Monday, August 14, 2006

Ugly Americans, Young White Men, Korea and Me

Oh this is funny…

Well, yet again in my time here I’ve managed to butt heads with another white guy.

Now there is no way I can avoid coming off as fair or balanced here, so I’ll acknowledge that fact right from the go.

With that said, a bit of background is probably needed. Living and working here in Korea has been interesting to say the least. I came here I realize very sheltered believing that I was more worldly than I actually was. However, that was the drive that pushed me to live abroad for, at least, a bit of time. I knew I needed to learn more about the world around me and the people in it.

Man, I have learned a lot. Unfortunately, some of it has been through direct conflict with others, which I haven’t had a lot of experience with and which still shocks me when it happens. I find that when I'm in it, I'm as aggressive as they come, and I won't back down easily. Clearly, I’m still learning to deal with it and learning how to avoid or mitigate it. This is because now I realize that life for me was pretty smooth sailing when I was in California. The folks I know there tend to be fairly nice, friendly, educated, progressive and tolerant. Even if you have a differing opinion they can handle it, and you both still end up having an enjoyable lunch in spite of differing opinions. I was spoiled living in a tolerant world of university educated folk who were also just open to other ideas or perspectives. As a result of this, I’d never had conflicts on the level of which I’ve had in Korea.

This leads me to the topic of this post. While on a visa run to Fukuoka, Japan, I met a guy who seemed nice enough. So before the Kobee hydrofoil docked in Busan, I gave my email info to him and the other folks I’d met. I’ve been here long enough to know that sometimes the person you meet who initially might not be all that engaging can end up being a close friend while the person you thought was the best can end up being the worst. This situation is definitely coming from the latter category.

Initially, this new acquaintance seemed to be nice enough and, as these days I mostly socialize with my Korean classmates, I figured getting to know a new foreigner wouldn’t be a bad thing. However, as I’ve expressed to my classmates, I tend not to like most of a lot of the foreign EFL teachers I meet in Korea and, if I have the choice, I prefer to spend my time with Koreans or foreigners here on business or other fields.

Why is this?

Well, I grew up in L.A. and moved to San Francisco. Both cities are very diverse and there are a lot of people from all over. I find that people in either of those cities aren’t shocked that I listen to and like Nirvana or Green Day just as much as I like Mary J. Blige or Usher or that the first concert memento I bought was a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers t-shirt or that I studied German in both high school and university. However, the foreigners that I meet here are often shocked by my tastes or at the things I’ve done that people I meet back home seem to pretty much take for granted.

When I say foreigner I realize I need to be specific. I don't mean the diplomat or business person that I meet here. I mean the white male EFL instructor who is probably in his 20s or 30s. I've singled them out simply because they dominate the market here. That's what most Koreans want, so that's what most Koreans will import. Let me say that all aren't bad. I'm not making that accusation. What I'm saying is that when I have these conflicts, it's usually with some white guy who feels he needs to inform me of something I probably already know in a situation in which he's probably the one who needs more information. My theory is this is probably unique to the community I'm in as I don't have conflicts like this with my white male counterparts when I'm on the Upper East Side in NYC having a cocktail or when I'm in Santa Monica enjoying a nice sunny day.

These guys are unique in that they frequently express shock at the fact that I’ve never had to work in a Korean 학원, hagwon, and have only had university jobs since I’ve been here. They also assume that I’m as miserable as they are when in reality I’m pretty content. Expatriate life here isn't not perfect, but I’m not expecting Western convenience in Korea. However, I have access to almost all of the Western products and services that I want. What I’m not interested in is participating in a bitch-fest on Korea and Koreans. If you don’t like it, go home. Someone will gladly take your spot, and I truly hope it will be a female, a Korean foreigner or someone else of color because I’ve had it with these guys. However, it also makes me wonder what he hell is going on in their heads because the females and other ethnic expatriates I meet aren’t half as amazed by the life I live here. That’s probably because both females and other ethnic minorities have to deal with the same crap from these guys from small town or, more specifically, small minded, wherever.

This is always grating and annoying simply because I feel they come at me with these limited and preconceived perspectives. It seems like they think black women don’t like rock music, we don’t speak foreign languages and we certainly don’t have a higher level degree than they do because we aren’t educated. If we are it’s simply because of affirmative action because we just aren’t very smart. That might not be what they’re thinking but that’s how it feels when there is shock and awe at what my life is like here. Shit, I’m not that impressed by it as I know tons of folks with advanced degrees doing all sorts of stuff, but I guess in their world women like me don’t have advanced degrees and we certainly don’t have any intellect.

Also, I’m just now exiting an intensely emotional period of my life. I fell for another expat, took a leap of faith, it didn’t work out, and that really shook me up. Simultaneously, I’m trying to figure out which path in life to take while also dealing with my diabetes, Graves’ Disease and the complications that go with it. These are all highly charged for me, especially the Graves’ Disease as I thought I was dealing with diabetic complications and then had to deal with my hormones being all over the map instead. It’s a typical life story in that I’m not trying to get any special sympathy because I know that everyone has their own madness to deal with but just laying it out there to say I have a lot on my plate and not a lot of time for a hot plate of stupid mess.

This unfortunately is stupid mess. I was about to start writing on Korea’s opposition to a possible Koizumi visit to the Yasukuni Shrine when I get an email from this person who went out with me and a friend on Sunday evening. In this email he accused me of being an ugly American because he claims I was rude to my Korean friend. He went as far as saying that I needed to apologize to her for being an "idiot". He also accused me of claiming that Canada was poor which I didn’t do because I have not much of a clue about economics, I have no knowledge about the Canadian economy and wouldn’t claim to know anything about either.

Basically, I’d met him a couple of times for lunch. The first time he “introduced” me to a neighborhood and an Indian restaurant that I already knew full well about. In fact, a friend lives in the luxury high rise right around the block from where the restaurant is located. The second time I took him to a Mexican restaurant I’d discovered, and, unfortunately, we got on the topic of Ralph Nader who I think helped Al Gore loose the 2000 presidential election. Now I don't think Nader was the sole or even primary reason, but he didn't help. That's the extent of my argument on that. This person is someone who worked for Nader and strongly believes in his message.

