Tag Archives: racism

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 Fragile Nazi Ego

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If you have never been seen as an outsider, assumed to not belong in your own country, second-guessed for your intelligence, looked at as a criminal for no reason, given less opportunities because of your color, or suffered through other indignities that minorities and women suffer through, then you don’t get to complain about oppression. I miss Canada. I love Canada. But it is not immune to the racial animus that is plaguing the United States. Occasionally, I will be reminded of what exactly I am and how little some people think of me. It sucks. It hurts.

I even get that occasionally even living overseas. Being brown, I’m the less-desirable foreigner. I sometimes even blend in the background and ignored in a country that is homogeneous. Forget the brown guy; there are other people that need attention. Being white is still the gold standard for some people even when overseas. If you’re white, people assume you’re educated, you have money, you speak good English, you’re worldly, and you’ll make cute little children. Doors open just by the virtue of skin color. How do I know? Look at job ads overseas. Look at the foreigners they choose to have on television. Look at the faces of the people as they sometimes struggle with the concept that a brown person is a Canadian.

So it really amazes me that despite all of the advantages given to them by virtue of their birth, some white men in the United States are crying victimhood. They say they’re being oppressed, replaced, wiped out by ethnic and religious minorities. These people have never faced true oppression in their lives. Never. And yet they cry foul at immigrants taking jobs that they have no interest in taking. They protest against people of different races and religions being welcomed in their neighborhoods. They cringe at colored faces on television populating their media and politics. This is their oppression. This is the crime that they are standing up for: being in the presence of someone different, being not sole voice that matters, sharing the rights that they’ve had for so long with others. This is the cringe-worthy delicate ego of these neo-Nazis. The ones that label themselves “alpha male” and yet can’t stand the threat of other people getting the same opportunities they have.

There’s nothing alpha about not being able to compete against more competent workers. There’s nothing alpha about lying to twist facts in order to suit you narrative. I would imagine an alpha would face the truth, change, then come out on top. There’s nothing alpha about following a lying leader. It’s called being a sucker. There’s nothing alpha about complaining about other races and religions mixing with others. It’s called minding your own business. Go find a white woman who will love you. There’s nothing alpha about bitching that your culture is being wiped out when it isn’t. Go watch a Hollywood film. There’s nothing alpha about complaining that white men are losing influence. Go look at the US Senate and the Congress. There’s nothing alpha about listening to conspiracy theorists, thinking about all of these forces coming to get you, and worrying about Armageddon or whatever. Be a person. Don’t be a paranoid squirrel looking at every corner and seeing danger everywhere before foraging for food. There are more real problems in the world.

This is why I love the current effort to expose the people who participated in the Nazi rally in Charlottesville. Not so much for the consequences they suffer after being exposed as the racists that they are, but for the realization that these people never really faced a day of true oppression in their life. Peter Cvjetanovic never faced true oppression. Neither did one of their alt-right heroes, White House staffer Stephen Miller, who famously complained about having to pick up his own garbage. Oh the horrible suffering of the fragile alpha male ego!

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Making Out with Canada Again

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There are times when I wish I could kiss Canada in the mouth. This is one of those times.

Apparently, the government of Manitoba has been very supportive of refugees crossing the border from the United States into Canada. The small town of Emerson, instead of being worried about terrorist boogeymen, is more worried about refugees hurting themselves and not being prepared for the cold weather. The RCMP stated that they will devote resources to refugees coming in from the states should their numbers overwhelm the small town. Leaving the US is not a criminal act, and they will be screening individuals instead of turning them in.

Of course, I don’t know how accurate that last part is. Leaving the US is not a criminal act, but I believe illegal immigration to Canada is still punishable by deportation. It is a problem that many people believe will only get worse with the new Trump administration. There was a poll that found a majority of Canadians believe that illegal immigrants should be deported. Ironically, that poll also found that Quebecers, with their rather “close-minded” reputation, overwhelmingly believe that illegal immigrants should get some form of accommodations instead of simply being deported. But then again, I don’t know how accurate that poll is now especially with Trump as president down south and our Prime Minister announcing that Canada will be welcoming refugees.

