Category Archives: race

Dog Whistles

Reyes_Joseph_Assiniboine_12inx14in

A friend of mine, Jordan Miller, is a gallery owner. She also rents out space for small events. Recently, a local wing of a political group rented her space for an upcoming meeting. She agreed and the meeting was scheduled.

Sometime later, she receives an e-mail warning her to cancel the event unless she wants a boycott of her business. The e-mail comes from Omar Kinnarath, an activist who appears to be quite active speaking against the alt-right. (I’m guessing from the alt-right’s point of view, that makes him antifa? Correct me if I’m wrong.)

My friend tells me about the situation and it doesn’t take much Googling to find out that the political party that rented her space was the People’s Party of Canada. It’s a party that was just created last year. About a week ago, several members of the party resigned after learning about racist members in the group. From what little I gather, it seems to be one of those typical libertarian types which unfortunately is a gateway to extreme rightwing politics. They want to privatize the postal service, have more private companies in the healthcare system, limit immigration, ease gun ownership, etc. They sound nuts.

Anyone would be smart to stay away from this group fresh from the controversy that they just had, especially if you’re a gallery that caters to an open community of artists.

Now, the PPC as well as their supporters are spinning the story that my friend has a “struggling gallery” and that she was “terrorized” by Omar Kinnarath into reneging on lending out her gallery space. They labeled Omar Kinnarath, who happens to be brown, as a “terrorist” and my friend, who happens to be a white woman, a “small woman” and a “young woman.” (Note the save-the-white-woman misogyny here.) Some guy with a video channel on Facebook hanging a Gadsden flag in his studio recounts the events and even says that my friend was “directly attacked.” There are so many racist dog whistles here that it’s hard to miss. I’m just glad she didn’t go to that guy’s poorly-lit basement for an interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press wrote a story about the whole thing, with the headline “Anti-racists labeled as ‘terrorists’ by the PPC.” And yeah, it is ironic that the PPC, being accused of being racists, accuses an activist who happens to be brown, a “terrorist,” thus showing their racist colors. People online are accusing those who oppose the PPC as being against free speech, but free speech does not give everyone the right to say anything at a private property. My friend’s gallery is her property and she exercised her will and her free speech by reneging on the agreement. Omar Kinnarath exercised his free speech by telling my friend that he will boycott her gallery if she associates with what appears to be an organization that has racist members.

The whole episode is unfortunate, and it’s sad that my friend, who couldn’t care less about politics, had to be dragged along with it. But here’s a few pointers moving forward:

-If racists are on your side, then you’re probably doing something wrong. If you’re against “anti-fascists,” then you’re probably doing something wrong as well. Yeah, I know, some members of antifa can be unruly, but stick to the topic. What-aboutism is a lazy argument.

-Privatizing the postal service is dumb. When was the last time you saved so much money on UPS? Privatization leads to citizens relinquishing things to private companies, NOT competition in a capitalist society (True capitalism doesn’t exist these days). At least if something is run by the government, leaders are still accountable to their voters. Large private companies couldn’t care less about their customers.

-The Gadsden flag has been adopted by racists, thus making it racist, just like the okay hand gesture. If racists think it’s cool, then maybe stop using it.

-Free speech is not ultimate. Any first year law textbook will tell you that it has limits. Free speech also doesn’t protect people from the consequences of their speech. If a previous action is offensive, then maybe I won’t be too open in allowing you to practice your free speech in my private property. It’s not that difficult to follow.

-I don’t really know much about the PPC, especially whether they truly have racist members, but judging from the whole interaction, I would guess they don’t mind tolerating racism among their ranks. A proper political party that truly cares for a multi-cultural community (and actually wants to win support) would have handled this situation better.

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They are just kids… racist kids.

drummer

Kids will be kids, and 17 year-old young men are still children. Nevertheless, it is disheartening how so many people in the media are bending over backwards telling everyone that what we saw those Covington kids do was not racist at all.

It was racist. Anyone who’s been on the receiving end of any sort of bigotry will recognize the smug smile on Nicholas Sandmann’s face. It’s the smile that says among many other things, “I’m going to get away with this.”

I don’t want to dissect everything that happened. There are videos and different analyses about the event. It doesn’t have to be treated like a Zapruder film. Everyone’s actions are as plain as day.