Okay, fine, we can agree to disagree, right? No, I’m first accused of being yet another person beholden to mainstream media who didn’t come to an opinion on her own but only because CNN or some other news source told me to think it. When I said, no, I came up with it on my own I was accused making a purely emotional argument because this person has studied psychology. Let me mention that this person doesn’t have a graduate degree in psychology. I’ve found that these guys who’ve “studied psychology” and use it to analyze me frequently have only “studied” it on the undergraduate level which isn’t in depth study. What made it funnier was he accused me of being an anti-American fascist. Yes, I swear I'm totally serious here. Anyway, since then I hadn’t had contact with him and wasn’t really expecting any. But I got an email and text message from him suggesting we meet for drinks. Considering I was already put on high alert due how he chose to handle himself with the Nader issue, I invited a friend as a foil and met her in advance to thoroughly brief her.

Clearly, he was unaware of any of this. I was uncomfortable and hyper-aggressive the whole time. Think of a cat being cornered and said cat bearing her claws. It was a torturous evening that took up way too much of me and my friend’s time and lasted until almost 4am the next day. The funny thing is Beyonce Knowles was part of the discussion that night. It's just funny how transparent these guys are. Maybe it was an attempt to prove he was cool and worth listening to or maybe it just was conversation. However, he launched into complimenting Beyonce which is great because I think she’s one of the best things going in entertainment these days. However, I am critical of her speaking skills. But he made the mistake of saying she was more beautiful than Halle Berry. That got to me because they're BOTH stunners and why is it that there can be beautiful white women all over the media but you have to compare the stunning black women celebrities as if there can only be one. It's just stupid. You don't hear people say oh well now that Charlize Thereon or Angelina Jolie is in that Uma Thurman is right out. There is room for them all and it should be the same way for black women entertainers. It didn't help that he tried to imply that I was saying Beyonce had no talent. I told him bluntly that I hadn't said that at all. In fact, I think she's gorgeous, talented, but needs a diction coach. So, white folks, expressing your admiration for a black entertainer doesn't necessarily earn you points with a black acquaintance. Please tread carefully.

So to get an email from him full of judgment just made me laugh because this guy didn’t even clue into what was going on. The thing is I’ve seen the exact same thing with guys similar to him. They don’t think you’re reacting to them, they think you’re lashing out in frustration over Korea and Koreans. They also assume that they know much more than you do. They hence go into judgment mode because it seems like it's their duty to school and censor you on how to behave with the defenseless natives.
I can tell you right now, my Korean classmates can and do put me in my place if they feel I’ve said or done too much. Specifically, my friend who was with me that night has pointed and laughed at me many times over when I've made mistakes or errors. The funniest ones seem to be when we've hung out and I’m sure I’m getting on the right bus or subway line and she knows that I’m going the wrong way. Usually, she’ll wait and there I am creeping back to the right place. It’s humbling to have that happen and it’s one reason I really like her, she’ll call me on my stupidity in a heartbeat. She doesn't need his protection, but all he can see is the aggressive black woman and meek Asian woman dichotomy.

It just shows how ignorant yet arrogant he is. This ignorance it ends up being both extremely condescending and sadly hilarious.

Here are a few more examples:

1. I’ve had a few situations where a white guy goes on and on about how a girl he’s met speaks Korean, English and either usually Chinese or Japanese (maybe both). What I find amusing is in addition to English I’ve studied German, French and can read and function in low level Korean. However, since I don’t walk around reciting everything I’ve studied, and I generally will sit back and let these guys talk and talk it’s assumed that I’m not multilingual. At this point, I just smile because it's funny enough to just let them keep thinking what they're thinking.

2. Recently, I went to a lecture on the North Korean economy. The lecture was put together by a friend of mine, and it’s something I was interested in learning more about. After the lecture, as is custom here, the lecturer was taken out to a Korean restaurant for a meal, drinks and conversation. My friend invited me along and eventually introduced me to a guy who seemed interesting as he’d been in Korea for a bit of time. He has written a couple of books which makes him very interesting to talk to, but he is bitter because he lacks a graduate degree hence no one pays attention to his books. Since I'm someone with a graduate degree who is ultimately wants to pursue an academic career where people pay attention to you because you have something interesting to say as well as having an advanced degree, parts of my initial conversation with him were tense to say the least. He was a bit strange, but that’s par for the course here in Korea. He was quirky enough that I figured it would be interesting keeping in contact with him.


The next day he sends me a very strange email about some obscure Korean term he wanted English interpretations of. This term essentially is a derogatory one that labels Korean women who date and socialize with foreign men or GIs. We then unexpectedly meet again at a bar where a friend we have in common is performing with his band. He introduces me to a Korean girl he’s talking to. The next day we have an email exchange. I say the girl struck me as a bit fake and dense. Even though he’d labeled her with this derogatory term which is exactly what made me feel safe in saying what I really thought of her he immediately switched into "a defend the girl who can't defend herself" mode and turned tail and started defending her honor in reaction to my assessment of her. I was seriously wondering why he gave a crap what I thought. This went back and forth until I simply told him to stop pestering me with his point of view because nothing he has to say is going to change my point of view. He then accuses me of being the prototype of the ugly American which I was simply because I trying to get him to leave me the hell alone.

3. Another was when I was having a beer when a young man started speaking to me. He came at me with every stereotype in the book. His first question was whether I was with the military here in Seoul. I essentially sneered at him and I said I wasn’t, he then said something like he guessed I wasn’t that stupid. Now I sneered not because I look down on the US military but because it’s common that folks see a black person and just assume that they must be here in that capacity. I fully realize and will tell a person quite forcefully when they start attacking the US military that if it wasn’t for my country’s military they wouldn’t have the privilege of being here because, most likely, South Korea wouldn’t even exist. It didn’t help that he followed up his assumption by implying that people with the military were stupid, therefore, implying that he assumed I was stupid. Then he asked me if I was an English teacher which again was wrong because last year I’d quit my job and was only going to school.