And speaking of illegal immigration down south, there are reports of ICE agents rounding up illegal immigrants in the US, with some having lived in the States for years and have kids who are American citizens. Some government agents are even following school buses in order to arrest illegal immigrant parents. Great job, guys (especially, you family values folks)! Instead of constructive solutions, you break families apart. How will broken families improve the economy? How will they make your country safer?

So God bless Canada. We may not be as tempting to move in to as the United States, but we care for those who try to come in and be Canadians. I should know, I am an immigrant. And even though it was difficult for the first couple of years, most Canadians welcomed me as neighbor and a friend. I remember even without taking my oath of citizenship, some friends already regarded me as a countryman.* But that was back then, and that was in Canada. It must take tremendous courage now to be an immigrant in the United States, especially if you’re a minority or a Muslim. God help and protect you.

 

*Of course there are some people who will never see me as a full Canadian even if I was the product of generations living in the country. I will always be asked, “yes, you’re Canadian, but where are you REALLY from?” I’ve written about this soft racism several times, and so have other writers.

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New World

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After a few hours to absorb it, I’m still numb at the reality the world has woken up to. It’s not gonna be as catastrophic as many people have predicted, I’m sure, but it is sad that a person at his most vile was rewarded the highest office in the land. This is what the world has come to. I’m not an American. I’m a Canadian. I’m not even in North America at the moment. I arguably don’t have a dog in this fight. But as a person who likes to think he’s decent, who cares for others (women, minorities, disabled people, the poor), someone who values facts and science, and as an immigrant of color, the world is a darker place. I could go on and on, but let me just list a few lessons learned from the whole thing.

