(Backstory: This poem below went three three revisions and technically came before "Revision of the Asiamerican Man's Dilemma". The first version was written two weeks after the VA Tech shooting, the second version was written and performed for my W&M college's Muslim Student Association during their Islam Awareness Week's "Hug a Muslim" performance on April 1st, 2009. The third and final version, the one you see below, was performed for the Def Jam Poetry Contest in my college on April 11th, 2009, in front of students and spoken poets Jon Goode and Rafael Casal. The first version was the rawest and contained the most pent up anger. After that, the second and final versions were done two years after the VA Tech incident and thus did not carry the brute anger that the original contained. I kinda wish I knew where the original version went...)
April 16th, 2007.
The day when a repressed and conflicted college student decided that the best way to express his feelings to the world was through violence and hatred. As his world around him became covered with the blood of people who did not deserve his rage, he ended the slaughter by ending his own life.
To society, he was deemed a lunatic, a monster.
To his parents that loved him, he was Seung Hui Cho, their only son.
To me, he was my brother who I never had. My brother who made it possible to say the things that I needed to say, my brother who helped me come to terms with my racial identity and acceptance as a human being. My brother who I wanted to tell this poem to so he can understand that he was not alone in feeling the rage and hatred that he felt for the world, and that this feeling does not make him a monster. My brother who I wanted to tell that everything will be alright.
For the longest time in my life, I’ve had this rage and self-hatred that was inside of me, this corrosive force that made me ashamed of being an Asian man and all the stereotypes and misconceptions that this skin came with.
This rage and self-hatred that started at home, with my father, with a man who could not handle the beatings and temper of his father before him, a man who could only express his love to me by repeating the sins of his father.
But because of him, this rage and self-hatred would define my childhood and my identification with being a Korean. If we are to suffer the uncontrollable rages of our fathers, the silence of our mothers, then I want nothing to do with this, this yellow skin, this yellow sin, this terrible reminder of a race that I have nothing but the utmost contempt for.
My hatred for my old man turned into hatred for myself, hatred for the entire Korean race. I saw nothing but race, and every words of “chink”, “gook”, the sounds of “ching chong”, would strike me hard every single time and I would feel the burn of self-hatred eating into me.
Self-hatred. What a powerful force it is. It is a force that has made me contemplate inflicting my rage to people who did not deserve it. It is a force that has made me contemplate suicide to prevent such a disturbed boy as myself expressing his feelings in the most pathetic manner possible.
So when April 16th came around, I could not help but feel the connection that I had with Seung Hui Cho. That if people labeled him a lunatic and a monster for feeling the way he did and for committing such an atrocious act, then I cannot be too far behind because my rage have dangerously come to that breaking point several times.
As our lives intertwined closer and closer together, as my world would grow darker and over shadowed with his, I realize I have a choice in how I want my story to be told. I can be ashamed of my ugly past and inflict it on the world or I can accept it and let it be told, let something ugly be turned into something beautiful.
I realize that I have too much love to give to be driven to such despair, that I need to live out my life and give my love to the people around me. I want to give hope and joy to my children so I can give to them what my father never gave me.
I want to remind myself and be proud of my Korean heritage but know that I will always be a human being at heart, unwilling to allow labels and stereotypes to define who I am and who I want to be.