Since he was all out of ideas of what a black American woman could possibly be up to in that would give her access to a foreign embassy, he asked me what I did. I told him that I was studying for my masters in international studies, and I’ve never spoken to him again even though I still see him frequently.

4. Another interesting one happened just a few months after I first arrived in Korea. I ended up working with someone who I was in direct competition with for my first university job here. We were both on the same short-term assignment. When he heard where I worked, he claimed I’d taken his job. I thought he was being light-hearted about it. However, he went on to say that I didn’t have teaching experience which at the time Korean immigration required a year of to even get an E-1 visa. How he assumed I didn't have experience was beyond me. He then moved on to attack my degree, basically saying that I was less qualified than him due to the fact that I had a law degree which is more professional than academic. He was chagrined to learn that I was equally or maybe even more qualified.
Believe me, I've had more but as I just don't bother with these kinds of guys much these days, I'm trying to excise it all from my memory.

What I find most interesting in all of this is it is pretty much only white men feel that they have the right to have strong views or express them strongly. If you express strong views then you're all sorts of adjectives that usually aren't complementary. What's also offensive is that they have the nerve to come at me so blatantly. They're the only ones I’ve ever dealt with here that feel beholden to tell me that I’ve behaved badly when usually the only thing that has happened is we disagreed, and I held my own against them during a disagreement.

It’s interesting to me because I’m seriously wondering why they think they have more of a clue about what is going on and furthermore think they have the right to blatantly chastise me? Doesn’t it occur to them that ironically it’s the gold standard of rudeness to sit in judgment of someone’s behavior like you’re their parent when you're not?
It’s something that other people just don’t do with me. I usually find my social interactions with people to be relaxed and pleasant. I also find that my interactions with people is much more pleasant when these particular types aren't around.

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65 comments:

clarafiedwords said...

OMG, where to start. This post hit home with me on so many levels. Let me just say I'll have to email you later, but as a former military person and black female stationed in Korea, I both loved and hated my experience. Looking back, the hate part was mostly because of my dealings with the sexist/racist white males while there. Perhaps being a male in a male dominated society made them feel freer to act out their egocentric ways. Years later, I had the opportunity to teach in one of those EFL schools but went to grad school instead. To this day I have a mild obession with Korean culture and esp. how it relates to African Americans. My friends think I'm crazy beacause I watch Korean soap operas but I feel it gives me a little insight into a culture I never really understood. Thanks for dealing with REAL issues that affect both cultures (Korean/American) and not the 'rahrah let's all be friends' BS. Call me racist/sexist but I think only a black female could analyze it from so many angles. I'll end here and just say egos don't stand up well to logic. Oh, as for the Japanese PM, he's an odd duck ;)

ExpatJane said...

LOL, I figure I can't be the only one whose had to deal with this. I know for a fact that my former vicar asked one of the African women in my congregation what it was like to live in Korea and he said she bursted into tears. That's deep. I can only imagine what it's like because as an African-American woman who has it pretty easy, I can't imagine how much harder it is if you don't have the grad degree and the status that goes with it.

I find Koreans might be ignorant, but they're not nasty or vindictive. Usually, they're pretty open to learning about me and where I came from. They'll also say straight out that they thought this or that because that's all the media has shown them. However, I find the white male expats here to be offensive on many levels. Now, like I said, that doesn't apply to all of them, but out of all of my stories only one involves a female and that was us debating censorship which is a common subject for Americans to talk about. Now that might simply be because there are less foreign women here than men, for obvious reasons, but it seems that this would happen more with Koreans and other foreigners too and it doesn't.

Again, thanks for your comment. It just helps me realize I'm not completely crazy. I'll look forward to your email.

The Walker said...

Wow...you have been dealing with a lot of stuff. Amazing that in this day and age so much stupidity and stereotyping goes on. I think what you are doing in Korea is amazing and I think it takes a lot of guts to go out and balls out do what you want to do.

I just keep thinking wouldn't it be nice if all the world would just concentrate on a higher level of thinking and move beyond race and religion and ethnicity and yada yada.

We all have to start thinking collectively as the world we live in (i.e. the environment and global warming) is in peril and there are so many other issues clouding this big issue.

I always find it funny how in times of crisis, the issues of race and sexuality and everything else are pushed to the background only to raise their ugly head when everything is "calm" again. Just like in WWII, when the US needed black men to fight and (shock!) carry guns, etc. But when the black men came back to the USA after witnessing war, they still had to use separate restroom facilities. Wahnsinn!

I know that humans are really miraculous creatures with so much joy to offer, but on the flip side, and leafing through the history books, I struggle to hold my breath at what the future of humans will be? I hope we can all evolve. It would be so nice when the world all helped each other out. That may sound freaky and commie-pinko like, but it's a hope.

ExpatJane said...

Hey there! Thanks oodles for your comment! I hope the expat life in Copenhagen is going well for you.

I totally agree re your point about crisis. Racial issues pretty much got put on the back burner post 9/11 and now that we've adjusted to this higher level of stress race issues seem to be coming back.

I hope for some evolution too, but I have to admit, I'm more jaded than not these days.

Ann said...

Because of the "Angry Black Woman/Sapphire" stereotype, black women are seen as anything but demure, soft, fragile, retiring and gentle. Because of this racist stereotypical image of the black woman as Sapphire, black women are never seen or assumed to be a real woman who is complex and a full individual.

Sapphire.

Dominating. Aggressive. Emasculating. Sharp-tongued.

And the fact that you stand up for yourself and speak your mind intelligently is often too much for weak-minded people to handle.

Hence this person's irrational and insane reaction to you.

"Well, I grew up in L.A. and moved to San Francisco. Both cities are very diverse and there are a lot of people from all over. I find that people in either of those cities aren’t shocked that I listen to and like Nirvana or Green Day just as much as I like Mary J. Blige or Usher or that the first concert memento I bought was a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers t-shirt or that I studied German in both high school and university. However, the foreigners that I meet here are often shocked by my tastes or at the things I’ve done that people I meet back home seem to pretty much take for granted."

