Editor’s Epilogue: I don’t owe you a headline

Au Chung on the couch of their room writing on their laptop in the dark
(Lyndzi Ramos | Daily Trojan)

Every piece I’ve ever written was done so on my dorm room couch, alone in the early a.m. Depending on the content, I’d soundtrack these little sessions accordingly — whenever I write about fraternities, I find myself listening to Ethel Cain, while mentions of corrupt businesses are often followed with the soothing anti-capitalist rhythms of Noname. However, tonight is different. Tonight is silent.

It’s been nearly a week since the violent mass shooting directly following the Lunar New Year festivities in Monterey Park and yet, I can still feel my breath catching. These uneven breaths are the only company I can bear to have as I try to collect my thoughts. 

An “Editor’s Epilogue,” by nature, is supposed to chronicle what has led editors at the Daily Trojan to write in the first place and to show readers that us editors are human, too. Yet, despite having been vulnerable in my writing before, I feel almost uncomfortable sharing any of the pain I currently feel with recent events looming over me. 

In their response to the shooting, the Asian American Journalists Association included a guideline for reporting on Asian American communities, one of which stuck out to me.

“We urge newsrooms to empower and support their [APIA] journalists and colleagues, while not relying on them completely to be total experts on [APIA] communities,” it read.

Though I haven’t come to a conclusion — nor am I quite sure I ever will — about my role in writing on the Asian American experience, I’ve decided to utilize this opportunity as a meditation on the op-ed. Care to join me?

Since my primary school years, I’ve always understood the importance of representation. I come from a part of my city that is considered to be the “wrong side of the tracks” and a school district that has been deemed the fifth most diverse in America. In my application to USC, I exploited my pursuit of becoming the representation I needed — deserved, even — as a child. Later on, I would learn this to be a norm in post-secondary education. I can remember all the mornings I spent in Taper Hall, deconstructing and analyzing the trauma of minority writers for a grade.

As an Asian American writer, there is a complexity that often renders my successes bittersweet. People of color are so often made to create art of their trauma, as if this is the only realized method of “breaking through the noise” into the spaces they occupy. Otherwise, how would people find a way to care about you when you’re not giving them something to relate to?

For people like me, it can begin to seem as though writing about — and through — your pain is the only way to be regarded as human.

On one hand, it can be beneficial to be open, honest and vulnerable in writing. There are some opinion columnists that I keep coming back to, with a recent highlight being columnist Man Truong’s article about Asian familial norms. However, writers of color often walk the line between speaking our truth and being exploited as a ploy for relatability. Our current status as college-aged students only stresses these tipping scales. 

When we’re young, the only thing we’re well-versed in is our own past, and not even that. Therefore, we believe it’s all we’ve got to give. 

The reason I find myself so stuck as an Asian American in the aftermath of the shooting could be the fact that I don’t want to have to process how it makes me feel. As someone who is always expected to be reporting on newsworthy subjects such as these, I often find myself scraping into my own pain in order to write, without a chance to actually fully realize how it makes me feel. 

When we put recent traumas and freshest wounds into the ether, the critiques are seldom sparing and empathetic. We aren’t allowed the privilege of working through our emotions before they are processed for us. 

In my second of the four free therapy sessions the University “gifts” us, the counselor and I spoke about these dueling aspects. For as long as I can remember — which itself is not very far back — I’ve attempted to be an extremely transparent person. It’s worked to my detriment, and I’m still just beginning the healing process from exhausting everything I once had to give to people. It shouldn’t have been such a revelation for me to realize that honesty and trust were not mutually inclusive — I could continue being a truthful person without trusting everyone with my pain on a silver platter. 

This doesn’t mean we should all become jaded. We should be able to be direct and open without the danger of leaving our private selves for the taking — even if it were to come from a good place. Let pain be just that. We don’t have to turn our traumas into a masterpiece, and no amount of hurt will ever be “worth” anything.

I’m eternally grateful that people read my work and, as time goes on, I will continue to take up space within my work and the rooms I enter. However, I’ve decided to enter this Western and Lunar New Year with new intentions. To all my fellow writers, creators and artists of color, I’d like to remind you: You don’t have to be the change you want to see in the world, you only have to be the person you need. The rest will come.

So, no. I don’t owe you a headline. You’ll have to find your own.

“Editors’ Epilogue” is a rotating column featuring a new Daily Trojan editor in each installment and their personal experiences of living in what seems to be an irrepressible dumpster fire of a world. Au Chung is the digital managing editor for the Daily Trojan.