First off, a Catholic school decided to bus a group of young men for political purposes. It was for the March for Life, an annual rally protesting the legality of abortion. Again, a Catholic school (which is not supposed to be political) decided to bus a group of young men (who will never, EVER, be pregnant) to protest the legality of abortion (participating in a political event, a very adult thing to do). The school organizers and their parents decided it was okay to have young men, voice their opinions on political issues, but the minute they get into racist shenanigans, they are immediately reverted back to innocent young children who have no idea how racist their actions were.

Also, prior to the viral video, there’s already evidence of the boys harassing young women with vile remarks. These are not the innocent actors that the Sandmann’s PR firm would have you believe. These boys are not the type who would freeze up and nervously pray silently when they see an old Native American man play a peace drum. They were loud, obnoxious, and combative.

What annoys me however is how quickly people in the media quickly turned from condemning their actions to making excuses for them after a PR firm got to them. So many articles and people online would try to convince you that the boys weren’t being vile, that there was a bigger story from a different angle. There isn’t. The boys were racists and misogynists. Their school and their parents are equally racists and misogynists.  If anything, the bigger story here is how easy it is to dupe the players in the media, and how yet again, attacks against Native Americans are so engrained in society that people easily ignore them. Tomahawk chops? That’s just something they learned through football! Mocking dance? Well, they were just moving to the beat of the drum! Native Americans experience racism regularly but you don’t nearly see much outrage about it. If anything, injustice against Native Americans is often seen with hopeless familiarity, “here we go again.”

It would be interesting to see how the media would react if the same actions the boys took were done by a group of a different color or gender.  I’m guessing more colorful language would be used to describe them, “a gang” if they’re black or brown men, and the word “hysterical” if it was a group of women. And you wouldn’t really see too many people quickly giving them interviews over the Today Show. Then discussions regarding crime, drugs, or rampant feminism would follow.

Ironically, Donald Trump has invited the Covington boy to the White House after saying they were victims of fake news. Donald Trump famously tried to get the Central Park Five, a group of black teens, executed despite being innocent of a crime. There are many differences between the Covington boys and the Central Park Five, but we all know which one matters the most.

And unfortunately, it’s not only Trump that has this bias. It’s so many people in the media as well.

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Playing to an Audience

turtle

I haven’t seen Green Book yet. I work, I study, and I have Red Dead Redemption 2 on my PS4. Time is at a premium. Just yesterday, I finished watching the R. Kelly documentary series, a few days after everyone was talking about it. So yeah, I’m often late or find myself catching up on things. Anyway, I was ready to watch the Green Book sometime this upcoming weekend when I learned that the Green Book’s celebrated writer, Nick Vallelonga, supported Donald Trump’s infamous 9/11 lie that he remembers seeing Muslims celebrate on the rooftops of New York when they saw the Twin Towers in flames. This is a lie that he floated around to rally support from his racist base as well as to justify his Muslim Ban. Nick Vallelonga on Twitter supported Trump’s claims, saying that he too saw Muslims celebrating on New York rooftops.

After the Golden Globes and people discovering his questionable tweet, Nick Vallelonga has deleted his account. His PR representative, as of this moment, has said that since the account was deleted, there is not much to say about it. Why do people pretend that things on the Internet don’t stay on the Internet forever?

The film is about the unlikely friendship between a black jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and an Italian-American bouncer turned driver, Frank Vallelonga, Nick Vallelonga’s father. It’s the story of life during segregation and it has received acclaim, especially due to the performance of Mahershala Ali who portrayed Don Shirley. With Ali being a Muslim, I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must be for him to have worked on film with someone who is obviously prejudiced against Muslims. It’s already controversial with many of Shirley’s living relatives contested many details of the film, saying that the friendship between the two main characters is fictional and that scenes were created to play up black stereotypes. With the writer appearing to be a bigot, it would seem that the Shirley’s accusation that the makers of the film were more interested in making money than anything is growing to be more accurate.