You are a black woman. You are not supposed to have varied tastes, interests, or capabilities. In their mind you are a walking anamolie. You are not supposed to know the full benefits of an advanced education. It flies in the face of the stereotype they have internalized.


"This is always grating and annoying simply because I feel they come at me with these limited and preconceived perspectives. It seems like they think black women don’t like rock music, we don’t speak foreign languages and we certainly don’t have a higher level degree than they do because we aren’t educated. If we are it’s simply because of affirmative action because we just aren’t very smart. That might not be what they’re thinking but that’s how it feels when there is shock and awe at what my life is like here. Shit, I’m not that impressed by it as I know tons of folks with advanced degrees doing all sorts of stuff, but I guess in their world women like me don’t have advanced degrees and we certainly don’t have any intellect."

Of course black women do not like rock music. Hell, black people invented rock-n-roll. Of course we don't like rock-n-roll. Black women have brains. Wow. Black women can think, they can reason. Will wonders ever cease? Oh, and AA is the only way black people can advance or get anywhere in life academically or career-wise. Nevermind that black people can learn and retain knowledge and lo and behold, use that knowledge in an intelligent fashion.


"The funny thing is Beyonce Knowles was part of the discussion that night. It's just funny how transparent these guys are. Maybe it was an attempt to prove he was cool and worth listening to or maybe it just was conversation. However, he launched into complimenting Beyonce which is great because I think she’s one of the best things going in entertainment these days. However, I am critical of her speaking skills. But he made the mistake of saying she was more beautiful than Halle Berry. That got to me because they're BOTH stunners and why is it that there can be beautiful white women all over the media but you have to compare the stunning black women celebrities as if there can only be one. It's just stupid. You don't hear people say oh well now that Charlize Thereon or Angelina Jolie is in that Uma Thurman is right out. There is room for them all and it should be the same way for black women entertainers. It didn't help that he tried to imply that I was saying Beyonce had no talent. I told him bluntly that I hadn't said that at all. In fact, I think she's gorgeous, talented, but needs a diction coach. So, white folks, expressing your admiration for a black entertainer doesn't necessarily earn you points with a black acquaintance. Please tread carefully."

Beyonce, bless her heart, is light enough in his mind to be as close an approximation of a white woman's color; Halle's is darker, more closer to the so-called "regular" black person, who even though they may have possible rapist white blood in them (possible because most of the sex during slavery/segregation was rape/sexual coercion, and very little consent), Halle would be looked upon as black and therefore, is not quite "beautiful" as Beyonce would be considered. This statement from this male indicates that unless you are "light, bright, and damn-near white" you do not rate as being capable of being beautiful as a white woman or light-skinned black woman. And you are right. . . there is room enough for the varied types of beauty that is found among black women.


"Another was when I was having a beer when a young man started speaking to me. He came at me with every stereotype in the book. His first question was whether I was with the military here in Seoul. I essentially sneered at him and I said I wasn’t, he then said something like he guessed I wasn’t that stupid. Now I sneered not because I look down on the US military but because it’s common that folks see a black person and just assume that they must be here in that capacity. I fully realize and will tell a person quite forcefully when they start attacking the US military that if it wasn’t for my country’s military they wouldn’t have the privilege of being here because, most likely, South Korea wouldn’t even exist. It didn’t help that he followed up his assumption by implying that people with the military were stupid, therefore, implying that he assumed I was stupid. Then he asked me if I was an English teacher which again was wrong because last year I’d quit my job and was only going to school.

Since he was all out of ideas of what a black American woman could possibly be up to in that would give her access to a foreign embassy, he asked me what I did. I told him that I was studying for my masters in international studies, and I’ve never spoken to him again even though I still see him frequently."

It is not possible for a black woman to be anywhere outside of the U.S. and NOT be in the military. It is inconceivable. Outlandish. And if you are there via teaching skills, it cannot certainly be from a more advanced degree or job. You must have wondered onto the wrong plane, caught a ride over to Korea, liked the environment and decided to stay. And in the process somehow got yourself into school, worked your way up the academia ladder, and presto, chango voila!, The Unusual Go Against the Lazy-Welfare Queen-Had-Three-Kids-Out-of-Wedlock-Baby-Momma-Drama Black Woman Who Actually Has a Brain and Uses It Astoundingly!

Sheesh!


"The next day he sends me a very strange email about some obscure Korean term he wanted English interpretations of. This term essentially is a derogatory one that labels Korean women who date and socialize with foreign men or GIs. We then unexpectedly meet again at a bar where a friend we have in common is performing with his band. He introduces me to a Korean girl he’s talking to. The next day we have an email exchange. I say the girl struck me as a bit fake and dense. Even though he’d labeled her with this derogatory term which is exactly what made me feel safe in saying what I really thought of her he immediately switched into "a defend the girl who can't defend herself" mode and turned tail and started defending her honor in reaction to my assessment of her. I was seriously wondering why he gave a crap what I thought. This went back and forth until I simply told him to stop pestering me with his point of view because I nothing he has to say is going to change my point of view. He then accuses me of being the prototype of the ugly American which I was simply because I trying to get him to leave me the hell alone."


Now your're the "angry black bitch who is beating up on the poor, little, woe is me defenseless non-black woman." Whereas earlier, she was the whore, the slut, the tramp, now she is the put-upon non-black woman who is under savage attack from the aggressive black woman. (Pardon the profanity, but this is just a description of what he is impliying.)And to add insult to injury, you are now the "Ugly American" when anyone who sees the reality around them knows that white men are the epitome of the Ugly American, not black women. And since most Asian women are smaller, slender than most black women, she will be looked upon by him as someone to run to the defense of. Also, keep in mind, black women are not looked upon as being worthy of being defended and saved; only frail, tiny Asian women. Black women are considered as being not worthy of having feelings, minds, in need of considerate treatment, having doors opened for us, having someone defend our honor. Having someone come a runnin' to speak up for us. It's just something we don't require in many people's minds. It's something that we don't deserve. Everyone else does; but, no, not black women.

