Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Given the diversity of Asian America, can we speak of a Asian American consciousness? Is a common history of marginalization and struggle enough to unite a population under a single identity? Does this common history even exist? For example, the two brothers in Seattle seem to share a sentiment and experience closer to their African-American friends than to Ms. Yang in Duluth or Mr. Choi in NYC. Pragmatically, it seems that the historically disconnected waves of immigration are an impediment to organizing political and social movements around Asian American identity.

Even though I desire a sense of solidarity with other Asian Americans, my personal struggles with identity feel very removed from the civil rights and anti-discrimination rhetoric used during political climate of the 60's and 70's. I have always considered myself "Asian-American" or "Korean-American" without even considering the historical context and identity politics in which these terms were created. The "American" portion of my self-assigned label represented my integration into mainstream culture and a certain rejection of my cultural heritage, while the "Asian" portion represented my resignation to the inescapable biological and historical causes of my difference. Even though my grandparents were never prisoners in Japanese internment camps and my parents are not refugees from the Vietnam War, the fact that I feel compelled to find this history relevant to my identity seems to be an indication that I have been unwillingly conflated with other Asian ethnicities by White America. In such a way, the label Asian American feels empty and bland, a catch-all term that used to have empowering political connotations but is now merely attempts to rationalize an uncharacterizable population.

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