  1. Do not get too comfortable with progress. I believe this is the hubris of the Democratic Party. They believed that since Americans voted for Obama twice, the country is essentially progressive and it would reflect easily on the ballot. Instead of going full progressive with Sanders, they decided to go with what their donors want and ran with the weaker candidate. And they’re not the only ones who got too comfortable. People who decided to stay home, voted for third party candidates, or sat this out because their chosen candidate (Bernie) was not in the ballot basically cost the election due to their hubris. No one will ever remember your vote for Jill Stein. No one. Every social gain must be cherished and protected. And now it’s too late. The little good that Obamacare did will now almost certainly be taken away.
  2. Obama should’ve done more on his second term. Despite what the right wing would have people believe, he was never that progressive. He’s more like a traditional conservative. And unfortunately, now he will only be remembered as the first black president, nothing more. He should’ve aggressively pushed for progressive policies because no matter what, his opponents will always demonize him. And now he will be gone, he will be demonized and blamed for America’s future ills, and all of that with not much to show for.
  3. Politics is a team sport regardless of how you personally see it. I like Obama but there are several things I could criticize him about. I like our prime minister, but I don’t like it when he tries too hard to be viral on the Internet. I’m a feminist, but it annoys me when feminists don’t know the difference between feminism and misandry. This election saw people wedded to their teams regardless of their candidates’ flaws. “He’s unqualified, but…” I believe people supported their team not so much for the good of their cause but just so the other team would lose. This is why those Bernie Sanders supporters didn’t turn out for Hillary. They took their ball and left the playground. This is why so many people voted against their own interest. It’s for the good of the team.
  4. The media is the worst. The media has to change. So much stock has been put on Hillary’s e-mails but none on Trump’s taxes. Instead of ridiculing him and his cronies out of the building for their nonsensical and sometimes dangerous rhetoric, they got a seat at the table. For ratings, they gave the most unqualified man to run for office free advertising. And to be fair and balanced, they entertained the ideas of liars and science-deniers as if they have any value other than to appease viewers who would rather not be educated otherwise. People were not held accountable for their lies and their biases. Even when Trump’s supporters are attacking media personnel, the media would gladly ignore all of that for a few more clicks. Less than 24 hours of Trump’s win, People magazine is already running a puff piece on Trump’s “adorable” grandchildren, forgetting that one of their own reporters claims to have been assaulted by Trump in 2005. They also forget that so many equally adorable minority children right now are more insecure because Trump has vowed to send them all away.
  5. The media is the worst, but the Internet has made us all dumber. I’ve seen so many people who I would’ve assumed are intelligent reference stories and articles that are easily debunked. Because of the Internet, we now mostly go to Websites that confirm our beliefs. I’ve seen lawyers and other professionals cite the likes of Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Dinesh D’Souza as if they’re not professional charlatans. Shouldn’t these people be more critical? What’s amusing to me though is that now that the conspiracy theorists and those suspicious of the government have taken over the government, who will they be suspicious of now? They run the place. Who will they rant and rave against when their man is the leader of the country? Will people stop stockpiling guns now?And speaking of the Internet making us all dumber, I won’t be going on Twitter as much. Arguing on Twitter has never changed anybody’s mind.
  6. The terrorists have won. Osama Bin Laden wanted to ruin America by crushing it from within, to destroy its fundamental values. Privacy rights are gone, first amendment rights are crippled, torture will definitely be making a comeback, America will be making more enemies with Muslim groups, freedom of the press will be attacked, US-grown hatred is at an upswing, etc. etc. White Americans, this not how you make friends and find peace.
  7. Distraction is king. Trump is the distraction candidate. He is the shiny object which gained networks ratings. Unfortunately in terms of politics, the easiest distraction to a domestic problem is foreign action. Bill Clinton was accused of this during his Lewinsky period. They said he bombed Iraq and Bosnia whenever he had problems domestically. Expect more violence with Trump. You can accuse Bill Clinton of being many things, but he was never inept. He was a smart and savvy politician. Donald Trump has failed in almost every business he had a hand in. Expect more problems with him, and expect more actions overseas.A part of me took comfort that the big schadenfreude I was expecting with a Hillary win has been delayed to a series of mini schadenfreudes in the span of four years. It would be four years of “I told you so.” Now that the US alt-right is basically running the US government, they would be the ones to blame for their own ineptitude. Unfortunately, these future disasters would have real and global consequences. And as decent person, in the face of tragedies, it’s very hard for me to relish schadenfreudes.
  8. Do not expect to be saved by the Democrats. They won’t. They are just as to blame for all of this. The Republicans played a great game of obstructionist politics during Obama’s presidency. Don’t expect the same from Democrats. They are weak and they only take action for their donors. Even Obama is guilty of this. One of the few exceptions is Senator Elizabeth Warren. She consistently stood for her principles and fought the banks. And the current president-elect has called her “Pocahontas.” The only way to get out of this quagmire is to take money out of politics. That was the crux of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and he is right. People in government spend more time calling for donors instead of actually governing. Taking money out of politics makes government officials more accountable to the people they actually represent.
  9. Polls are useless. Or at least the current model needs to be readjusted.
  10. Campaigns are filled with BS promises and the Trump campaign will be no exception. Obama promised many things but barely delivered. The last time I checked, Guantanamo is still up and running. The same thing will happen with Trump.
    • Black people will not find a friend in him. Years from now, I’m afraid Chicago will still be used as the go-to example for black communities mired in poverty and violence.
    • The wall will not be built. It simply won’t. The tall wall with underground protection and scanners all over the place is a figment of conservative imagination. Mexico will not pay for such a thing.
    • Hillary will not be prosecuted. She is now a neutered threat. Benghazi will always be referenced as an example of Democratic failing, but I believe they will no longer be too fixated on those e-mails.
    • There will be no Muslim bans. Life will be harder for Muslims and many minorities but there will be no such bans. This is impossible to implement and a nightmare for the US to defend in the face of its allies.
    • Obamacare will not be replaced with anything better. Obamacare is not particularly good, but it won’t be improved by the coming government.
    • TPP will be approved. Trump said he doesn’t want it, but everyone in the government does, even Hillary.
    • Women who get an abortion will not be punished. Abortion will be very difficult, but I just don’t see women going to jail for losing a child. Am I naïve? I like to think people are better than that.
    • Deportations will increase just like they have under Obama, but there won’t be families in camps nor storm troopers knocking down doors. Life would be harder for undocumented immigrants. There would be more hate crime for sure. But the US would still be taking advantage of them when it comes to labor and other things.
  11. People will make all sorts of excuses to say that the US is not bigoted. It is. Trump didn’t win due to economic insecurity or because of people’s need for a change in the political system. More white people with higher incomes voted for Trump than for Hillary. Wisconsin’s unemployment dropped under Obama and it still voted for Trump. People got richer under Obama. It’s not about the economy.And it’s not about the political system either. If it was, then you wouldn’t have the most useless long-toothed politicians still in office. You wouldn’t vote to give the Republicans the House and the Senate when they have basically stopped government functions for eight years. It’s not about the system.It’s about hatred and resentment. It’s about white men resenting being “cuckolded.” It’s about people being suspicious of blacks, Muslims, LGBTQ, etc. It’s about women not trusting other women as well. It’s about people being backwards, and Americans being called deplorable and embracing it.

