Friday, September 2, 2011

Updates to the bus incident

As the facts reveal themselves and opinions are laid out, I've added a few updates to my piece on The Black Guy on the Bus™ incident that are more worthwhile, I think, than the original post.

In the meantime, I could answer three of Metropolitician's worthwhile questions:
The urge to flip out camera phones doesn’t seem to strike when a drunk ajussi flipped out on me in Seoul Station and came at me, yelling and screaming to “get out of Korea” and calling me a “nigger” in Korean because I was taking too long to figure out which Daejeon stop I needed to get off on, right in front of the security guard, who, instead of arresting this guy or even saying anything to him, simply smiled and apologized meekly, came over to me, and said I should just get on the train?

THAT was pretty spectacular. And it’s far, far more representative of any confrontational encounters between foreigners and Koreans, in my experience and observation. And what I’ve been saying is that it wasn’t like this longer ago, when I knew less Korean and less about this place, when I was a bumbling newbie in the 1990′s. I am simply asking these questions:
  1. Why does it seem worse now?
  2. Why has the media never reported on the pattern of confrontational encounters, which generally go the other way?
  3. Why did this particular incident go from being filmed, from cellphone to YouTube, to national scandal?
These are reasonable and useful questions to bring up, and the advent of this scandal offers itself as a perfect moment to enter into a more constructive conversation about it.
Before we begin, let's deal (yet again) with that old chestnut that 껌/깜/검둥이 = Nigger, as Metropolitician is wont to say. I've dealt with as much here:
I have long felt, and The Marmot seems to agree with me, that 검둥이 (kŏmdungi) is better represented as "darkie." The word is still insensitive and inappropriate, but it by no means carries the historical baggage — and violence — of nigger. Koreans have not been lynchers of Blacks, they have not legally or physically barred Blacks from marrying Koreans (or anyone else), nor have they enslaved, segregated, red-lined, or systematically and institutionally tried to keep down Blacks. Nigger comes from that violently supremacist mentality, which is far different from the xenophobic race-infused mentality that produces words like 검둥이 (or 흰둥이 for "whiteys"), and that makes it terribly misleading to use them as equivalents when describing racism or attitudes about race.

[Of course, if you're on the receiving end of it, it may be seen as tah-MAY-toh/toh-MAH-toh, but I submit that the latter is far less damaging and much more amenable to change than the former. I also recognize that a WASP WASP-like entity German-Irish Catholic from Long Island (The Marmot) may be the last one to expound on the comparative hurtful usage of 검둥이 or Nigger being hurled at someone, but I'm straight out of Compton, so maybe I've got a little more cred. Just a little.]
In short, whenever Metropolitician goes off about Koreans (who have used 검둥이 or some variant) calling him "Nigger," his credibility goes down a few ticks in proportion to how large the chip on his shoulder is at the time.

That said, does this seem worse now? As some at The Marmot's Hole have pointed out, we have a situation where more foreigners and a dramatically expanded means for putting even minor cases out there for the public to see make for a situation where there could, if one were looking, seem to be more incidents going on even if there were dramatically less. At the very least, I think per capita incidents may be going down even as we read more about them (and Metropolitician does his part to make sure we see them, even as more and more people go to him with their stories).

Then he asks why the media never reported on this pattern of confrontational encounters. My guess is that never is not true. I'll have to look that up, but when Metropolitician uses superlatives to describe what the media is doing, he's almost certainly wrong. (I've made this point when he talks about how the Korean media or police will always make a big deal in the press about drug arrests of foreigners, even though I know first-hand that this is not true.) That Metropolitician may not have seen them doesn't mean they don't exist. Another example of cognitive distortion that stems from the subconscious assumption that what ends up in the K-blogs is an accurate reflection of what's in the Korean news media.

Finally, he asks how this went from being filmed to being a national scandal. Well that's easy: someone went crazy on a bus while being filmed. As others have noted, this was true with many infamous videos where Korean nationals were the subject, including some where some youngish man or woman went off on an older Korean person. Maybe Metropolitician would do well to review the memes post, including #81, "When bad things happen to me, it's because I'm a foreigner," because shit happens to Koreans as well.


1 comment:

  1. A life and death video
    in which the bystanders actually re-affirm a partial faith in humanity (and from the United States no less).


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