This is not the first time I’ve seen someone change their politics or pander to the opposite site of the political spectrum in order to get a buck. Despite Nick Vallelonga presumably being a bigot or having some bigoted tendencies, that doesn’t stop him from seeing and crafting a good story that people would like to see. That doesn’t stop him from making art that people of opposite beliefs would appreciate. Knowing the background story however makes me not want to see the film, it is after all mostly a work of fiction. But it’s sad that all of this baggage is affecting performers who otherwise did well on the film.

Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator pretending to speak for young people started out as a liberal. When that didn’t work for her, she became a conservative talked. With her bleach blonde looks and crazy talking points, conservatives were all too willing to give her the attention she wanted. Her African-American equivalent is Candace Owens. Same beginnings, started out as anti-Trump but is now a conservative talker. Follow the money. See what the audience likes, give it to them = profit. I think Louis CK is sorta trying to do the same thing, too. Before he was outed as a predator, his materials were raunchy and offensive, but tended to lean on the progressive side. But hearing his leaked materials, I see him courting the same men’s rights dude bros that he used to make fun of. He’s even making fun of students who were victims of school shootings despite having two kids of his own. It was the voice of a man aggrieved which is all too common with the alt-right types who claim that Gamergate was about games journalism. There is an audience for this, a very easy to entertain audience. Perhaps he’s just following the money. Maybe if he says “cuck” more often, I would be more convinced.

I don’t see how people do this though. I would never know how it feels because I never really earned a fortune through my art, but how does one make art or do work that is disingenuous to your true self? How does one spout of conservative nonsense when they are truly much smarter than that? How does Louis CK pander to a rather mean-spirited audience with his awful jokes? Or maybe that’s the real Louis CK all along. If so, how does one fake being a progressive when deep inside your soul is as black as Gavin Mcginnes’? How does one make a film shining the light on racial inequality and work with Muslim artists when deep down they would rather make a wall around the country to keep out all the dark minorities? Is it just the money? That must be an awful lot of money. That amount must be so big that you could hug it and at the same time feel its warmth surround you, giving you the most comfortable sleep at night. An amount of money that replicates the joy of making love, the comfort of being in a loving womb, and the taste of having sweet chocolate in your mouth (Am I describing cocaine?). What a wonderful amount that must be.

So yeah, maybe Nick Vallelonga is a bigot who doesn’t much care for the actual lives and values of the people who would most appreciate his story. I’m sure Green Book is a good movie, but other shows and movies have suddenly become more of a priority for me. I hear Bird Box is interesting.

 

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Boycotting Jackassery

Grandma

Ad boycotts are great. Boycotts are great. Jack Schafer is wrong, dead wrong. Ad boycotts or boycotts in general are democracy in action. It’s the people telling companies exactly what they want, and the companies responding in return.

Jack Shafer writing for Politico, defends Tucker Carlson (and even previously defended Bill O’Reilly) and his right to have a platform where people are allowed to express their views freely, and argues that if advertisers were only allowed to support shows whose political views they support, then the only shows on TV would be the blandest centrist shows which cater to all demographic. Cenk Uygur  from The Young Turks doesn’t like the idea of pressuring advertisers either, saying that if a person doesn’t like a show, then just don’t watch it. Let it die a natural death.

The problem here is that toxic ideas, especially from those with a following, don’t die a natural death. Despite being deplatformed, if Alex Jones makes a controversial vile statement, his followers will still amplify it. But by the very fact that he is deplatformed, the extent and the damage he can cause is contained to a minimum. Ann Coulter doesn’t really have a regular media platform outside of her social network, but because she occasionally shows up on television, her celebrity status and her vile ideas remain. You can’t just “not watch” Ann Coulter and hope she disappears. It doesn’t work that way.

Jack Schafer and Cenk Uygur are wrong in thinking that companies, when they advertise in a show, are supporting the political message of the show. They might and they could but they don’t definitively do just by the virtue of advertising there. What they do however is enable shows to spread their message. Companies’ goals are to reach the audiences of the shows they advertise on. That is simply it. In doing so, they allow the shows to continue their programming. They want to sell things, not sell a political message or change hearts and minds. Some companies might be politically motivated, but by and large, that’s not how companies and advertising works.