Probably the hardest lesson to learn is that the bullies win. They do. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson after yesterday. Don’t get too comfortable in your high horse because the bullies win. It’s very hard not to learn that lesson just looking at the news throughout the world. Putin has bullied his country for years and will probably do so for more years to come. Assad is still in power. And now Trump, who has insulted every person who was not like him, is the leader of the free world. The likes of Martin Shkreli are not villains who will someday face justice because the world is right and good. No, the world does not care for your morals and decency and will reward the bully.

Take comfort in your morals and decency because that’s all you have for now. Hug your children and hope that they may never face a bully in their life. Because someday that bully… that bully who makes fun of their religion, their culture, their disability… that bully who grabs them by the pussy, might very well become their leader.

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Sad Day for 2016

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Tonight, I learned just how dumb, racist, xenophobic, and sexist our neighbors in the south can be. I’m a Canadian living in Seoul, but I’m sure I would feel the effects of this myself. A few minutes ago, the stock market just crashed.

There’s so much to say about the elections, but one thing always comes back to me: moral licensing. The goodness of voting for Barrack Obama has allowed Americans to be increasingly vile towards minorities. Not quite the same, but as I read on Twitter, someone wrote “every good that black people has earned, has always been met with punishment right after. “ Americans have allowed themselves or at least others to be vile because they felt they already did good with their previous vote. “We can’t be that bad, we elected a black president.” It’s a damned shame.

I don’t have much energy to write about this much. It is a very scary time in the world right now and I’ll probably dissect this much further a bit later, but perhaps some ice-cream would do me some good right now. Let’s all take a bit of small comfort wherever we can and face tomorrow a bit kinder to our neighbors, but more suspicious about our dumb, racist, xenophobic, and sexist world.

In other news, last night, I saved an ungrateful, old Korean woman from being pinned by a bus as she cut in line at the bus stop and rushed towards an oncoming bus. I had to pick her up and drag her back to the sidewalk to keep her from getting crushed. Second person I saved this year. I’m the Korean Spider-Man.

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God Bless Honest Bigots

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I’ve written about dealing with racism and prejudice now and then. It’s something I deal with occasionally here in South Korea, from either Koreans or fellow expats, and it’s something that I haven’t quite gotten used to. I try to remind myself that Canada also has its own racial issues, and that I would probably face a different set of racist incidents and attitudes even if I never left Winnipeg. I believe as Canadians, due to our history and multi-cultural background, we are better when it comes to racial relations, but we’re not THAT much better. After all, as I mentioned, I do encounter bigoted expats now and then, even Canadians.

Now while the occasional sting of prejudice is something that I have come to expect, especially as a mixed couple here in South Korea, it’s always more painful when I hear about my better half dealing with racism because of me. Last night, I learned that my wife was defending me from a rather racist American who was making crude remarks and somewhat racial innuendos about me. I have met this person once; I thought he was decent enough. We had dinner and drinks once, and he was fine. I didn’t think about him much afterwards. I just wish he was decent enough to make comments to my face when I met him rather than wait until I’m not around and offend my wife. And although none of this is my fault, I can’t help but feel demeaned by such comments and attitude, and sorry for my wife for having to deal with such things.

The racist barbs are meant for me. I’ve taken it before. I’ll never get used to it, but it’s something that I can deal with.

And so let’s talk about Donald Trump. While there are many things that I find abhorrent with Donald Trump and his followers, there’s one thing I can appreciate about the whole thing. Among the racists in his group, they belong in two camps of bigoted attitude: there are the ones who truly embrace their own racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and there are the ones who try to hide their bigoted nature, the alt-right or the anti-PC crusaders who trumpet freedom of speech or whatever cause they claim to care about. God bless the first group. We all see them for what they are. Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” And God bless them for it. They have the courtesy to tell you what they are, to tell you to put your guard up, don’t cross this line and hide your children.