What the hell, we're black women. We don't rate being treated as women. At least that is what this male has implied to me with his rude hateful behaviour towards you.


"Another interesting one happened just a few months after I first arrived in Korea. I ended up working with someone who I was in direct competition with for my first university job here. We were both on the same short-term assignment. When he heard where I worked, he claimed I’d taken his job. I thought he was being light-hearted about it. However, he went on to say that I didn’t have teaching experience which at the time Korean immigration required a year of to even get an E-1 visa. How he assumed I didn't have experience was beyond me. He then moved on to attack my degree, basically saying that I was less qualified than him due to the fact that I had a law degree which is more professional than academic. He was chagrined to learn that I was equally or maybe even more qualified."


So, let me get this straight. You are less qualified than he because you have a law degree. A law degree in my mind would be more qualifying because you would have used your law degree in the real world instead of just hiding out in academia, where anyone can read, write, and talk, but that is a different world than the real outside world that everyone must live and operate in. If anything, he was less capable, less qualified, less intelligent than you. And he saw that, and it showed.

"What I find most interesting in all of this is it is pretty much only white men feel that they have the right to have strong views or express them strongly. If you express strong views then you're all sorts of adjectives that usually aren't complementary. What's also offensive is that they have the nerve to come at me so blatantly. They're the only ones I’ve ever dealt with here that feel beholden to tell me that I’ve behaved badly when usually the only thing that has happened is we disagreed, and I held my own against them during a disagreement.

It’s interesting to me because I’m seriously wondering why they think they have more of a clue about what is going on and furthermore think they have the right to blatantly chastise me? Doesn’t it occur to them that ironically it’s the gold standard of rudeness to sit in judgment of someone’s behavior like you’re their parent when you're not?
It’s something that other people just don’t do with me. I usually find my social interactions with people to be relaxed and pleasant. I also find that my interactions with people is much more pleasant when these particular types aren't around."

These are white men. They are not used to having many people challenge them intelligently, skillfully, decisively. You are not supposed to disagree with them. Challenge them. Dispute them. Critique them. Outdo them. Earn more than them. Learn more than them. Present your views in opposition to theirs. In their mind, that just is not done. It goes against the laws of "white man's nature", the natural order of things. It's frightening to them: An intelligent, articulate black woman who speaks her mind. It's terrfying. It's against the norm.

Okay, Pat!

It just isn't done!

I swear. When are you young black women going to learn?

Oy vey!

Okay, now, read very carefully. Here's what you do with these types of "human beings."

Go slooooowly with them; do not talk too fast; say and enunciate your words very clearly and carefully, stopping every three to four words to make sure that he understands you. Stop ever so often and ask if he is still following you. Pull out your "See Spot Run/Tom and Jane Reading Primer" if you have to. Believe me, it will come in handy.

If all else fails, just remember that men of this caliber have the attention span and brain matter of a fruit fly.

What's the worse that could happen?

He more than likely cannot find his way home with a map, compass and a GPS device.

So don't sweat the small stuff.

And the small stuff is about all that people like this have going for them.

ExpatJane said...

Ohmygod, thanks so much for this comment! It had me laughing, and, I'm sure that any other black woman who has had to deal with it, will get a kick out of it too.

I don't really want to isolate the young, white male. I just want them to understand the assumptions they go out in the world with. Too bad for them the playing field IS a bit more level. It's still tilted highly in their favor, however.

That's the whole issue of white privilege which most really aren't aware that they have until they come to Korea and it's turned on its head. White is still the preference here, but I can trump it because of my citizenship as an American, my gender because women foreigners are rare, educational background, the schools I attended, my experience and knowledge and understanding of Korean culture. I'm usually one of the stronger candidates these days although there are some who've been here longer than me.

It's just that anytime I have a conflict with a white boy he eventually starts with the "ohmygod, this is why I like Asian women" (as if I give two cents because that's an insult to Asian women to put it that way), "this is why I'm not in America" (um, that means I won't have to worry about dealing with you when I pack up and go home, thanks for the good news) or any other line along that vein.

It's truly something and it's really funny to see it happening now that I've experienced this pattern a few times over.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a white american male and I just finished reading your entry here.

My gut instinct is to come to the defense of my kind, but I feel pretty sympathetic to much of what you've said.

As for my background, I have a BA in Japanese Linguistics and another in General Linguistics from University of Washington. I'm set to leave this Thursday for Ilsan to teach English. I'm scared as hell mainly. I speak fluent Japanese but very broken Korean.

But I digress. The only explanation I can offer for the behaviour you've pointed out is that a lot of white folks feel pretty defensive around everyone that isn't white. After all, our forefathers have given us plenty to be ashamed about, but who wants to live with that sort of guilt all the time? I've tried to live my life by doing the most good I can as an imperfect human being.

I grew up in pretty diverse areas. My best friends when I was very young were black, Korean, and white people in my neighborhood. I continued to live in areas where there is a high population of Asian people, but in the last decade or so I haven't interacted with very many black people. The high school I went to was practically half Korean people or other people whose families are from Asia, and they did not choose to mix with the other half of the student body, us 'white folks'. Or maybe it's the other way around. I did make my own attempts however, with mostly limited success. Of course, I can't speak for anyone else.

I'll try to put a point to all of this now.

Basically, I often feel like I'm on trial when I hang out with people of other races. It gives me a lot of anxiety and causes me to avoid them because I don't like being called a racist and I don't like reading it in other people's eyes either. Sometimes I feel like I can't express my differing opinion or I'm going to be called a racist 'white guy'.

I look "white", but my actual ancestry is Welsh, English, Cherokee, and about 1/8th Korean from my Great Grandmother. In any case, I was raised as a white guy by my single father (who was the source of the Welsh and Cherokee, mostly the former).

Race is a concept invented by people, not an absolute truth. I've seen many Brazilian-ethnic kids in Japan who for all intensive purposes are 'Japanese', they just look a little different. People just look different due to evolutionary divergence in the past.

