superfans around the world.
It’s with a solemn heart that I write my first post on Dramabeans. I had my first K-drama experience in the 1980s with veterans like Kim Soo-hyun in Love and Truth and Love and Ambition to Sand Castle starring Park Geun-hyung, Kim Hye-ja and Kim Chung. I know, I know, we’re going way back. Many of us watch our beloved Korean dramas because they’re a joyful escape from the realities and challenges of everyday life. Whether it’s the delightful, light-hearted scenes from Start-Up to the deep family subplot of Angry Mom starring the never-aging Kim Hee-sun, each of us have our own favorite drama moments that are meaningful. It may have been that dramas that helped you deal with a conflict or even helped you get through difficult times. We all have stories of how dramas have impacted our lives beyond what’s there on the screen.
Korean dramas have an extremely personal and deep significance to my life. Even as I write this post, I can feel the emotions, memories, and triggers. I know most of you can out-trivia me on dramas…and most definitely, our amazing writers can out-fact and outwit me on all the dramas. However, even though I may not be the most knowledgeable on paper, Korean dramas have been a foundational element of my current DNA and family history.
My family immigrated to the U.S. when I was a very young boy, barely able to speak in full sentences in English or Korean. My father brought my sister and I to this country with $35 to his name and we landed in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. My parents did their best to raise us, but they had to work 80-100 hour weeks with multiple jobs to achieve the American dream. I am very proud of my parents as my father ultimately achieved a doctoral degree and my mother supported him all the way through his last days, until he passed eight years ago. But because my parents were so busy, I learned most of my culture, life lessons, and values from my grandparents. I spent countless hours with them in my childhood and it’s a time that I miss greatly.
My grandparents introduced Korean dramas to me. I vividly remember my grandmother turning on Korean dramas (they were on VHS rental tapes back then) and enjoying watching her favorite actors and actresses. As soon as she turned her shows on, I would shift to boredom and disinterest because I wanted to watch sports or American TV shows. But because I knew that I had to respect my elders, I quietly groaned inside and just sat next to them. Back then, there were no smartphones or mobile video games, so I had nothing to do but sit with my grandparents and watch dramas when they turned them on. Though my first experience with dramas was not by choice, they ultimately left an indelible footprint on my life.
Recently, we have all seen the news about Asian Americans being targeted and attacked violently for no other reason than just being Asian. Age or circumstance don’t matter in these attacks. When a father and his two kids (just two and six years old) are stabbed at a Sam’s Club store for being Asian and when an Asian senior citizen is physically attacked in broad daylight for being Asian, WE HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM. These recent events leave me with a sadness for humanity and raging anger for justice. I cannot express or capture the right words to explain the cross-current of emotions. You see, I remember when our family experienced direct racism while growing up in Texas. I remember my grandfather telling me that he was pushed on his bicycle. I remember when kids would throw rocks and snicker at our family. I remember the words of a teacher telling me that my lunch smelled funny. These are the triggers and testimonies of my upbringing as an Asian and as an American.
When will this end? When will we see people for who they are on the inside and not what they look like on the outside?
Dramabeans has become far bigger than I ever imagined. As the current owner of Dramabeans, I am very proud of this diverse community of Korean drama superfans. Each of you are a reminder and inspiration for why we continue to run Dramabeans even though it makes no profit. One thing that I learned as a diversity speaker and advocate is that the best way to combat racism is to teach and educate about the beauty of one’s culture and history. We can do this through food, music, and the arts. We happen to do this through Korean dramas. When I was young, I was embarrassed of being Asian in a white majority community. I didn’t want my parents to feed me Korean food. I didn’t want to speak my own language. I didn’t want to watch Korean TV. I was young and impressionable; it felt like predatory walls of insecurities and untruths were closing in. But why did I have these insecurities around just being Asian? Why did I feel like a second-class citizen?
Our surroundings and media portrayals absolutely have a profound impact on how someone might look at themselves in the mirror. Now as I look back on my past after taking the “red pill,” I see that I did not see the truth. The truth is that my culture is beautiful, deep, engaging, and full of every color and pixel on the rainbow. The truth is that I am beautiful as an Asian American. I am thankful to my grandparents for making me watch Korean dramas with them. My passion for Dramabeans lies in the fact that non-Koreans can appreciate our culture through the storytelling of our dramas. This is why I am so proud of Dramabeans.
I want to share a quick story with you. In 2007, I tried out for an American reality TV show called The Apprentice on NBC. It was one of my favorite shows, along with Survivor, as reality competitions were just gaining steam as a genre. I actually tried out just for fun, as an experience that could be an interesting dinner party story in the future. I never thought NBC would actually call me back from the first casting interview. During my casting process for The Apprentice, I remember being among hundreds of thousands of applicants down to a few thousand and then down to a few hundred. I always questioned my odds of making the show since they had never cast an East Asian male before. But nevertheless, I gave NBC and Mark Burnett the benefit of the doubt. During this process, I had to undergo a rigorous, four-month-long screening process. I have never been through something like that in my life. It was by far the toughest interview process ever. I had to fill out so many applications, debate people all over the country, take camera screening tests, and even take timed IQ tests–it was tough.
