I am no longer a non-Korean

Originally posted 2011-07-08

This post inspired by Korean Derangment Syndrome

So. Turns out I have biases that hide in plain sight, and it takes a piercingly well-written article to reveal them for what they are.

I was talking to my mom earlier today, trying to convince her that no, people did not die if left in closed rooms with running fans. I should have recognized the warning signs - each time I hit back with a counterargument, I felt a flare of adrenaline/temper rushing to my head. I was enjoying the argument too much.

I realized today that I identify vehemently as a not-Korean, thesame way that I used to identify vehemently as a not-religious person. Alright, now that I recognize it, I can look out for it, counteract it, etc. There’s an interesting hypothesis I have about how my not-Korean identity came about.

I am ethnically Korean. This means I have ethnically Korean relatives. Therefore, during family gatherings, I interact with a lot of Korean people. Well, duh. But here the argument gets interesting. While one would expect my close relatives to be reasonably smart because of heritability of intelligence, many of my relatives are not technically related by blood. Therefore, I am exposed to a wide-cross section of Koreans via my extended relatives. My parents tend to take me to Korean restaurants, Korean department stores, Korean places in general, which only increases my exposure to the general Korean population.

Of course, I don’t just interact with Korean people. I meet a lot of Indian, Jewish, Caucasian, Chinese people, etc.. However, my experiences with these ethnic groups is heavily skewed by my environment. I interact heavily with the subsets of these ethnic groups that attend MIT, my magnet high school, chemistry camp, math camps, and so on. My exposure to Koreans is skewed towards the average, whereas my exposure to other ethnic groups is heavily skewed the other way. Therefore, my personal experience would lead me to conclude that Koreans are relatively dumb compared to other ethnic groups. Of course, it doesn’t help that Koreans believe in fan death or insane health benefits to kimchi (I don’t doubt that kimchi may have real health benefits. But there’s a lot of wishful, patriotic research being done by Korean scientists in Korea.) What this all leads to is a deeply-rooted-in-the-subconscious disappointment in my circumstances of birth. Subconsciously, I think: “Look at all those other ethnic groups that are smart, compared to stupid Koreans. Why did I have to be born Korean?”. As a result, my identity shifts to be vocally un-Korean, because I don’t want to be associated with Koreans.

Okay, so does that mean that I should stop being so not-Korean? Well, yes. But in the same way that I am an atheist as a matter of fact, but not an Atheist with a Capital A, I am ethnically korean as a matter of blood, but I shouldn’t be a Korean or a non-Korean with a capital K.