Advertising keeps shows alive, and shows will remain alive as long as they have viewers and advertisers who are interested in said viewers. Tucker Carlson could turn his political show into a cooking show, but as long as viewers watch the show and support the advertisers’ products, the advertisers will continue to keep the show alive (not necessarily support the show’s views. Stop thinking this). But how do you let a show or a television station know that you are not happy with something when you don’t watch a particular show in the first place? Then you go to what you actually use or support in your real life, the advertisers. Bill O’Reilly survived years with seniors having his show on right after Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. People who are politically “woke,” are generally younger and couldn’t stand up against him and boycott his show when they don’t watch his show in the first place. And Bill’s hold with his senior audience is rock solid. So how does one act against him, go after his advertisers.

Boom. It worked.

And as much fearmongering there was about slippery slopes and threats to the free speech, Bill O’Reilly’s show has been off the air for a while now. People are still free to speak. Bill is still free to peddle his hatred on other platforms. The same goes for Glenn Beck, Alex Jones, and Gavin McInnes.

The whole free speech argument is a shell game. It is a way to distract from the vile things someone is saying in order to appeal to someone’s ego or righteousness. “Free speech is meant to protect unpopular speech.” Sure. But notice how people who usually say that are hatemongers or conservative trolls? And as much as progressives will often defend the free speech rights of hatemongers when their advertisers are being threatened, it never really goes the other way around. Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was an attack on free speech and freedom of the press, and yet I don’t necessarily hear the loud voices on the right standing up for the dead journalist. What about Colin Kapaernick’s free speech? These people on the right are not playing it straight, folks. They’re simply not.

See, the right’s problem with ad boycotts and boycotts in general is that they usually don’t work when it comes to their causes. Remember the boycotts against Nike, Starbucks, NFL, Keurig, Apple, etc.? They simply don’t work. Wars against Christmas have been fought every year and there have been boycotts against companies, but yet most of these companies still stand. The right wing’s victories in these boycotts, if there even are, are often miniscule and symbolic, certainly nothing worth smashing your own Keurig coffeemaker over.

So yeah, Tucker Carlson is human garbage. It’s a shame that major networks keep giving him shows time and time again despite being human garbage. People are boycotting his advertisers right now because Tucker Carlson suggested that immigrants make the United States dirty, then later doubled down on the claim, stating that illegal immigrants produce about five pounds of garbage per person as they cross the desert. Someone tell him Americans generate an average of 4 pounds of trash per day and 1500 per year. Tucker Carlson is a white supremacist, nationalist turd. Advertisers on his show help keep his racist platform alive. Sure, they might not necessarily support his message, but they sure allow him to say them.

 

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Madam is a Bigot

Strawberry

Ugh… when someone complains about the cost of housing/helping refugees. Don’t bother entertaining that question. It is a talking point as old as time usually aimed at immigrants. It’s been adopted by white supremacists. This “economic anxiety” is just fluff for what is basically racism. It was economic anxiety that got Donald Trump elected to the White House. However, this same “economic anxiety” does not surface when it Donald Trump wants a space force, an expensive military parade, and increased military spending. His supporters only seem to be “economically anxious” when it comes to issues which affect minorities and immigrants.

So as innocent as that lady might be when she questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about where the money to assist refugees will come from, she is parroting a talking point that has been historically used to attack minorities and immigrants. It’s bigoted and racist. That is not to say that Canada should mindlessly bear the cost of helping all refugees out, but when it’s your first complaint, the one you heckle the leader of the country with, then I begin to judge your motives and intelligence. Canada is not a poor country. It’s not the richest country in the world, but we are not starving either. We can afford to help those who are desperately fleeing deadly situations in their home country. We can do this.

A few days ago, I came out of Seoul Station and heard festive drumming. There were drummers set-up in front of the station with seats for the audience and everything. It was pretty elaborate and the whole thing seems to have been well organized. It was a really festive mood. But ironically, it was organized by a group that wants to block refugees coming to South Korea, particularly the 500 Yemenis applying for asylum. The people who want the refugees out were channeling Trump. There are talks of immigrants taking advantage of the system, and that they are not really refugees. And these are the more civil talking point. Others on the Internet simply say they don’t look like Koreans or are scary. There’s a growing concern that the influx from a few hundred applicants ten years ago to about 10,000 asylum applicants this year point out to massive fraud, but it could also mean that the world continues to be a hellish place to live for some people. Or perhaps it shows how Korea has become more attractive to immigrants and refugees in the international stage.