But the moment of truth came when I made it to the final 50, and I was sitting down with Mark Burnett and the producers. It was the final stage and they were whittling down to the eighteen people who’d join the show. They asked me why I should ultimately be selected to be on the show out of the thousands of applicants. I thought for a good answer, but then I couldn’t stop what came out of my mouth next. I spoke from the heart and answered the question with a question. I asked them why they had never cast an East Asian male in the history of The Apprentice when there were so many Asian businessmen in the world. It was probably the wrong question at the wrong time, but it just came out of my mouth. There was silence in the room…you could hear a paperclip drop and even the slightest paper shuffles. One producer finally raised his hat and said something I will never, ever forget. He said, “You guys don’t make for good TV.” He continued, “People don’t want to watch Asian men on TV, maybe Asian women, but not Asian men.” As you can imagine, I was both shocked and appalled by the answer. He then told me that Asian Americans are often typecast as quiet, brainy, shy, and are not outgoing leaders. He said they had cast Asian Americans in other shows like Survivor because that show likes to have a wide variety of personalities from quiet people to Type A personalities, but The Apprentice requires dynamic and outgoing people. At that moment, I could have given up mentally, or I could have used this to fuel the chip on my shoulder. Ultimately, I chose a different path. I wanted to show the producers and America that Asian Americans could be loud, outgoing, and dynamic. This is what kept me going through nine weeks of filming with three to four hours of sleep per night. I fought and fought on this show because I had a different goal than working for Donald Trump. I could care less about working for Donald Trump as I was not even in the real estate industry. I just wanted to be on the show to make a point. I lasted 12 episodes and made it to the final two people; Donald Trump chose the other person, which did not surprise me considering what I know about him now. This was the fire that drove me to show America that not all Asians are built just to be quiet, brainy, and good only at math.
Unfortunately, we still live in a world that does not fully accept the diversity in all of us. Even today, there is evidence of obvious discrimination, lack of cultural awareness, and glass ceilings for minorities. With that being said, we must also acknowledge that we’ve made much progress over time. We must celebrate our victories along the journey. We can be proud of the progress that we have made in America’s history. In 2021, I see a lot more Asian Americans on TV and in media and it makes me very proud to see my brothers and sisters showcasing their skills. But this was not always the case in our history. There are many people who carved the path to make it possible today. Producers, talent agents, businesses, and talent who continued to fight the difficult journey. I thank every one of them.
Our families have traveled the same journey. We as immigrants have powerfully transformed and defined this nation. Our nation was shaped and changed by the blood, sweat and tears of immigrants of all races. Generations and generations of immigrants have renewed and enriched the American dream. We have shaped the tides of change and contributed to the cultural, spiritual and intellectual wealth of our nation. We, our fathers and mothers, and grandparents were the hardworking backbone of prosperity and progress.
We must not forget our history; we must not take for granted what our previous generations have done for us to have these opportunities, but at the same time, we must forge ahead into the future and not just live in the past. We must create our own history and leave future generations a legacy, our stories, our values, so that one day another generation might gain inspiration from us and continue to create a better world.
So the question lies, what legacy will we leave? Will we leave the next generation a legacy that prioritizes personal success–wealth, degrees, big homes, fancy cars? There’s nothing wrong with personal success, but personal success does not build a legacy or community.
Will we build an Asian American community that will be recognized for impact and inspiration? What will the Asian American community stand for?
I don’t know about you, but I know what I want the Asian American community to stand for. I want to see the Asian American community as a unified group that exemplifies vision, leadership, and giving back.
Too often, we are blinded by the short-term objectives and we miss the bigger picture. We need people in the Asian American community to be visionaries; with dreams, with goals, that go beyond just one’s self. A vision for the community as a whole…a vision for the future. We need people of influence. Not only positional power, but influential power. Leadership is very simple. If you look behind you, and nobody is following, that means you are not a leader. We lack mentorship and development of new leaders. Leaders are progressive thinkers, they challenge the unchallengeable, they storm through the walls of obstacles. But today, we have too many skeptics.
The reality is that people with vision and leadership stand up and also give back. It’s easy to think about just becoming a visionary or leader, but I would say it’s the actions we take that define leadership. I want to encourage each one of us to look deep inside ourselves and find the path and the passion to be a visionary, a leader, and a giver.
It’s times like this that we must look adversity in the eye and say, we will fight, we will unite, and we will win. So who is our enemy? Our enemy is not a specific individual, country, or race. Our enemy is racism and all associated intermediaries and beneficiaries of racism. We must join hands with our African American, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, Latinx, and our Caucasian brothers and sisters who know that racism is wrong.
It’s time for the Asian American community to stand strong and exemplify courage, unity, and generosity. I will be writing a Part Two to this post with specific actions that I ask everyone on Dramabeans to join in with us. We will be evaluating ways to create the appropriate type of giving campaign to support the victims, their families, and organizations. Please join me in this cause.
Dramabeans has given us a platform to be a voice to support Asian content and can be used as a platform to fight racism against Asians. It’s time for us to also rise up and support the history and cultural impact.
Please comment below as a petition for your support and if you haven’t signed up yet on our site, please sign up with a profile so we have your email address. We will be emailing you on ways you can support a campaign to rise up against Asian violence.
“For those who have been given much, much will be expected.”