Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

50% Korean, 100% Me

Written by: on November 6, 2019

Mixed Korean: Our Stories [Boston, MA reading — Nov 2, 2019]. Photo Credit: Don Gordon Bell

“I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said. Thuli Madonsela”[1]

After having my first discovery session, I realized that I needed to pay attention to what was not being said. “It demands that we ask if there is another reasonable explanation for the events that have occurred.”[2] My mixed Korean tribe is a combination of mixed Korean adoptees and non-adoptees. There is a symbiosis of pain and hope, suffering and rising up. If I listen and/or read each story I hear differences, and if you look at us, as a group, we also look very different.

Thinking long and hard about the “tic in our mental machinery”[3] that shows the world one thing or a myriad of things that cause a person to make a snap judgment is “over-concluded “based on the available information.”[4] There is no logical explanation. It requires having to sit and listen to each person to know that we are different but the same as others, even within the community.

What makes us the same? The obvious is that we are all mixed Korean. We all yearn for a family –- a group of people where we look the same. We all have felt invisible in the world, always living in the in-between, which spurs a sense of loneliness. What has been beautiful about our tribe is that for several us, it is the first time in our lives that we are in a community where we see others that look like us and we no longer feel alone.

Hanlon’s Razor also points out that the world who sees us doesn’t always make an error, but that’s the point, right? When the brain malfunctions because what someone sees doesn’t fit into the normalcy of what they know, the brain tells them one thing. With the mixed Korean tribe, we all look different, act different and live very different lives, but somewhere deep inside of us, we are the same.

The common struggle of feeling alone is heard from many mixed Koreans. Last year we had a reading in Washington DC and afterward, a gentleman came up to me and said, “all of these years I sat in my apartment feeling so alone. Now I know I am not alone.”

None of us are the oldest mixed Korean to come from World War II and the Korean War, but we are all old enough to have been the only mixed Asian/Korean growing up. It is one thing to be a 100% Korean adoptee and another to be a mixed Korean adoptee. Part of this comes from the fact that South Korea, for many years, has not recognized us as human beings. The phrase that is often applied to us is that we are lower than dogs. This thought process is just recently beginning to change. It is not a complete change with everyone, but the ship is starting to turn.

“Hanlon’s Razor, when practiced diligently as a counter to confirmation bias, empowers us, and gives us far more realistic and effective options for remedying bad situations.”[5] It’s difficult to not vilify the people who say and do mean things to us. Instead of assuming malice, I do my best to choose to be more like Vasili Arkhipov, and not allow someone else’s ignorance to be the weight I have to carry.

When I think of my end goal for this project and the art form that I hope to create, the idea of family is very much a prominent thought. How do I create art that becomes a theological message that shows the fracture of our souls and still allows for the Spirit of Love and Beauty to be shown?

“Anybody can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple. Charles Mingus”[6]



[1] Parrish, Shane. The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts. Latticework Publishing Inc. Kindle Edition, Location 1746.

[2] Ibid., Location 1754.

[3] Ibid., Location 1773.

[4] Ibid., Location 1773.

[5] Ibid., Location 1807.

[6] Ibid., Location 1606.

About the Author

Nancy Blackman

17 responses to “50% Korean, 100% Me”

  1. Dylan Branson says:

    I hadn’t heard of Hanlon’s Razor until I read this book, but I found it very helpful. I’m glad that you pulled from that model.

    We often say that ignorance is bliss, but it’s only blissful for the ignorant. For others affected by our ignorance, it can be damaging or hurtful. We let our various societal “isms” (racism, sexism, agism, etc.) dictate a lot of what we think. When we wake up from that ignorance, we see the effects that it has had on people. Even then, there’s also a level of patience and grace that needs to be involved as people transition out of that state. They need to unlearn their previous way of life before they can fully reidentify in their new way of thinking.

