Why Riverdale’s Charles Melton Says He’ll No Longer “Suppress” His Asian Identity

Riverdale actor Charles Melton explained why he “willfully ignored” racism he experience growing up. In an introspective column, he said he's now vowing to embrace his Korean heritage.

By Lindsay Weinberg Mar 20, 2021 12:36 AMTags
Watch: "Riverdale" Star Charles Melton: Get to Know the Hot Actor

Charles Melton says he will "no longer remain silent" about his experiences as a Korean American. 

On Friday, March 19, Melton penned a column for Variety about how he has "reexamined my roots" in recent months. The Riverdale star said he grew up "suppressing" his Asian identity—and, "Today, that all changes."

He wrote, "With the continued rise in horrific hate crimes towards my community, I have been in deep introspection by recalling my own experiences, unpacking my past, and trying to understand it all."

The actor went on, "Through it, I've realized that I never stood up for my Korean heritage. I've willfully ignored the racism and microaggressions directed towards me and my people. I failed to defend my heritage in fear of retribution. And now I can't help but wonder what I did to contribute to the violence against Asian Americans." 

He started out by explaining that his Korean mother married his father while he was stationed overseas as an Army soldier. He and his sisters were later born in Alaska.

Meet the New Riverdale

However, Melton grappled with his identity as a mixed race child growing up. "I've often been told that I'm not Asian enough. Not white enough," he shared. "And I question whether I am enough at all. I am conflicted by my racial identities and the trauma that comes with that."

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Now 30, The Sun is Also a Star performer has been thinking a lot about his mother in recent months, including his earliest memories of her painful interactions with friends and strangers.

He said in his column, "I remember people talking down to my mother as if she didn't belong. It demeaned her and in turn triggered something in me that I've long buried deep inside. A truth that at my young age, I didn't know how to protect her, and it broke my heart." 

Melton detailed some of the microaggressions and painful memories he faced. "Comments from friends about my house smelling funny because of my mother's home-cooked Korean meals and kimchi caused me to carry shame," he recalled. 

At school, he "never" learned about the history of Korean Americans—"or Asian American history at all," as he recounted. "If you never learn about your own history, how can you really exist? Trying to fit in at school, I chased the American dream by being a star athlete, all the while suppressing my Asian identity. I remember even beating everyone to the punch by making Asian jokes before anyone else would."

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Melton said his mother carried feelings of shame and blame. So, from now on, he vows to speak out and be vocal when it comes to his connection with the Asian-American community. 

"I will no longer remain silent about my lived experience," the star promised. "The hate crimes that have swept the country have forced me to realize how important the platform I have is and the responsibility that comes with it."

Read how other actors have spoken up this week, including Emily in Paris' Ashley Park and To All the Boys' Lana Condor.

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