Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

My Mom and Korea

23 Jan

My Mom smiles at me with that stiff smile. “I don’t understand why Korean is so difficult.”

I say, “Hangeul is phonetic.”

“But the sounds change. Korean is so hard.”

I shake my head. “Many languages are like this. English is like this too. Wa-ter turns into Wader in Standard American English.”

“Yeah, but Korean is so hard. I will only learn hangeul” I can feel myself getting upset at her. I wonder if I have the right to yell at her for pushing away my heritage with such ease.

“English has ‘through,’ ‘rough,’ and other words that sound different, but are spelled the same. No language is harder than another. They are just different.”

“I don’t have a gift with languages.” I refrain from snapping, “I don’t have a gift either, the difference is that I was forced to try.”

My Dad chimes in, “[My brother] will translate for us.”

I say, “No, he will not. I will get you guys a translator.”

The room grows silent. I try to hide my anger.

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Posted in Korean Culture, Parenting, Parents, Racism


ADD and Daydreaming

23 Jan

I used to day dream a lot. It was escape from the teasing, the hardships that life gave me. I’d make up stories. I remember I was daydreaming in class because the problem they were teaching was boring. I could see the rafters. I was thinking up a story with Barbie who was blonde, skinny and big-chested. Her head would pop off and I’d have to hunt for my dad to put her back together. It was the usual fare. She was a princess. I was deciding who was going to be the prince.

It was a way to escape from my surroundings because from the time I started school I was in constant fear of being teased. From the time I got on the bus to the time I stepped off. The teasing I received stripped me of my adoptive culture, my birth culture and of myself. That’s in part how I learned that words have a lot of power.

I would sometimes mutter to myself sorting out the stories going through my head. I day dreamed a lot because my surroundings were less desirable. I wanted to be rescued like Cinderella from her poor life. I saw nothing wrong with this. I would do it in the middle of someone else’s conversation because I didn’t want to listen.

When my parents yelled for me to come and get dinner. I tuned them out. I had learned from the age of five that all yelling was a bad thing. Yelling from my mom because we went out into the street, yelling at school because the kids were picking on me. So I learned that all yelling was bad, so I tuned it out. As the teasing got worse and there was no one to even listen to me and as I internalized those feelings, me not listening to yelling got worse. I wouldn’t even respond when dinner was being called.

My parents, therefore, ignoring all my previous hurt of teasing, decided to take me in for hearing testing. They figured that my problem was that I couldn’t hear right. I told them up front that I passed the school hearing test. They ignored me. After they got the results, my mom said in an exacerbated voice as her volume rose up, “Is it that you’re just ignoring us? Why won’t you tell us what’s wrong?”

But the thing was, I had told them what was wrong since I was in kindergarten and they’d brushed me off every single time until I was afraid to tell them. They told me it wasn’t about race. They told me I was wrong and they just proved through the hearing test that they were not open to listening to me talk about myself, even on a small thing like that. I was a kid. I was wrong about my own state of being.

So ignoring me again and my own thoughts on the matter, my parents thought I had ADD. They brought me to a psychiatrist. I constantly asked why they were doing this. I thought they were trying to find something wrong with me, but unlike every other time I asked why they didn’t explain why until some years later. They insist that they did. Perhaps I heard it but didn’t understand. I was indignant and I was determined I was going to beat the psychiatrist over the head with how smart I was. I remember the guy as nervous. He wasn’t calm. He constantly twitched and his voice was never even. I remember his glasses and the sweat on his brow.

He sat me down. I thought it was going to be like school work. My parents weren’t there. I looked for them. He gave me blocks to stack and arrange. He gave me a puzzle of a horse that I stubbornly refused to believe was a horse. My imagination was playing itself again. But I was going to beat that timer. I was always like that. I would try to read his impassive and always nervous face. I decided I didn’t like him. That’s why I was going to defeat him.

He asked no questions. Sometimes he would give a little vocal guidance. I was secretly upset when he helped out. I wasn’t day dreaming because I could see the challenge set in front of me.