Please, just keep in mind that because a dude looks like a white guy, it doesn't mean he acts like that 'white guy' you're talking about. Though I agree that the type you refer to does exist... perhaps in abundance.

There are plenty of racist individuals who are black, asian, whatever. Hearing certain Japanese people talk about Koreans and Chinese (and vice versa) makes me quite shocked at time. There are the words 'nigger' and 'gook', but there are the words 'haole' and 'cracker' too. I'm proud to say I've never called anyone a racist slur, even in anger, but I have been called all sorts of things by other people. Perhaps it's the small price I have to pay for the mistakes of the generations of people that looked like me in the past. It's not so terrible compared to slavery and other atrocities.

But... does any person of any 'race' deserve any of this racism?

ExpatJane said...

Thanks for your comments! I wish you the best of luck moving to and teaching in Ilsan.

It's not that I haven't had similar views similar to yours or have lost them being here. I just know where I am. I'm in a country where I'm dealing with people I'd probably not normally deal with. I'm dealing with people who haven't lived in diverse situations where I really might be one of the few black people they've ever dealt with. My thing is, however, I can't really deconstruct THEIR issues with dealing with me when all they can see is a "black woman".

That's not to say that folks in the big city are necessarily more sophisticated about race. I mean, my hometown, L.A. seems to have a racial incidents every few years. Just look at the incidents with celebrities and slurs recently. However, what it does mean is people are, to some degree, used to of people of other races and ethnicities.

I'm not even going to get into the debate about race vs. the human race. Ideally, yes, it should be that way, but this race construct dominates pretty much how the modern world thinks. Therefore, unfortunately, it impacts my life too. I'm judged constantly here as a black woman rather than a unique individual with her own positive and negative traits. I watch Koreans choose to sit anywhere on mass transit except next to me. That happens to white folks too here, as it’s fear of the other. The thing is they think you don't notice, but when it happens every darn day, you notice. Plus, it's an issue of efficiency and survival. It takes time and effort to judge everyone as an individual and most people aren't going to make the effort.

I'm not really feeling much sympathy over white guys feeling like they're on trial around people of other races. How about black men who are literally on trial because they were subject to racial profiling or black women who are assumed to be self-sufficient superwomen because we've had to survive in the face of racism when the fact is we need just as much love, nurturing and gentleness as women of other races? How about when I hear someone make fun of Asian's speaking English like a couple of celebrities have done in interviews? Like you, I know Western born and raised Asians who speak perfect English, and that's offensive. Even if an Asian speaks with an accent, mocking them isn't cool. Probably that person with the accent has an amazing life story and things they could teach the ass who is mocking them. However, a lot of white people seem to think it's okay to do this mess. They will use the excuse that they were just joking and that folks need to lighten up. Then they get here, they aren't in a position of privilege anymore and are mad because Koreans make fun of them too. The Koreans are just joking too, but it's not funny when you're the joke.

I mean we all have our crosses to bear. I was raised to be that person to get on well with all sorts of people. My parents went out of their way to send me to integrated schools when I was young just so I'd learn and have the confidence to work with as well as compete against other races.

However, I'm not going to go out of my way when the yield is another frustrating story with another pissed off or ignorant white guy. The results of racism and race divisions are unfortunate, but as individuals within it it's on us to try to sort through how it impacts us as individuals. Of course, we can have workshops, debates, and talks about it. However, I, as an individual, have to make peace with racism and where I see myself in this world. White guys need to try to make peace with the legacy of privilege too. I can't expect the people around me to work on my issues of race. I don't think it's fair that I should have to deal with my own issues AND take on those of white guys too. Of course, I'm mindful of it. I just had a whole week with someone who was trying so hard to connect with me as a black woman that he simply forgot that I was a person. Meaning he kept bringing up racial issues or American issues when it might have just been best to ask me how my day was going. It showed me that instead of seeing a person he saw a black American woman, and he just couldn't seem to deal with me without filtering things through the lens of race or nationality. That's frustrating. I avoided him for good reason.

Also, I realize that some guys might be pleasant and nice to get to know and talk to. However, I'm tired of it. I'm gun shy now. I'm not really willing to take the risk because too many times since I've moved here I've dealt with men who were just aren't worth my time.

As an aside, I have met a nice guy, who is white, who I've hung out with recently to just talk to. However, I'm much more careful with him in that if he steps on my toes I'll let him know because I don't want misunderstandings to cause a conflict and ruin a possible friendship before it even begins.

Don't take my rant as an absolute. It was written in the heat of the moment, and I did that just to capture my frustration and indignation over the situation that caused it. I'm glad I did. But the reality is I can't live in a vacuum here. I must engage. I can't say "oh, you're a white guy; I don't talk to white guys." That would be ridiculous. However, I am much more careful these days because I have had too many negative situations which only seem to come up with white men.

So I would say, no, we don't deserve this racism, but we've inherited it. It's on all of us to try to handle it better.

i_teach_esl said...

i wish to goddess i'd found you earlier. a few months ago i got into it w/some dave eslers about discrimination in korea and i was livid... friggin paternal white saviors telling me what to do/what i am... absolutely livid! thank you for your blog. thank you for being out there. sister, you remind me that i am not paranoid or crazy.

ExpatJane said...

I avoid that site's Korea forum. It's not worth my time because it's just over populated with the type I've written about in this blog.

There are rarely discussions. It's more about someone just coming back and coming back trying to trump your point. It's not worth it, and I learned to just not bother with the chatter there.


You're not paranoid or crazy. When I have a heated run in, sometimes I wonder too because this didn't happen prior to coming here. The funny thing is regarding the person who pissed me off enough to write this I got other opinions of him from other foreigners. His rep = ass. Now I have confirmation that I've not lost my mind.

However, I wonder when dealing with these sort of guys do they ever wonder if they've lost THEIR minds? They probably don't which only confirms that they ARE nuts.

Hang in there. The world is bigger than their expectations of privlege and rapt attention from all they meet even if they can't or won't realize it.