The second group is more insidious. They are the ones that claim that they are not bigoted, they are just principled. They are not sexist, but just friendly. They are not racist, but just curious. So many buts… “buts” that don’t matter to the receiving end of bigotry. And what gets me with this second group is that now and then, they would surface when the person they are being bigoted about is not around. They peddle their “soft” bigotry when the person who would most likely correct them and give them an honest dialogue is not in the room. “I didn’t realize your friend was gay.” “Did you know she’s dating a black guy?” “I don’t think your Korean girlfriend would understand.” It is more insidious, because these people are never honest about their biases, you let them in in your life, and then they do their damage. Of course, a person can be forgiven for an innocent dumb comment now and then, but as a person who’s been on the receiving end of several racial barbs, I know a bigoted statement when I hear one.

Here’s an example. A few years ago, a woman I met in Seoul assumed I didn’t have an office job because I was brown. She was concerned about this, and inquired about it when I wasn’t around. I would’ve preferred she be upfront about it, and saved me the time I spent being pleasant with her. In her mind, she wasn’t being racist; she was just concerned that I might be misleading people regarding my employment. But what pains me is that other people had to confront her about bigotry and be offended and frustrated for my sake. Westerners are no better of course. I’ve heard friends answer for me the question, “is he really Canadian? Where is he REALLY from?” when I’m not around. This is a question a person would almost never ask about a white Canadian.

So thank you, openly bigoted people. Thank you for showing your colors for those people who choose not to willingly associate with you. Just like nature puts bright colors on its poisonous vermin, you flash your warnings for all other creatures to see. I worry more about the soft racism that hides itself. It is too cowardly to face you up front. It deals its damage when you’re not looking and when you least expect it. Unfortunately, last night, my wife had to deal with it.

On a more positive note, Canada is dominating the World Cup of Hockey this year. Carey Price is a wall. The competition is a bit limited, but it’s still good hockey. It’s a good primer for the NHL season.

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Horrible Week

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To the two guys who kept arguing with me on my Intro to Criminal Law class before, tell me how racial profiling doesn’t exist now?

The recent events in the US have been the most malignant in terms of race relations recently, a mixture of bad police culture, guns, and a history of racial injustice. I’ve been tweeting about it for a couple of days now, and I’m sure many people have said more thoughtful things about it than me. But what gets to me most about these events is how the movement Black Lives Matter get tarred and feathered. “They’re a terrorist organization financed by George Soros!” “What about the cops?! Blue Lives Matter!” “What about everyone else? All Lives Matter!”

First off, enough with the conspiracy theories. Even if the movement was started by the Illuminati, it is working against a system that is corrupt. A system that is flush with guns, have bad training, and is protected by an abusive union. Even if Black Lives Matter had connections with the Black Panthers, it is a reaction to a system that has continually failed a group of people. Stop being obtuse. People are getting shot and killed, and people are angry. Not everything has to be a convoluted conspiracy of global destabilization. Remember Occam’s razor.

Cops’ lives matter, of course. They all have families and many police officers are minorities. The problem here is the police have a tendency to oppress minorities. They are the ones arresting, oppressing, and shooting black people. To say, blue lives matter, is a false equivalency. No one is systematically oppressing police officers. No one. They are the power. They are the ones with the authority to arrest, detain, and shoot if necessary.

To say “blue lives matter,” is almost the same as complaining about the existence of Black history month, or the BET Awards, or gay pride parades. Minorities have these things because they rarely get a say in things. They have been marginalized and now they are speaking out. Cops have never been marginalized. The song Cop Killer and that video of “pigs in a blanket” did not cause of a long history of suffering for police officers. It didn’t get them arrested. It kept them off schools and jobs. Police officers actually have it good. Many news outlets say that the shooting in Dallas which killed five officers was the deadliest attack on police officers since 9/11. If that’s the case, then being a police officer actually sounds safer than being black, gay, or a toddler in America.