We remet with my parents in, I think, his office. I could see his degree. I was a strange child. I always looked for degrees and the things around the office. I still spend time reading instructions, product labels and cereal boxes.
“She just needs more attention in the classroom. I think smaller classroom size would be helpful.” He only helped to confirm their suspicions. It wasn’t because I was being teased, it was because I had a learning disability which could only be cured by smaller class sizes. He helped their denial.

I didn’t know what going on. I already was trying to figure out the context.
“Yes, we’re trying to transfer her.”

They mentioned a school and people they knew from there. This was baffling to me. It occurred to me that most of the people’s names were Jewish or that I knew them.
My parents had never asked me why I daydreamed. I can confidently answer them that it was the only way to keep my sanity when I was in constant fear of being teased. I would day dream in the middle of their teasing. Through their chants of “teacher’s pet” “cooties” “You are gay with your best friend” or pairing me with another classmate they didn’t think acceptable. They never associated the two together. I wouldn’t expect them to.

I had a freak determination to never return to that position again. I concentrated more out of pride rather than because I had a smaller classroom size. However the change of schools helped in other ways. I wasn’t teased as much. People didn’t chant about Asians. People didn’t pair me up with strange people or call me gay. I wonder if my parents still think that change of schools cured my day dreaming, or if it ever occurred to them how horrid the teasing was.

I still write stories. And occasionally if someone talks for too long I begin to think of them, but I’ve learned a new skill since the last time I sat in that psychiatrist’s chair. The skill of half listening.

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Posted in Parents, Racism, Teasing


Asian Actors

05 Feb

Mr. Miyagi, played by Pat Morita, was the only Asian I knew in my childhood to actually play for an American audience his own nationality. In fact, up to about 2001 I could name all of the Asian actors in Hollywood and on TV with just my two hands.

Jackie Chan, Jet Li all played their own nationalities but often it was only martial arts movies devoid of any real culture about what it meant to be Chinese. I did not see them say “ge ge” or see them act or talk in a way that made me think, “This is Chinese culture, I just have to roll with it.”

It was especially sad to me that there were no identifiable Korean actors, let alone female ones. I felt a disconnect from my own culture. I had no choice, but to admire black or white actors. I lost touch with my physical identity at those times, and sometimes had a hard time accepting what I saw in myself.

Asian actors would play all different ethnicities, with the scripts making no differentiation. It was as if to say that all Asians are alike. There is no difference. Make them talk slow, fight martial arts, make tea and laugh behind a sleeve with slurred r’s and where’s the difference?

I admit how much this has changed. LOST featured two Koreans speaking Korean who actually were Korean, and it managed to show the culture. Bobby Lee often makes fun of his Korean heritage in sketches like Average Asian and Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirably and Sometimes Secretive.

An Japanese play Japanese though often eclipsed by people like Tom Cruise’s character who can save all of Japan despite being a Caucasian in what would have been a hostile-to-whites environment.

Despite all of this ethnic shuffling and reassigning, I didn’t set out to define myself by the actors I see on TV. I don’t want to confine myself by what others are or how they think. That doesn’t tell who I am, but I still can see the advocates of Asian actors’ side. It’s not for us to look up to those who act and have role models insomuch as it is for those who are not Asian, to not harbor the stereotypes shown on TV.

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Posted in Racism


History of Asiaphiles

19 Feb

Asiaphiles and Asiophiles are both acceptable spellings for a person who is enamored of Asian Culture based on stereotypes of what it means to be “Asian” rather than actually knowing the culture.

When I was a kid, in my hometown, being Asian was a bad thing. I was teased for being Asian. I had sounds made at me because I was Asian. I was hated for getting good grades in class, etc. No one wanted to know me more than the color of my skin because I was Asian. This has changed in recent years where I’m encountering more Asiophiles that make rude comments to me, whistle at me when they would not do that in past years.