A lot of the anxiety stems from Jeju Island, with many of the Yemeni asylum seekers being there due to its visa-free policy. I suspect this is also fueled by the growing angst against Chinese investors buying up property, coupled with the influx of tourists in the past couple of years. What’s disappointing is that aside from the usual racism, Islamophobia, and accusing foreigners of being involved with drugs and crime, the country’s #Metoo and feminist movement seem to have allied itself with the anti-refugee crowd as well. #제주도여성실종사건 (“Missing Women in Jeju-do”) was trending on Twitter last month, with the disappearance of six women being blamed on refugees. Again, there is no evidence that directly links refugees to the actual five missing women (rumors made it six) and it seems to echo the anti-refugee sentiments in Europe, with people saying that they are a danger to women. It also bears mentioning that foreigners in Korea as a group commit fewer crimes than the rest of the Korean population. This fervor reminds me of events a few years ago when there was a spate of students molested by their Korean teachers. Some were covered up, while others were simply fired. This created a bit of an uproar, but instead of addressing the problem directly, lawmakers decided to make it mandatory for foreign teachers to have AIDS test in order to get their visas. Ignoring the implication that foreigners have a higher risk for AIDS and that they should at least be AIDS-free when they presumably have relations with students, not many people batted an eye when this “solution” was made into law. Blame the foreigners and minority for crimes they didn’t commit. It’s an old, lazy, but effective tactic. Unfortunately, it didn’t really make anyone safer.

And if you really want to go deeper in history, women’s safety has been used by the Ku Klux Klan to demonize black men: the brute caricature. Black rapists, white victims.

Economic anxiety, women’s safety… these have all been incorporated by hate mongers to demonize foreigners and minorities. When it comes to talking about refugees, it is simply racist to address these things because a cursory search in the Internet will show how these talking points have been used repeatedly to demonize people. The coming of foreigners has never resulted in the collapse of a country’s economy and the pillage of women unless you look at colonialist history. European settlers ravaged the First Nations. Columbus and his men raped women and sold people as slaves. It was the First Nations that should have felt concerned about their economy and women’s safety. People don’t need to worry about these things when it comes to refugees. The last time I checked, Germany is still a pretty rich country despite taking in so many refugees. And as for crimes, it has the lowest crime record since 1992. So yes, going back to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, that woman was talking bigoted bullshit.

I’m not saying the woman is evil however. She’s simply misguided on the issue. She could be the best mother, daughter, sister, or whatever… but when it comes to the refugee issue, she is a misguided bigot. A couple of weeks ago, a Korean man hurled some racist sentiments at me. The person I was with tried to defend me, but I told her to let it go, and I tried to move on from the situation. Now, as progressive as this person might be in defending me against racist attacks, this same person later tried to convince me of the problems with “fake refugees” coming in to Korea.

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Get Over Yourself

Loie

Look, America doesn’t have a monopoly on being the light of democracy, the beacon of hope, the shining city on a hill. Actually, it’s far from it. Since they elected their current president, with one tragedy after another, I keep hearing “we are better than this,” “this is not us,” and “not all Americans.” Now I do agree that Trump and his supporters are not ALL Americans, but I disagree with everything else. Particularly with what’s happening right now at the American borders, the separation of immigrant children and their internment in abandoned Walmarts, this is exactly what America is.

People often say that America’s original sin is slavery and white supremacy. But even that statement ignores a much earlier sin, the displacement and genocide of Native Americans. But just looking at the Trump presidency as a microcosm, there is a pattern which is very similar to the rest of America as a whole. The vilification of Mexicans, the Muslim ban, the attack on NFL players, the blatant disregard to the crisis in Puerto Rico, the splitting and internment of immigrant families… one key they have in common is the absolute vile treatment of people of color. If you’re not white, there’s a great chance you might have a shittier American experience. And again, not all of America is to blame for what is happening. But it is very telling that despite the crisis on the border being the top news item for a couple of days now, instead of Trump losing popularity, he actually gains favorability. Not only that, he appears to have more power among his political party. Being disgusting towards young, immigrant children and putting them in internment camps is proving to be quite good for Trump. Americans might like telling themselves that they are the land of the free and the home of brave, but those same free and brave people often allow awful things to happen right in their own backyard. This is not the first time Americans kept an internment camp. They did so just a few decades ago.