And of course they’re safe. Judging from the protective gear, equipment, and tactics they’ve been using, they’re bound to be safe. The police forces on TV look more prepared for war than the poor soldiers sent to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. Police officers are bound to be safe if their first reaction to a black woman crying after her boyfriend got shot is to point guns at her as well. Diamond Reynolds was a woman whose loved one just got murdered while her daughter was in the vehicle. She’s not a Magneto. It reminds me of that Natalie Merchant song Gun Shy. “There is a world outside of this room, and if you meet it promise me, you won’t meet it with your gun.” Unfortunately, I keep seeing examples of the opposite.

And as for “all lives matter.” I agree. All lives matter. It’s just that black people in America want to be part of that “all.” They have a long history of not mattering.

 

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Dick Fisted

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I met a Canadian teacher a couple of weeks ago. He’s only been on the country for three months. It was showing because I had to teach him a couple of things regarding Korean table manners, which really made me wonder about his handlers. They really should’ve taught him better or he could’ve been more observant.

My friends and I were talking with him when the subject of the HIV test came up. In South Korea, in order to be issued a visa to teach English, a foreigner must have a criminal background check as well as an AIDS test. Now, I don’t mind the criminal background check. In fact, I believe it should be par for the course for any instructor in any country to have a criminal background check. The HIV test however is a tad insidious.

The requirement was put into law a few years ago at a time when Korea had a rash of high profile criminal cases involving Korean teachers taking advantage of their students and either getting light sentences or being reshuffled back into the system. It was also a time when suspicion against foreign men specifically was being encouraged by a hate group who pushed stories to online outlets and TV networks which were more than happy to propagate them. The media would show stories villainizing male English teachers. Curiously, they tend to ignore female English teachers.

Lawmakers responded by making the HIV test a requirement, ignoring the fact that there were no credible stories about foreign English instructors spreading HIV, and that the law does not address the actual problem of leniency towards actual Korean criminals. Failing the HIV test would prevent foreigners from working in the country. It’s a xenophobic law which suggests that foreigners harbor HIV and doesn’t consider the possibility of foreigners catching HIV from a Korean partner. UN Secretary Ban Ki Moon, who happens to be Korean himself, urged the government to end the tests, calling it a violation of human rights. But the government ignored him, and the tests remain as a requirement for foreign English teachers to this day.

What’s funny is that it being a requirement for English teachers, that in itself reflects on its origins: the suspicion against male English teachers. It is not required for any other work visas, even for entertainment visas, which in many countries have been the avenue to which prostitutes enter. Korean men have also been frequenting South East Asian countries and have relations with prostitutes themselves. There are establishments in these countries that are geared solely towards Korean clientele, and yet no one is checking Korean men for HIV after coming back from their business trips.

Given this background for the law and the test, it was a mixture of amusement and sadness when the English teacher I met said that he too had to take the test, but instead of being annoyed or outraged at the requirement as well as the presumption that foreigners bring HIV to the country, he was rather nonchalant about the whole thing. He said that his handlers explained to him that it was a requirement for health insurance purposes.

Now, I don’t know how much time he spent considering this explanation. But there are so many holes in that excuse that it doesn’t take much to disprove. Are they testing for HIV so they could pay for the instructor’s expenses? If they fail and they are not allowed into the country (only about 20+ countries do this), doesn’t that show discrimination? And if they are testing for insurance purposes, how about testing other medical conditions, something without a stigma, perhaps diabetes or asthma?

Attitudes towards foreign men have slightly improved in recent months. Travel shows dominate network television, and foreign men speaking in Korean now appear in Korean talk television. This new trend has people forgetting that just a couple years ago, the fear of the foreigner scourge has been put into law, and that it continues to be a requirement to this day. And while things are currently better, it will only take one or two high-profile stories before the media sparks another moral panic. The Korean National Police Agency just recently announced a cracking down on crimes committed by foreigners by “forming voluntary crime-prevention groups” in response to an increase in foreigner-committed crimes by 5000 a year. In my opinion, this is small when considering the increase of the foreign population in the country. But I read that action as empowering local hate groups and vigilantism, and I suspect that like before, it is a misguided response to an altogether different problem.

Now, someone please explain to that naïve teacher why the HIV test is a bad thing.