    This is a more light-hearted example of ignorance: Every Christmas when I visit my family, my aunt still asks me after five years, “How’s things in Japan?” I’ll answer something along the lines of, “Well, not sure to be honest. But it’s still there last time I checked.” She’ll nod and move on in the conversation. Is there any malicious intent behind her statements? None that I conceive of. Is there a sense of ignorance that comes from it? Well, yes. But I continue to be patient with her and other members of my family. For someone to leave the “family farm” and move to a different country is completely beyond the schema my family has (the furthest anyone’s ever moved was three and a half hours away). But I’ve also seen my family grow the longer I’ve been away as they step out of their ignorance.

    • John McLarty says:

      You be nice to your aunt this Christmas, smart boy.

      • Jer Swigart says:

        Dylan, that story about your aunt is hysterical. And thank you, John, for pointing it out. 😉

        Having moved to the opposite side of a continent from my family, I, too, have noticed how my journey has, in some ways, forced a journey for them. The ones who are transforming are those who discover that they are on a new journey and get curious about it.

  2. Darcy Hansen says:

    You and your “family” are doing hard and holy work, and it is beautiful. It sounds like sitting in the tension of different stories and different appearances, yet also the same sense of isolation and invisible-ness is very challenging.

    You noted from the text the empowering aspect of Hanlon’s Razor and its ability to transform bad situations into good. How do you see this principle playing out in your NPO, not just in your visual art, but also in your verbal communication? What role might your community have in its development? Will other voices be shared? What is it that’s not being said, and how can that have space to emerge and flourish? It seems through your book and gatherings, that “voice” plays an integral component to belonging and healing. Can that premise carry over into your project work, as well, so as to create “realistic and effective options for remedying bad situations”?

    • Nancy Blackman says:

      The one thing I kept hearing over and over in my head as I read Hanlon’s Razor was to flip the ignorance/meanness/malice on its head. One of the ways that I keep thinking is to show hope. What is the hope for loneliness? How do I show that in art?

      My Discovery Session felt like an epic failure in context to what I was hoping to develop, and yet it wasn’t. I’m so thankful that I got permission to record because it made all the difference in the world to go back and listen to the things I missed. I bring all this up because there were several common things I heard from the group:
      the audience is the world and they want the world to know that we exist. We are here. We are not invisible.

      We didn’t speak about how we deal with our loneliness because time was running out, but each person has said that meeting this group (our new family) has changed their lives.

      What I gathered as a final statement for my NPO, it would be:
      Considering the world, we’ve discovered that we are lonely. We feel as if we have been in racial, solitary confinement because we live in the in-between, which is caused by others being judgmental and unkind. If this were solved, it would mean we no longer feel lonely.

      When I asked the group what they felt was a meaningful art form to give voice to mixed Koreans, almost everyone felt that the person’s voice was key or helpful to any art form.

      What I also heard from the non-Christians is that churches are not welcoming them. If they attend Korean churches they are not included in the groups and in white and/or denominational churches they are also not included nor felt welcomed. In my own experience, when attending primarily all-white churches, I stand out like a sore thumb and, that alone creates its own version of loneliness.

      Those who once attended or were raised in the church because they were adopted by Christian families have since left the church because of the rigidity and confusing messages. In the end, half the family stated that they just want to be kind and have others be kind to them and others, and to love, not judge.

      • Darcy Hansen says:

        I see lots of hope woven into this response. I’m excited for the possibilities your work has to transform the invisible to visible, the unheard to heard. And in the church, that seems like a harder road to transform. But I believe it possible with Grace and Love. Both of which flow freely from you in abundance.

        • Jer Swigart says:


          I agree with Darcy. Such a beautiful, hopeful, reality-altering NPO.

          Do you see art as the loudest & most poignant voice to let the world know that you are here? If so (I’m prone to agree) what is it about art that carries the potential for changed minds?