After the Muslim ban was announced last year, there were lots of protests. It was great to see people standing up for their Muslim brothers and sisters. Eventually, the courts ruled that the Muslim ban was unconstitutional, and the president’s own words betrayed the hateful intent of his policy. But since then, there hasn’t been much collective outrage and action over the many injustices which Trump has orchestrated. Why didn’t Americans march for Puerto Rico? Aren’t Americans marching every day for Flint, police shootings, school shootings, or any other issues? Heck, even when the Muslim ban was finally partially enacted, there was nary a protest. Did people just get tired? Were people distracted? Did the free and brave people have other plans that day?

Unless Americans can exorcise their demons, they really shouldn’t be allowed to wax poetic indulgently about being American. Americans can’t say, “this is not who we are. This is not what we do.” No, this is exactly what you do. America is the one person in the room with the most guns who regularly lets bad things happen to minorities. That’s just how it is. And I don’t want to sound too high and mighty, but as a Canadian, we have a long history of sins against our Native populations as well, but you will never hear me say that that is not what we are, that “we are better than this.” Canadians are vile towards their Native populations. That’s what we are, and we should be better than this.

I love Americans. I have friend and family in the US. My nieces are Americans. I really hope that their future America would be better than this. The America I see in the news is the ugliest I’ve seen in years. It can be ugly for people like me and my nieces. As a person of color, I’ve seen racism rear its ugly head in Canada and even here in Seoul. But as Americans, I worry about my nieces. I can handle racism. I’m old and I’ve seen it enough times to know how to roll with it. But they are still far too young. And judging by how the US government and Trump supporters are being vile towards child immigrants, it is apparent that not even children are spared from the dark ugliness of the American experience. In truth, my nieces are raised in a fairly privileged lifestyle. I like to think that they’re growing up in an environment where deplorables have very little chance to make contact with them.  But despite all of that, I fear that it only takes one ugly accident to ruin a person’s day if not a person’s life.

In any case, Americans really do need to get it together. This has gone on far too long. People used to joke that “Trump is bad, but at least he’s not building internment camps.” Well, the camps are now here. What do you do? Where are the free and brave people?

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How About Just Stay Home Instead?

The experience of going to university is supposed to be opening one’s eyes, widening our horizons. Just by that virtue in itself, the nature of universities is very liberal. You meet people, you learn about the world, etc. This is why I don’t understand people entertaining the idea of conservatives posing as libertarians in campuses fighting against the liberal bias in academia. It is such a bold-faced farce that it boggles the mind how far it has come.

Turning Point USA has been wildly successful disseminating its poison in campuses. They have a professor’s watch list which aims to drive professors which they deemed as having a leftist bent out of campuses. They also provide platforms for far-right bomb throwers like Milo Yiannopoulos. It is a shame that Canada is not immune to this and now Simon Fraser will have a chapter calling itself Turning Point Canada in its campus. Despite distancing itself from the American group, it doesn’t take much to see how close it is the originators down south.

“Millennials seems to be increasingly more liberal, so this is just about offering an alternative view. Our professors and so on are increasingly majority liberal and maybe even further left than the Liberal Party of Canada.” How is that any different from Turning Point USA? And as much as the co-founder claim that they are not fans of Milo Yiannopoulos, I’m sure they would be more than happy to host his speeches in Canadian schools of Milo’s stock hasn’t fallen so low that he is now hawking pills for Alex Jones.

See, the reason why there are so many liberals in university is because once you open your mind to learning, to questioning, to empathy, then it is very difficult to subscribe to conservative or what many people would define as libertarian values. Read a couple of books, talk to a couple of people, grow up a little, and you’ll realize that Ayn Rand is a selfish hack. Why come to university to reinforce conservative values when the very act of leaving your small town and living and studying in university is the very definition of being non-conservative? Be conservative? Then live by your old codes, stay in your town, and don’t bother learning new information. Why go to university in order to learn more? Why spin a cocoon when all you want is to remain a caterpillar?

