Sunday, June 18, 2006

Unpleasant surprises

Racism exists in Korea, as does racial ignorance. There are loads of people who regard Blacks, Whites, Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asians, etc., etc., with the vilest of prejudices. Others are less malicious, but they neverthless have unwittingly subscribed to a bunch of stereotypes that are nothing short of flat-out ignorance.

These include, among many others, beliefs that Blacks are predisposed toward violence and crime, that Japanese are sneaky, Chinese are dirty and low-class, or that "racial purity" is a noble goal that should be enforced at all costs.

Despite what I just said, I also have very high hopes about the situation in Korea. While some racists are truly mean-spirited and recalcitrant in their racism, I feel a majority are simply mired in ignorance. And that ignorance is being challenged right and left in Korea, both at the media level and the inter-personal level. The Korea of today is worlds apart from the Korea of ten years ago, and that Korea was a far cry from the Korea ten years before that.

From the influx of "international marriages" — 10% of all new marriages in Korea now — to the growing acceptance of ethnically mixed performers in the media and interracial couples in "real life," Korea has completely transformed (though there definitely is further to go). When I was in Korea as a teenager in the late 1980s, interracial couples risked the chiding of total strangers if they were in public holding hands (though much of this was due to prudishness that was also directed at Korean-Korean couples).

Korea has been moving in the right direction for quite some time. That it might seem other than that is that (a) Korea originally had so far too go, and (b) many racist Koreans wear their anachronistic views on their sleave.

As someone who has grown up in the United States, I'm well aware that racism exists. I've seen in-your-face racism, and I've witnessed very subtle — but nonetheless very potent — forms of racism. Some of it has been directed at me, some of it at others. Nevertheless, I like to think that the US has gone beyond a lot of the problems that still exist.

So when I see things like this, I find it very disturbing. Here are Americans suggesting that depicting Whites and Blacks pairing up "is an act of political-cultural subversion." This is in regards to a 2004 NFL television spot showing "blonde white sexpot" Nicolette Sheridan of the steamy Desperate Housewives series "smooching up to black football star Terrell Owens" in the locker room of the Philadelphia Eagles. In the ad, Sheridan drops her bath towel and jumps into Mr. Owens' arms. He says, "Aw, hell, the team's going to have to win without me."

Some choice quotes:
Like the Jackson-Timberlake performance, the Owens-Sheridan ad was interracial and brazenly soif only morals and taste had been the targets, the producers could easily have found white actresses who are less obviously Nordic than the golden-locked Miss Sheridan, but Nordic is what the ad's producers no doubt wanted.
This is not a misinterpeted gray area on the part of the writer. He makes it clear later:
The point was not just to hurl a pie in the face of morals and good taste but also of white racial and cultural identity. The message of the ad was that white women are eager to have sex with black men, that they should be eager, and that black men should take them up on it.
And this:
But the ad's message also was that interracial sex is normal and legitimate, a fairly radical concept for both the dominant media as well as its audience.

Nevertheless, for decades, interracial couples of different sexes have been sneaked into advertising, movies and television series, and almost certainly not because of popular demand from either race. The Owens-Sheridan match is only the most notorious to date.

In the minds of those who produced the ad, race is at least as important as the moral and aesthetic norms their ad subverts.

To them, the race as well as the religion, the morality, and the culture of the host society are all equally hostile and oppressive forces that need to be discredited, debunked and destroyed.

If the destruction can't happen at the polls or through the courts, they can always use the long march through the culture that control of the mass media allows.

Breaking down the sexual barriers between the races is a major weapon of cultural destruction because it means the dissolution of the cultural boundaries that define breeding and the family and, ultimately, the transmission and survival of the culture itself.
This sounds exactly like those anachronistic Korean supremacists everybody likes to bitch about. If the Chosun Ilbo linked to something like this, there would be outrage. Yet this was found on a site linked to by conservative darling Michelle Malkin herself, and a main writer of whom is a main writer of Malkin's Immigration Blog. [Michelle Malkin, a Filipina-American, is married to a White man; are she, her husband, and her children part of this "cultural destruction" the Vdare folks talk about?]

So how did I find this? No, I was not mining for trash on anyone. While perusing my data, I found that the same google search that yields this infamous post also yields racist stuff in America, or stuff about racist stuff in America.

Through that same google search, I also encountered this post, which makes me wonder: how widespread is it for Taiwanese (or Japanese) landlords to deny "foreigners" housing? I have helped many, many people with housing, directly and indirectly, and I have not encountered such a thing in Korea, though I'm sure somewhere in a country of 50 million people it has happened at least a few times, though I wouldn't call it widespread. If it were, the K-blogsphere would frequently carry tirades on it.

At any rate, racism in America does not excuse racism in Korea; nor vice-versa. And the existence of racist housing practices in Taiwan or Japan (if they do exist) do not justify less racist policies in other aspects of life here in Korea.

Everybody has got to clean house, starting with their own closet.

1 comment:

  1. I think I got pretty unlucky. I don't know anybody outside my builiding in Taiwan who was initially allowed to live in a building and then faced an "all foreigners must go" eviction.

    Some landlords prefer not to rent to foreigners (which doesn't include Chinese-Americans), but the vast majority have no problem with a foreign tenant as long as language isn't an issue.


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