I clicked over to your blog. You should add yourself to the Korean blogrolls. I'll email you (not today, I have to read and I start a class tomorrow, but soon.)

Anonymous said...

racism is perhaps the greatest sin that afflicts societies around the world today. i'm grateful that since i was a child i was effectively raised "color blind." my auntie married a black man and as such grew up with black cousins whom i love dearly.

even as a white male in korea, i've been the subject of racism. i've been denied access to a bar in hongik area for not having a korean friend with me to gain entrance (this in spite of the fact that i'd been to that bar with friends the weekend before and put W200,000 behind the till). i've never felt so humiliated in all my life.

having weighed up all that you've said, i have a theory. it is not intended to excuse the behavior you've had to put up with, but it may offer an explanation for some of these ridiculous encounters.

my guess (and it's only a guess) is that these men are living in korea, where for the first time in their lives, they are actually a minority and they don't have the foggiest idea how to deal with it. like i said, this isn't intended to excuse what has happened, but it may offer an explanation as to some of the shite you've had to deal with. food for thought?

ExpatJane said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment (that's not to say the others haven't been thoughtful, I just neglected to write it because I'm stupid.)

Anyway...

Well, I think I said that in my post on this subject. It's the first time EVER that a lot of them have had to deal with life as a minority. It's a shock. Like minorities in their own countries, they're angry, they're frustrated, and they're bitter.

They're reeling. That's fine and I actually understand and empathize, but when they turn it into not talking but attacking me with the same m.o. it's no longer something I care about. At that point I'll be blunt and say my perspective is "fuck 'em."

It's an issue of white privilege and the lack of it here in Korea.

They need to learn how to "deal with it", just as they usually demand that other minorities "deal with it" and stop whining.

When they make it my problem, then there is going to be friction because I'm not going to sit back and take it.

al thinks deep in korea said...

for a long time i've understood that race/ethnicity was historically a social construct--just like gender--used as an instrument of power. the ones with it--almost always white/"western"/male were on top, if you were any other color (less you bought into the uncle tom, racist, self-loathing, sell-your-soul at the expense of "your own people" and other "lesser races" principle that is the hallmark of "color-blind" capitalism) you were almost always on the bottom.

what's become crystal clear since my 2 years in seoul has been how contextual notions of race/ethnicity... identity truly are. it's one thing to understand this on an intellectual level; it's different to see it and feel it up close.

the white men you mention on your blog are exactly the reason i have no white friends anymore. to the one man who wrote tha he suffers from "white man's burden" and is trying to come to terms with it, i give you kudos. alas, most of the "미국 사람" and other "foreigners" in korea are no where as insightful.

whiteness and white privilege are a reality in the states, but it's often much more subtle. at least in korea and asia, you see it for what it truly is: not just a aggressively imperialistic push by "the white west" to throw "superior culture" down the 2nd and 3rd world's throat but, more egregious, an almost full-throated embrace of this "superior culture" by the so-called "oppressed."

as a korean american male, i am sad to say the same racist, sexist, classist ignorance that pervades the minds of so many "westerners"--many "gyopos" included, but PARTICULARLY white men--is also present in my "motherland's people." the difference, of course, is where the power lies. it's one thing to have these b.s. assumptions and have full military, political, and cultural backing from america inc.; it's entirely different to have these thoughts towards foreign "occupiers" who are in your country, one of the most "homogenous" countries in the world and one that historically( and understandably) has been distrustful of outsiders. These same white men enjoy top market wages, "easy access" to "easy asian women," (there's a reason you don't see white women with korean men in droves--who often don't know they're being "hoodwinked" cuz they're just "curious" to meet a "foreign guy, read: white. it's worth mentioning that you don't see many of these same women lining up to date the long list of other historically established foreigners in korea like s.e. asians; these are often the same women who wear abercrombie proudly who still don't give a fuck when you tell them abercrombie is genuinely puzzled at why asians don't find racist cartoons of themselves flattering, while their asian male counterparts cry bloody murder at the "korean 'bitch' who dates a white man," all the while hitting the massage parlors, booking sex tours in vietnam, and pining for white women and while doing nothing about it) a high standard of living, and instant membership into the cultural hegemony that is hollywood, saturating the korean airwaves with "beautiful" white--and sometimes token black--faces.

you mention the igornant white men you've met in korea. alas, their female counterparts aren't much different.

there are, of course, SOME exceptions. like the rest of us, they're few and far between. besides, i'm not talking about individuals anyway; i'm talking abouut systematic trends that can be backed by numbers. this phenomena isn't just an isolate incident, after all. the rest are just outliers, meaningful but exceptional nonetheless.

less this rant becomes interpreted as another angst-ridden, angry korean american guy who can't get laid, i'd just like to stress that i'm just as critical of materialistic, success-obsessed, step on anything and everyone just to get ahead, emotion over logic koreans as the next person. but i believe that has more to do with the history and culture of asia as a whole than any essentialized notion of the "conservative east" being inherently more sexist, racist, or discriminatory than the "liberal west."

ultimately, while social constructs larger than any one individual are to blame for these unfair hierarchies of power, it's up to each and every one of us to take personal responsibility for our actions--something "progressives" and "the left" are loath to do. and by personal responsibility i don't just mean a passive acceptance of guilt or shame (as in the case of many white people who later "get it" and feel the burden of being "the oppressor") but also an openness to go further and dig deep into the true nature of power, in all its many forms. we all have mud on our hands and no one is clean. some of us are dirtier than others, but perhaps through continued open exchange, honest discussion and a resolute heart we can all help one another.

kifacorea@gmail.com

ExpatJane said...

Al,

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to get another perspective. I've sure you noticed it was black women and white males weighing in on what I had to say.

You know I'm sure that their female counterparts might have the same issues, but I'm sure you're not surprised to know that I tend not to click at all with most of the white female ESL teachers that I meet here. It's a totally different ballgame if the woman is here due to another reason. I've met some great women through other various activities and events. However, in the case of English teachers, I'd bet money that those young girls are just as annoying as their male counterparts.