And maybe I’m wrong here, but in terms of academia married to liberal thought, has there even been progress in anything while being fueled by rigid conservative ideals? Has there ever been anything new and wonderful that originated in selfish libertarian values that didn’t end in outright disaster? Laissez-faire is great in expanding the marketplace of ideas and freedom in theory, but caveat emptor will ultimately be too tiring if not deadly. Conservative academia is farce and libertarianism is an unworkable selfish dream.

This really worries me right now because the alt-right’s current darling, Jordan Peterson, is a Canadian, and his pseudo-intellectual arguments, though sometimes difficult to discern, is really quite ridiculous and is nothing but vile racism and misogyny. We also recently had a terrorist incident inspired by incels, a men’s group who gather online and share misogynistic and racist sentiments due to their inability to get attention from the opposite sex. So yeah, Canada now has old hatred cloaking itself open-mindedness, academia, or victimhood right in its own backyard.  The hateful right is coming for our universities and will soon target our teachers.

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On Korean Funerals and Being an Outsider

Morton Salt Girl

My wife’s grandmother passed away last Monday. It was a very sad occasion but not unexpected. She hasn’t been living well for two years now. But I guess that’s the hallmark of a good long life, to die and have people remark “Well, we were expecting it. She was old and at least now she’s at peace,” instead of “What!? How did she die?”

The funeral was very traditional, even by Korean standards. My wife and even my co-workers say they just don’t bury people that way anymore. It felt both like a privilege and me intruding (I’ll explain this more later). I knew I was watching something that’s no longer done and probably would no longer be done in the future. And it was also extraordinary that I was pushed to participating into many aspects of it, even carrying the casket and lowering the body. It’s a bit morbid, but I was reluctantly grateful for it.

Several things marred the experience for me though. One was the almost mandatory inclusion of heavy drinking. I understand drinking in a funeral, but at some point it turns less into a funeral and more into just a regular drinking session with Koreans, complete with the ugliness of hierarchies in such occasions. I was particularly annoyed at one of my wife’s relatives “testing” me and my brother-in-laws to see if we were fit to either be part of the family or be married to our wives. We’ve all been married to our wives for years, and the man was basically a stranger to me. He won’t be there when our marriages run into a trouble whatsoever, but yet he gets to lord over everyone in the table. Why? Korean culture. Perhaps it was all coming from a good place, but it felt quite obnoxious at some point. And no it wasn’t happening because I was a foreigner. My brothers-in-law had to tolerate some abuse too. But it does nothing but alienate people or make them feel like they don’t belong in the table. I said so that night myself. Being in that table, while it makes me feel like I’m family for whatever that is worth, it makes me feel small and that I have to constantly prove to others that I belong.

Being a foreigner, I tend to be a target for people who are not quite used to seeing foreigners. This is why I’m sometimes not particularly excited to be in the countryside. One drunk grave digger who probably never saw a foreigner before in his life started yelling incoherently at me and was bragging that he can speak seven languages. And yet he does not understand a word of English. I suppose he’s a genius with languages who just happens to dig graves as a hobby. And I was the idiot who had to tolerate his nonsense and not punch him out. I was warned not the engage him, which was smart, but then again, why was I the target of his abuse in the first place?

Again, I can’t help but feel it’s because I’m the other. I’m a foreigner. As welcoming as many of my Korean relatives can be, it can sometimes only take a few handful of events before I start feeling like the “other,” like I’m the dancing bear. Perhaps I’m being too sensitive, but I don’t really complain about it in real life. I just keep things bottled up inside and write about it here where no one would read it. But it’s that feeling of being an “other” that makes me feel like I’m intruding in the funeral in the first place. Last Wednesday, we buried a wonderful woman who had a great life and whose selflessness has touched the lives of so many people in her family. There must be other people worthier than me, someone who actually feels comfortable to be there and fits in, to be part of the group that lays her body to her final resting place.

On a rather sweet note, I remember one time, back when my wife’s grandmother was healthier, we we’re all spending Korean thanksgiving together. For a brief moment, it was just me, her, and my older brother-in-law in the living. I think at some point, she started feeling bad for me, wondering why I wasn’t spending Korean thanksgiving with my parents. She asked why I don’t take my wife to my family and have her help my mom with thanksgiving preparations (as is the tradition in Korea). I told her that my mom passed away and my family was not in the country.