Those racist against Asians and Asiophiles are the same. They are no different. They both base their judgments on stereotypes, know very little about the culture and make quick judgments based on small facts, group Asians together, filter their experience of the other cultures often through their own cultural lens rather than trying to understand it from that culture’s point of view. Both of them also seem to have this idea that while I’m a Korean who has an interest in Cultural Anthropology, and been steeped in Asian cultures for years, that their mere two to three years of knowledge can beat mine, and when it can’t they feel insulted by my insinuation that I might know more than they do (then turn racist…).

I think it’s important to be able to recognize Asiophiles and support the people that say that they met an Asiophile automatically. Stalking exists still and ignoring the fact that a person is being followed because of their race is the same as squashing their feelings and saying its OK for them to be killed.

Where did it come from?
The real wave of Asiophilia I think one can tie greatly to the start of racism against Asians, which really started with the Chinese building the railroad in the mid to late 1800′s and then was recently exacerbated by the anti-Japanese feelings of World War II and then got mixed in with the Korean business model of the 1950′s to 2000.

The stereotypes of Asians being insular comes from the Chinese first, who often did not choose to learn English in the first generation, to the Japanese, who were beat in World War II. Since English is about accommodating and the superiority that was prevalent towards races at the time, quick judgments were made against those groups.

The subservient woman comes from a misunderstanding of the Japanese model and the idea that we, the United States of America, were more advanced than the kimono-wearing Japanese in the 1930-1940′s, which ties back to the Chinese racism (1800′s) because that elitism tied back to Manifest Destiny, and then back even further to the Puritans of the early 1600′s. (All racism is connected.)

The smart Asian man/woman comes from a misunderstanding of the Japanese educational system. (I do say Japanese over Chinese in this case.) And later was served more by ancient tales of Chinese emperors with smart philosophers coming to court. This may also have been fueled by the 1960′s attempt at enlightenment where many Asian artifacts, such as Hinduism, Taoism, etc came to the United States. (Art of War and Karma Sutra being classic examples.)

Lack of Penis size, can’t play sports, etc is probably an equation Americans have that “Short==no sports” which is really a taking of a stereotype of Japanese size, and trying to invert that against a racist African American model.

The “Chink” word. That’s Chinese slur that’s made for all Asians. The “Chee-Chong” that’s Chinese. The “Gook” that’s racist against Koreans. The eye game, racist against Japanese and Chinese, often tried to be applied to other Asian groups.

Now, how do you spot an Asiophile?

1. All countries are like Japan. They expect you to act what they think Japanese is.

Easy indicator: You do Karate because you’re Asian. Karate is Japanese, not Asian. It means empty fist. (Kara is empty. te is hand, or in this case fist). Taekwondo is Korean and Kungfu is Chinese… a person who is an Asiophile usually never sees this difference

You are a submissive woman. This is a taking from Japanese culture where men saw the kimono as a device of submission. Small steps and a Geisha face, put somewhere in an Osen-type setting with a woman greeting you at the door, this is what the men are thinking. It’s not true, but who cares.

2. Now why Japan and not Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, China or another country?
It’s because the most recent war was World War II. While the previous generation of the 1930′s hated Japanese enough to put them in a concentration camp, this resulted in this kind of misunderstanding being passed to the next generation and the generation after that. The stereotypes lived in the media for all that time (and still surface today). By the time the 1960′s came around, and all this information was coming in about Asia and getting sorely mixed up with previous stereotypes. This is when the first Anime boom happened. Astroboy, Kimba, the White Lion, Robotech and other Japanese animation came to the United states. This led to people being enamored of these cartoons which often didn’t show Japan as it was, but as Japanese wanted to idealize it. But since there was no filter for these cultural items, people became enamored of Japan through these animations.

At the same time Japan was gearing up their industries for their first economic boom in the 1980′s. Women’s rights came out during this period in Japan, but the US still thought of Japanese as wearing kimono and being submissive because there was no way to update. This is the time an American went to Japan and helped the Japanese auto industry, which later led two men from a nearby American factory go to a bar, get drunk, and beat a Chinese man to death because they thought he was Japanese.

