Tag Archives: Asia

White Male Bubble in Asia

Multitask

A friend of mine in Canada was telling me about her co-worker who was being rather stubborn and insensitive regarding race relations in the office. When he was confronted about this, his defense was he lived in Asia for a couple of years and is therefore sensitive to the plight of minorities since he was fully immersed living in Korea. This is bullshit, folks.

I’ve been living in Seoul for many years now. Pardon the generalization, but I can definitely say that white people, and white men in particular, live in a privileged bubble in Asia. It is not uncommon to hear white, male expats complain about racism and xenophobia after experiencing the most minor slights or inconvenience. You would think that you’re listening to Rosa Parks or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. They ignore the fact that besides the occasional racism and xenophobia when living in another country, doors are opened to them solely by being white in Asia. The most mediocre white man from Scottsbluff, Nebraska has an edge over the populace and even other expats of color simply by the color of his skin. He is seen as more knowledgeable, more experienced/adventurous, and even more attractive. Just walk around tourist-heavy cities in Asia, be it Hanoi or something more metropolitan like Tokyo or Hong Kong, you’ll always spot the most mediocre white guy walking with someone who is far too young or attractive to be with him. (I know this is very judgmental…. But really…)

Of course, some people in Asia target foreigners thinking that they’re rich or they’re the key to moving to another country. White men just happen to be the most visibly western-looking compared to people of color. However, even if they’re not particularly wealthy, white men could produce mixed-race kids, and by having children who are perhaps a little lighter-skinned or western-looking, the children gain an advantage over other children. They would look like worldly children who must have some connection with the west, or children whose parents don’t have to spend to much time working under the sun. To put simply, they would look richer, a sentiment that is the result of white colonialist history.

This is not to say that this privilege is solely the domain of the white man. White women as well as other foreigners enjoy perks by living in Asia as well, but they are often burdened by other problems and stereotypes. White women and foreign women in general can be subjected to more unwanted attention (“Riding the white horse” anyone?). Women of color can be subject to negative stereotypes. I myself, being a person of color, sometimes have to unnecessarily prove my qualifications even my Canadian-ness to people, even to other Canadians! I remember one time, a friend of mine visited me from Switzerland and introduced me to another Canadian who’s only been living in the country for a year. After being gracious with dinner, as soon as I leave, the other Canadian asks my friend, “Joe’s Canadian? But really, where is he from?”

I doubt if my Canadian-ness would raise suspicions if I were white. Perhaps I sound bitter, but it doesn’t make my observations any less true. I know I live in a privileged foreign expat bubble. I enjoy it and I take full advantage if it. But white men, they live in a far different bubble, and to claim that one is fully-immersed in the culture and fully understand the feelings of minorities is pure white arrogance.

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On the Astros and Yuli Gurriel

I should be writing about hockey, but let’s quickly talk about the World Series. I don’t normally follow baseball, but I can’t avoid it since my wife is a huge fan of the Dodgers. They just lost to the Astros, making the Astros champions for the first time ever. When I saw that they won, it felt like seeing Donald Trump win again. Not all of the Astros and their fans are bigots, but some of their fans and at least one of their players are. And they just won.

Yuli Gurriel, a Cuban national who plays for the Astros, was caught making a racist gesture regarding the Dodgers’ Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. Apparently, he also called him a “chinito” which means “small Chinese person.” Now, I could excuse this as a backwards attitude from someone who has not quite adjusted to the rest of the world, but Yuli Gurriel is not some ignorant Cuban native. He used to play for a Japanese team. He’s worldlier than most people. And to make it worse, some Astros fans were also mimicking the racist gesture after it went viral. So yeah, as remorseful as Yuli Gurriel was, he flushed out and encouraged the racists in Houston.

What’s disappointing is that the heads of MLB, instead of taking a strong stance against racism, especially in the current climate, decided that it was much better to protect the bottom lines of those betting on baseball and fantasy brackets of some fans. For his actions, Gurriel was given a five game suspension at the beginning of next season, probably the most inconsequential time in baseball. They also garnished his salary, which really, doesn’t matter much considering we’re talking about adults getting paid millions to play a game I last played when I was a teenager. I’m not sure if the Dodgers would have won without Gurriel playing for the Astros, especially since Darvish played disappointingly on their final game. But a proper punishment for Gurriel’s behavior would have been the right thing to do. No one would even notice Gurriel’s suspension next year. No one would care.

I realize there’s a hierarchy of racial sensitivity for each country. It’s quite understandable. In America, as little as some people care, especially with the way black people are being treated lately, people would still be more outraged at slights against black people as compared to insults against Asians. It’s because the slave trade has been a cornerstone of American history, and there simply aren’t that many Asians compared to black people in America. In Korea, some slights against black people or other minorities go unnoticed except among the expat populace. In any case, is it too much to ask to be against offending all minorities equally? Or how about try not to be an insensitive jerk?

So yeah, congratulations on your win, jerks in Houston. And Yuli, not all Cubans are racists when it comes to Asians. I’m sure they know the difference between Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans. They’re not all “chinitos.” Don’t throw your countrymen under a bus.

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The Stone Angel

TravelManitoba

I remember being asked to read The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence back in high school. It was one of the many wonderful books that our English teacher used to try to infuse some humanity into our young minds. I don’t remember the story much, but I do remember the parallels between the old character in the book and the ultimate fate of Margaret Laurence. It’s like she literally became one of the characters she wrote about. I really should look into the Manawaka series again.

Speaking of Manawaka, my works will be displayed in the town it was based on, Neepawa, Manitoba.  When I used to go camping and hiking with my best friend, I remember visiting there once. Here in Asia, when people think of Canada, the first places that come out of people’s mouths are Toronto and Vancouver. But when they describe Canada, they would often imagine a place much closer to towns like Neepawa.

I love big cities like Vancouver and Ottawa, and even smaller ones like Winnipeg, but it is smaller rural towns cradling close to liberated Canadian wilderness that most people here in Asia often imagine. It is in many ways romantic. I guess like me, that image is mostly from the desire to escape from convoluted concrete jungles like Seoul.

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Down it goes

toilet

Oh look, a toilet. I guess this reflects my general mood lately. Of course, watching the news doesn’t help either.

Off for a vacation on Thursday. The last time I went to Japan, I didn’t really enjoy it. I feel like I’ve been to Tokyo too many times, so it’s a nice little change to go to Osaka this time around. It’s been years since I visited Osaka, and this will be my wife’s first time. She’s kinda thinking I would know my way around the play, but with the way things change, especially in Asia, I doubt if any place I visited while I was there last time would still be there.

My mother-in-law however is not really too thrilled with the idea of us going to Japan. She thinks that we’ll end up sick due to Fukushima radiation. I’m sure most travelers would dismiss this as the concerns of an out-of-touch woman in her sixties, but many people don’t realize that Japan has a growing number of leaky water tanks just sitting there like rows poisoned canned soup. But damn it, I really need a break. I’ll try to worry about it once I get back and start discovering weird spots on my body.

I’ve said it before, but I believe the best part of a trip overseas is the airport. There’s just this overwhelming aura of possibility once you get there, rolling around with your luggage, looking at flights. It doesn’t matter what the trip is for. I just have this feeling that at any moment, my life could change. There’s just something about the prospect of being in the air and being around so many travelers. It’s like being in the one place where things actually begin to happen.

The rest of the trip is just icing on the cake.

I hope the trip improves my mood.

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