My brother-in-law was more direct, “He’s a foreigner. He’s not Korean.”

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Black Man in a Bank

Comic Sans

As much as I complain about my wife sometimes, I really do appreciate her for her patience with me, not just for my many issues and personal failings, but just for the mere fact that I’m a foreigner, and sometimes being a foreigner can suck in South Korea. I can only imagine how it is being married to one.

I’ve been living in South Korea for over ten years now. I’ve been a customer of the same Korean bank for over ten years as well. It can be a bit difficult for foreigners to get credit cards in Korean banks, especially since many foreigners don’t stay in Korea for long, but with my long record and my stable job, the bank at the time didn’t think twice to sign me up. This was a few years ago. I thought I had a great relationship with them.

My wife and I went to the bank to apply for a small loan. This was not unreasonable since most married couples do have loans and like most metropolitan cities, the whole thing runs on debt. We intended to borrow money under both of our names, with me being the breadwinner and my wife as a Korean national, being a sort of guarantor that we won’t take off on our debts. I didn’t have too much hope since I expect most banking institutions in the country would probably still be a bit cautious regarding lending to foreigners, even if they intend to stay in the country. I earn more than the average Korean, but I’m not rich by any metric. Being a foreigner might still be a bit too big a hurdle to pass for them to give me a loan.

What my wife and I got instead was the proverbial black-man-getting-denied-a-loan treatment. (No, I’m not black.) Despite being a loyal customer for years, the clerk, who was a senior consultant at the Euljiro, Seoul branch of KB Bank, didn’t even bother to look at my records. He didn’t even ask for my ID, which I figured was the least they could do to make sure that I was indeed a foreigner staying in the country legally. I was a loyal customer and the clerk simply assumed that I was “just a teacher” who probably couldn’t pay back my loans. (He did suggest this. He didn’t even ask me for my job!)What upset me more is that they did this to my wife, it’s almost like she was the foreigner. I could take the slings of racisms just fine, but I get more upset if my wife gets it by proxy. Maybe it would’ve been better if I wasn’t there. It definitely would’ve been better if she was married to a Korean. They would have at least looked at his taxes and banking records.

Yeah, maybe the bank just has a policy against loans with foreigners or couples with foreign spouses contributing the majority to their household income. Who knows? But if they do, I get it. I truly do. But couldn’t they at least hide their biases a bit? At least give me some dignity and pretend they’re looking at my records and consider me as a proper customer. Heck, I spend money, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy just as much as the next guy. And if you ask some of the disgruntled people I work with, I’m spending and contributing way too much compared to them.

And no, it’s not all banks here. We went to another bank and they were much more accommodating to us. It’s just that the person we talked to first at the bank I’ve been a customer with for so many years decided to be an asshole. Maybe he wasn’t intending to be a bigot asshole, but he sure acted like one.

So yeah, despite the Pyeongchang hype, Korea can sometimes still be ugly to foreigners. It’s getting better, and incidents like this happen to me less often. But when it does happen, it still stings like a motherfucker.

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Disappointing My Parents

Swords

Trying to get away from pop music and in many ways, k-pop…  so I turn to KEXP for some indie rock. Then I spent a couple of hours listening to Japanese Breakfast, and I’m like, yeah, this is alright. And then I remember Michelle Zaulner is Korean-American.

She did an interview where she confessed to considering quitting music and pursuing a career which is more aligned with the Asian stereotype growing up with tiger moms. Perhaps be an engineer or something. And this morning, I just saw Hari Kondabolu’s documentary ‘The Problem with Apu’ where he talks about not only the problem with the stereotype the Simpsons character is perpetuating, but also about growing up and pursuing a career which is not up to his parent’s expectations. Again, he didn’t grow up to be an engineer or something.

What I’m saying is, god bless the people who pursue their dreams so we can share a bit of their gifts as their dreams become reality. I wouldn’t be enjoying Zaulner’s songs or Kondabolu’s humor if they both pursued careers in engineering.  At least at this point in my life, for this day, I would’ve been poorer for it. So yeah, here’s to following your dreams and disappointing Asian parents!

Speaking of pursuing the arts, I just saw a video of my niece playing the otamatone. I really wish she doesn’t pursue this and go get a STEM career instead.

Be an engineer, Amanda!

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