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No Asian Characters For You!

Phonograph

Ghost in the Shell is close to my heart. I’ve been watching anime since I was a child, but nothing really captured my imagination than Masamune Shirow’s vision and his infectious enthusiasm over his subjects, often evident in notes either throughout the manga’s pages or in long essays at the end of his books. After stumbling upon the fifth issue of Ghost in the Shell (this was before the trade paperbacks), I followed most of his works in film and even video games.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything come out Shirow outside of the erotic material which he’s recently devoted most of his time to, so it’s a bit disappointing that the latest film based on his work is not only whitewashed, but it seems to have been concocted more by film investors than by people actually familiar with the work.

I realize that one of the main reasons why Scarlett Johansson was hired to play the Japanese Motoko Kusanagi is that without her, the film probably wouldn’t have been made. The film needs to attach itself to a big name in Hollywood to guarantee a certain amount of audiences in theaters. Unfortunately, it’s this same type of mentality that keeps minorities from getting roles and populates many Hollywood movies with the same small group of people over and over again. Now granted, the film will also star Takeshi Kitano as one of the Japanese characters, but this reeks of casting for the sake of the actor’s name. Kitano isn’t really the best English speaker, and I suspect it will come off as awkward and as badly as his flat performance in 2001’s Brother. I remember reading that Kitano would regularly get involved in projects that he doesn’t fully enjoy (gangster films) in between artsier and unfortunately less profitable projects. If this was the case, it makes me think that this Ghost in the Shell movie is the former, but a certain amount of people will see the film just for the Takeshi Kitano name alone. It’s pretty cynical. Instead of relying on Hollywood star power, the filmmakers should just focus on the strength of the writing. Great movies will sometimes have breakout stars, and they become breakout stars because filmmakers took a risk on them and believed in the story they are telling.

As Jon Tsuei wrote in a Twitter rant, the story of Ghost in the Shell is a unique product of the Japanese experience. Even the book sees and talks about everything from a Japanese standpoint. Many people have pointed out that the character Motoko Kusanagi looks and IS white, but this is a critique of the anime and manga as a medium (most characters are drawn “white”), it is not valid point when it comes to the specific story and the character which are both Asian. To remove it from its roots creates a product that might as well call itself a different name. They already did a western adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. It’s called The Matrix Trilogy. Can we not just leave it at that?

And going back to the defense that anime and manga characters physically look white. This is the laziest close-minded defense. They don’t look white. They rarely physically look Asian either. I don’t see too many races where people have giant eyes with orange and purple hair. If anything, the way they’re often dressed makes them look Asian. Their character and mannerism makes them look Asian. It’s the reason why there’s something a bit odd when foreigners dress, talk, and take on the mannerisms of Asian people. It’s not just the language. Just see the western adaptation of My Sassy Girl where Elisha Cuthbert takes on the character and mannerism of a Korean girl. It doesn’t work.

Many fans fear that the western adaptation would result in an inferior experience, and they can’t be blamed for feeling that way because Hollywood doesn’t really have a great history with adapting Asian IPs. Godzilla was a bust. Oldboy was far inferior to the original. Dragon Ball was a disaster. And on a personal note, I just don’t buy Scarlett Johansson as an action star. I find the Marvel movies quite tedious, and I don’t find her physical scenes in the movie believable (yes, I realize it’s a comic book movie). Despite the success of the movie Lucy, I think it’s a very poor action film both in its execution and writing (SPOILER: She ultimately “evolves” into a USB thumb drive!).

In the end, I think this just adds to a long list of whitewashed characters in Hollywood. I realize many of the whitewashed characters are fictional and are thus open to reinterpretation. Not many actors are trying to pull off black faces; the characters are just turned white. But it’s exactly this reinterpretation that keeps media mostly white and minorities with very little representation. Call it the reality of moviemaking, but it’s also a very racist thing to do, denying people their characters and stories. It’s rare for minorities to have their own stories… their stories often have to whitewashed in order to be told.