These ideas persisted and by the 1990′s it was dying down until the next Anime boom which happened with the advent of the Internet. Thus all the previous stereotypes from the 1800′s, the 1930′s, 1960′s and 1980′s got fed into this new wave where people with no training on how to discern culture were being exposed to another culture’s media and equating it with all Asians.

No matter if someone is facing racism or philias against Asians, one has to realize that if you are or are not Japanese, you have to fight these stereotypes, but it’s easier to fight if you understand where they come from.

3. If you talk about basic culture of any Asian country, the person knows nothing about it. They may even pretend to want to know about it, but they are more interested in the stereotyping.

4. If you try to speak an Asian language, they assume it’s Japanese or Chinese. And if they do try to speak, it’s badly pronounced and in the wrong register. (Register is the cultural linguistic term for language everyone understands, but is only used by certain groups or only in a certain situation.)

How to guard against becoming an Asiophile.

1. A culture is made up of humans, just like you are. Not superior or inferior to yourself or others. Just different, not good or bad.
2. Withhold all judgment on culture until you know absolutely everything about that aspect of the culture.
3. Any stereotypes you learned about Asians in school. Ditch them.
4. Educate yourself on the cultures as much as possible. Education defeats racism most of the time. Don’t quit.
5. Always be willing to ask questions and listen (not hear, but listen) to the answer. Digest it and take it in, especially from those who come from that culture or who are highly educated on the subject.

Asiaphiles are hard to deal with. If you meet one, it’s best to try to get away from them if you’re Asian and if you are not Asian, it’s best not to let yourself be around them for long periods of time. Now if they are a family member, well, therapy might help….

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Posted in Racism


Friendship and Moving Out

19 Feb

I admit I wasn’t exactly sane after breaking up with my ex-boyfriend. Finding that my parents were smoking pot and telling me the schedule of it didn’t really help my logic centers to come back that quickly. For this reason I kept my friendship with my ex because on a conscious level I didn’t see any reason not to. On a subconscious level, I hated his guts and when he tried to wake me up after I had to wait for hours of him being in the bathroom, I’d kick him in my sleep even when he was standing up. I guess my subconscious self really hated his guts and wanted revenge. (or at least what I’d like to think.)

So I was having fun apartment hunting and found a place to move to. I managed to move out of the apartment with the asiophile. By this time I was really fed up with my ex too. He was asking me to burn DVDs of a TV show he watched and insisted that we watch it together. Back then it would take the majority of the day for the computer to burn the video DVD. I spent days collecting pictures and making menus. And then he’d demand that I do it faster because if I didn’t give him 6 copies (which in a weekly show is expensive) he’d look bad at work. He didn’t understand why this made me so pissed at him. And then he’d expect me to pay for food half the time or make it, but wouldn’t buy it back. When it was his turn to buy food it was always cheap. (Well, most of the time)

Keeping this in mind, when I was apartment hunting he offered to help drive me (since I had no car) even though I said I could take the bus. I ended up taking the place, even though I wanted to do more apartment hunting. I, now, know that I won’t take a place immediately without a little more hunting around.

When I first moved in and I got a parking space for my Aunt and cousins and my ex… my ex started offering the parking space to strangers I didn’t know. I was pissed because he was acting like he owned my place, my Internet and the apartment when he didn’t even live in the apartment. People assumed that I did. I stated it to him that it bugged me and asked him to please offering things that didn’t belong to him. He didn’t listen to me. He instead stated all the things I did wrong. This made me even more upset at him.

His favorite phrase now was, “You don’t have any other friends.” I stated I did and he said “Real ones.” This made me even more mad at him. I had my cousins and my aunt and uncle not to mention friends in my college classes and I had friends through the Internet.

There were redeeming qualities about him. He liked to have fun, even if at my monetary expense. Escapism was a major theme. I liked having fun, but after a while it became less and less fun as he held his air conditioner and driving over me as the reasons I needed to see him. (Needed is used correctly here.) But over time trying to have fun was more of a game of control for him than it was having fun. And it was scarier as I realized all the faults of my parents were in him.

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Posted in Becoming an Adult, Racism

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