Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sa-I-Gu: Asians Stuck in the middle

This documentary clarified for me reasons why many Asian Americans act the way they do. It highlighted how Asian Americans are the monkey in the middle in American society. They are practically forced to choose sides, which has created a great divide even within the Asian American community.

Within the Asian American community, typically we think of two sides - those who are assimilated and those who stay on the Asian side of the fence. For those who do not branch out past the Asian community, it is understandable and logical in many ways. Afterall, if one is forced to play monkey in the middle, it is much easier to relate to those who are in the same position. However, many times these Asians are often looked down upon, by other Asians and much of the rest of America, for isolating themselves. This gives incentive for the other Asians to assimilate and value traditional white-American ideals. Unfortunately, these assimilating Asians never really quite fit in with white society and are often ridiculed by the un-assimilated Asians. And thus, a horrible cycle of hatred and disdain emerges, continually repeating until everybody learns how to stop hating each other and trust one another. No one person is better than the next and until everyone learns to accept this, it will never change. One example from the film that shows how this actually works was when the "smiling" store owner confessed that she thought of her black employees as family. She and her employees focused on their similarities rather than their differences and in turn, created a relationship in which none of them revolted against each other. Instead, they worked to protect each other.

In response to some people's comments, I don't think Asians discriminate or look down upon other ethnic groups because they're brainwashed. It seems more like this mentality has risen due to the cornering of Asians into choosing sides, causing them to try to justify an impossible situation. I also felt that it would have been more enlightening for the viewers to have this documentary made into a series. However, I believe this was a purely reactionary film, and was used more as a venting instrument. This is probably why they didn't give much background information on the riots and didn't have any follow up interviews. Sa-I-Gu seemed solely focused on documenting Korean women's thoughts and experiences and was not made to satisfy anybody else. This film was all about the Korean experience, and to try to take it out of focus would probably have defeated its powerful effect.

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