Addressing the recent departure of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park from CBS' hit series, Hawaii-Five O

 Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park have chosen to leave CBS’ hit series Hawaii-Five O after seven incredibly successful seasons. As two of the most important characters, they unsuccessfully sought pay equality (15% raise) to their white counterparts on set: Alex O’ Loughlin and Scoot Caan.

I was once a 5th grader in middle school and now I am a rising senior in high school. For the past seven years, so many things have changed for me. I have changed where I call “home.” I have changed where I go to school. I have changed how I eat. I have changed how I view the world—and more importantly myself.

But one thing has been a constant for me. Thousands of miles away in New York, there was this insanely elite, unstoppable police force in Hawaii. Nothing could stop them. They were like the “1992 Dream Team”’—Seal Team 6 version. Whether it was Monday at 10:00 pm ET for the first three seasons, and Friday at 9:00 pm ET, for the past four seasons, I was always there to witness the Five-O force. Always there.   

But there was something about the Hawaii Five-O that I will never forget. The first time I watched the pilot episode of Hawaii-Five O was the early weeks of 5th grade: the most important week of getting into “cliques.” I had learned that one of the “cool kids” had not invited me to their paintball party. When I confronted him, he told me he didn’t think “Asians did paintball.”

I came home that day and cried. I ignored my work and found solace in the fictional world of television. At 10:00 PM ET, when the pilot turned on, I immediately became enamored by the action packed sequences of the show and, of course, the attractiveness of Grace Park (Kono Kalakaua, a surfer turned Five-O operative). But I will never forget the moment Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho Kelly, future Five-O operative) appeared on screen.

I had never seen someone who looked like me on television, or in real life for that matter, with a pistol, a beautiful gold badge, a Kevlar vest, and a proud smile.

For the past seven seasons, Kono and Chin would would evade explosions, parachute from the sky, use the most sophisticated of weaponry—all while bringing swift justice to local criminals and terrorists. But more importantly, they would bring justice without being subject to the hackneyed stereotype of all Asian American “bad-asses” as Kung fu fighters or ninjas—a trademark of Hollywood.

Chin would even have a relationship with a white woman, which was the ultimate taboo in Hollywood!

For the first time in my life, I saw “American bad-asses” that were also Asian.

From being beaten and left to die by gang leaders, to being stranded unarmed in an island full of terrorists, Kono and Chin would overcome any adversity and evil in the Five-O world. The world which I now lived.

But in the end, ironically enough, they could not overcome the continued whiteness and erasure of Asian Americans in Hollywood… the real world. Whether its Earl Biggers as Charlie Chan in the New Adventures of Charlie Chan (decades before I was born), to Scarlett Johansson as Motko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell (this year), sometimes it really feels like nothing has changed.

However, I choose to remember the departure of them from the show for the better. For how their roles in a fictional show that although largely glamorizes violence and hyper masculinity—things that I always felt (even to this day) maybe absent in my young Asian American male-self—could change me for the better. In the end, as I get older, it really isn’t about the five second explosion effects or incredibly scenes of violence that I gravitated as a 5th grade (which I no longer care for).

Kono and Chin taught me that Asians can come in all shape and sizes…they can even be “American.”

They taught me to be comfortable in my “non-Model Minority self.”

They taught me to choose Hip-Hop over piano.

They taught me to choose debate camp over math camp.

They taught me to idolize, not the Harvard medical student, but the “Eddie Huangs” of the world.

To just be me.

More importantly, they remind me of the need for TRUE inclusion and diversity in America.

Although every single episode not only titled, but also featured Hawaiian words, I only remember one of them: ohana (family).

To Daniel and Grace:

As cousins and officers of the Five O taskforce, you both made countless sacrifices to fight crime and protect those who needed to be protected.

As proud Asian American actors, you have just both made the ultimate sacrifice in fighting for us.

I will no longer watch Hawaii Five O, because like you two taught me, ohana comes first.

For seven years, Friday or Monday night, you were my ohana.


Mahalo (thank you),