  3. Greg Reich says:

    Do you see your art that stems from your NPO as a way to give understanding to your story? Is there away to make art interactive allowing for multiple stories to be told at the same time? Every person has a story. We all have hurts and wounds that affect how we react to other peoples stories. Great post.

    • Nancy Blackman says:

      Yes, I hope to make the art form interactive. I just visited the African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington DC yesterday and was inspired by the many interactive art forms, so we’ll see what happens!

      I hear you when you say every person has a story. That’s the point. Yes, “we all have hurts and wounds,” but it is unfair for a white person to say that their story and hurts and wounds are the same as a person of color. There is no comparison when it comes to issues of racism.

  4. John McLarty says:

    So much of the artist’s process is the constant cycle of inspiration, frustration, creation, and destruction. How do you see the latticework of the mental models working together to give you perspective in the challenging moments and direction when the ideas begin to come together?

    • Nancy Blackman says:

      Awesome question. Both of the razors helped me to look at this with a Rubic’s cube perspective. Hanlon’s Razor literally stumped me for a nanosecond, but it is key for people of color to also stop and listen to the oppressor’s voice just as much as it is important for the white voice to listen to the non-white voice. We are here together. How do I flip all of this upside down and make sense of it and turn it into an art form that shows the world that we are not invisible and give us hope that we will be included and no longer judged? How do I do all of that in a simple way (Occam’s Razor)? I was given some great ideas, but I’m ruminating on them for now. There is a way. I’m certain of it.

  5. Shawn Cramer says:

    Do you find that varying mixed-race (is that the most appropriate, current word?) people can find solidarity and community in their collective loneliness? Certainly not a 1-1 correspondence, but I remember being discouraged reading “Of Mice and Men” about a group of individuals who were on the outside for one reason or another. Instead of finding community they further stratified themselves only exacerbating the loneliness.

    • Nancy Blackman says:

      The short answer is no. The long answer is yes, but. The reason for that is because all mixed races are not necessarily the same. We each need to find our own common thread to find community.

      I know that we Asians all look alike, but Koreans really are different than Chinese and Japanese and Thais and Burmese (in looks and custom and dress).

      Did you know that the Cripps and Bloods (black gangs) began because they just wanted to find community? They didn’t begin as gangs of violence, The original gangsters (OG’s) just wanted a place where they could come together and be themselves and not be ridiculed and judged.

      What did your discouragement say to you and what did you do with your discouragement?

      • Shawn Cramer says:

        That discouragement, coupled with Ephesians 2:13 galvanized my desire to see those on the outside brought to the inside; moving “them” to “us.”

  6. Chris Pollock says:

    Nancy, I could have stopped and written for hours after the first quote you offered. I may have heard this said somehow, someway years ago. It means so much more now: listening closely to hear what is not said.

    Project this: seeing (by the Spirit of God) the beauty and the Love (?) in the pain, the fracture of souls. Nancy, I’m struggling with the immensity of this? Fracture of soul, how do you experience or describe this? Going to the original form, the intended beauty despite the influencing darkness. Trying to imaging some of the scope to this. Looking forward to hearing/seeing more.

    Thank you for a glimpse!

    • Nancy Blackman says:

      Yeah…..you were supposed to answer the question, though LOL.

      Thanks for being so gentle.

      Fracture of the soul : living in the in-between of two cultures but not being accepted by either goes beyond confusion. Add the words of ignorance and epithets of persecution and there is more weight. It fractures the soul. The loneliness that emerges because you’re afraid to speak or act or be who you know yourself to be….until one day God drops a tribe into your lap and you start to see hope. I’m not doing this justice. I know that I’m just at the beginning of figuring something out.

      Thanks for reading, my friend.

  7. Steve Wingate says:

    I have just got to say that you reflect my heart as well when you quoted Thuli Madonsela. “I need to listen well so that I hear what is not said.” This is what I pray for on nearly a daily basis using the 24-7 Prayer app https://innerroom.app/about/

Leave a Reply