What boggles my mind is that there’s a completely watchable Ghost in the Shell animated film that people can still watch. Not only that, there’s a couple of seasons of the animated series as well. I don’t really see a need for a live-action western adaptation. This is like when OldBoy was adapted by Spike Lee, when the 2003 Chan-wook Park original is not only superior, the visuals still stand out to this day. Go pick up one of Shirow’s books (not the art books) or watch the anime. Forget this movie.

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Racist Korean Rashomon Morning

Vishnu

Yesterday, the bus driver ruined my morning. I just wanted to be left alone and go to work, but no, he had to get into my life, embarrass me in front of strangers, and ruin my morning.

The bus was packed as I got in. There are two ways to get in the bus: the front closest to the driver, and the back which is really an exit, but people in Korea use to get into the bus anyway. The bus that morning was so packed that I remember whispering “fuck” as I got in and swiped my card. I was standing at the front, making sure not to block the driver’s view of the right side mirror.

After a long tunnel, we stopped. The door opened and a couple of people behind me were trying to get out. I wanted to make life easier for them since the bus was so packed, so I got out of the bus only to go back in once they got out. The bus had less people now, so I went further back. I was enjoying listening to This American Life and updating my Twitter feed when I noticed the bus wasn’t moving. The bus driver got out of his seat, went straight to me, and yelled, “CARD! CARD!” while pointing to the bus’s card reader. He must’ve assumed I just got in and assumed that I didn’t bother paying.

He didn’t speak in Korean nor was he being very polite, so I shot back, “I already did!” And I heard a Korean lady, probably the one next to me when I first got in say, “He paid already.” Content, he went back and resumed driving. No apologies. I had to call my friend in Canada during the ride just to calm down about, all the while shooting dirty looks at the driver. And as I was about to get off, continuing to imagine his death, he gave a goofy wave goodbye. Idiot.

A co-worker heard this story and said that perhaps I was reading it all wrong. The bus driver actually took the time to get off his seat, come to me, and remind me to pay in English. Most Koreans would’ve just been yelled at from the driver’s seat. I say bullshit. How would she like it if she was travelling in the US and the bus driver stopping the bus only to yell at her, “PAY! PAY!” when she already did?

My View: That bus driver was a racist. Why would he assume that I didn’t pay? Do I look like someone who doesn’t know how buses work, or for that matter, how the world economy works? I just wanted to go to my job. I didn’t wake up in the morning thinking I’m gonna screw the bus driver. And really, if it was a Korean person, I’m sure he would’ve given him or her the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for him, I already paid. I’m sure if I didn’t and he had to drag me to the card reader, that would’ve made his day. I’m sure he can’t wait to tell a foreigner off.

Co-worker’s View: Joe is being overly sensitive. He’s been binge-watching Black-ish and the new OJ Simpson show. He really should know that he’s not black, and he’s not being oppressed in Korea. I’m sure that was just an honest mistake. He’s lucky the bus driver even used English.

Bus Driver’s View: Did that guy just get in without paying? I’d better tell him. Luckily, “card” is the same word for card in Korean. Maybe he’ll get it when I tell him.

Lady in the Bus’s View: Didn’t that guy already get in before the tunnel? I remember him whispering “fuck” as he swiped his card. I’d better tell the bus driver. That foreigner mustn’t speak a lick of Korean. I’ll bet this’ll ruin his morning.

Now I’ve calmed down since yesterday. And yes, I know there was a misunderstanding, but I can’t help but sense glee in the bus driver tone as he told me off in a crowded bus. Perhaps it was just my imagination, but even if it was, the perception of the whole thing is bad: a Korean man yelling at a foreigner in front of people early in the morning. It’s very hard for a person to be understanding and open-minded if he or she was on the receiving end of that abuse, especially if they went out of their way just a few moments ago, to make life more convenient for other commuters. Sometimes you don’t have to outwardly racist in order to be racist, just the appearance of racism is enough.

And that really, is one of Korea’s problems. Sure, there is racism. There are people out there who truly hate or don’t want anything to do with foreigners, but there’s also mild or “innocent” racism. An example of it would be places like Koreans-only establishments. Their excuse is not so much that they don’t like foreigners; it’s just that dealing with English is a problem. It’s all just a misunderstanding on the foreigner’s part. This is often excused by saying, “no, no, it’s not racist, but…”

But what?

But your foreign ass just has to deal with it.

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