I think probably because they're women, they just size me up immediately and never bother talking to me. I'm not a guy. There is no potential for a date and Jungle Fever adventures. And, they probably have the hostile black female stereotype in their head anyway.

In the six years I've been here I've never spent any significant time hanging out with a white female ESL teacher, however, back home my close friends come from all races and both genders. The one exception would be short-term camp situations, but even then we didn't click on a friendship level.

I think that says a lot about the type of people who tend to come here. One, it's just the sheer numbers. I've never had a white female as a co-worker in a full-time situation. I just started a job where I have a couple of them, so we'll see how it goes. Also, I think there is just a different way of dealing or, not dealing, as women. We're pretty quick to just avoid something that we see as being bad. Considering the negative stereotypes about blacks and black women, I can see why I haven't clicked with them if they're judging me based on that.

The white guilt thing is tired. I mean it's something that needs to be acknowledged and then they need to move on. Guilt doesn't help me, them or race relations one bit.

Again, thanks for your thoughtful input. I really appreciate your perspective.

jane said...

I tend not to like most of a lot of the foreign EFL teachers I meet in Korea and, if I have the choice, I prefer to spend my time with Koreans or foreigners here on business or other fields.

Oh god, me too. Except that I *am* one of them. Luckily, I don't mind spending quality time with just me!

He was a bit strange, but that’s par for the course here in Korea.

How very, very true.

ExpatJane said...

Well, I'm one of them too. I mean I came here to teach and I've spent most of my time here teaching. I'm back in school now, but only spent one year not working. In fact, I just started a new job.

I've just been here long enough to avoid most of the madness...I hope.

It's just stupid, low-level, "I ain't never been nowhere" conversations over mediocre beer that don't interest me. In general, ESL teachers just aren't very interesting to me.

t-HYPE said...

Just discovered your blog on a search for black teachers in Korea...

Anyhoo, great post!

In general, I have a really hard time with run of the mill suburban white boys. They're remarkably ignorant about anything/one that isn't the product of white America, have no idea how ignorant they are AND will try to argue you down about it!!!

Which probably explains why they always claim that racism in Asia is SOOOO bad compared to the US but I'm putting that comment on your other post...

ExpatJane said...

The thing is I don't want to bash them as a group because I really do think it's a particular type of individual that does it. (Plus, man don't we and other groups get mad when stereotypes about us pop up.)

That was why I went through such pains to try to define the subgroup I was talking about because I've got a great number of white males who I consider very close friends that I've had for years.

I think that's where my shock factored in. I truly wasn't used to this particular strain of white boy ;) The guys I know tend to be much more worldly or, at least, more open to alternative ways of viewing the world. However, these are guys who were suffering along with me in the philosophy department way back when or guys who were factoring through variations on hypotheticals in law school. I just see a clear difference in the types and, my God, I miss those guys a lot. I really do. There is a true dearth of them here, so much so, it's painful.

Yes, that's mos def some homesickness I'm expressing here.

Nickolai said...

Hey Expat Jane,

I was just doing some research on possible trips after my current contract was up and saw your blog on Kaesong. I then started reading a few more of your blogs and really enjoyed your writing style which was easy to read, engaging, personal, and got me thinking about things.

It was great to read this blog on the "Ugly American" and all of the diverse comments. I got uncomfortable a few times, not because I thought you were in the wrong or felt the need to defend any of these guys, but rather also being a white guy I was shocked that I might be being written off by a lot of people simply for being a "white American guy" without their getting to know me. I actually agree that MANY of the foreigners I meet here are idiots, or strange or fall in the "Ugly" stereotype. (Ugly American, Canadia, New Zealander, Brit, Australian, South African, whatever... I certainly wouldn't limit it to Americans).
I won't say I am the paragon of inter-cultural astuteness, understanding and sensitivity, but I do understand what you are saying and can sympathize and agree with certain aspects. I understand what you and some other posters were saying about the concept of "white privelege' and how most white Americans don't understand how much it still operates. I would venture to say it is VERY much alive here in Korea as well, in certain areas (even in the overwhelming choice in having whites here as teachers). I can see how that fact can create underlying tension, especially as most White people I know are unaware of how it works, or that it even exists.

And of course it is refreshing and eye opening to see things from perspectives I don't know a lot about (i.e.,being a Black American woman teaching/Studying in South Korea, and subtle racism or 'assumptions' that are directed towards you by people).
I have actually written in a blog about my own feelings about the "Ugly Foreigners" In Korea. But obviously had a different slant for the most part. But I did share the disdain for those who bitch about differences in Korea. Like you said, if you don't like it go home. I find Korea to be great, finished 2 years here, will be going home for several months before returning for at least one more year. I love the differences, and try not to make too many comparisons. I do find a fair amount of ignorance about foreigners from a lot of Koreans, but rarely any kind of hostility, usually ignorance, curiosity and an interest in learning more and a refreshing bluntness and honesty. I like the honesty from a lot of Koreans I meet.

Anyway back to the original subject, I would ask you and others not to write off every white guy you meet who is teaching in Korea.
I would write more but have a ton of homework I have to grade. A travesty since it is Sunday...
-Nick

ExpatJane said...

Nickolai,

Thanks for the comment. I was hoping that I, at least, implied that it's not about ALL white males here. It's about a specific subset.

Also, the "ugly American" term is used because that's what I was called by the guy who inspired the post. What's funny is HE is the epitome of the ugly American (and still is, if you ask me.)

It's actually in sharper focus now because I recently returned from almost four weeks in the States. I encountered friction at times, but it was predictable. Whereas a lot of the conflicts here have really come out of left field. Back home any friction was minimal and balanced out by other men who didn't have the bullshit chip on their shoulders.

So, no, I'm not judging all of you, but I can say that my general M.O. is to just avoid it now.

Rangershnoah said...

Tag, ExpatJane!

I'm a German translator/teacher living in Korea and was delighted to find your blog and, more specifically, this post.
However, due to my fair complexion and English pronunciation (I had an American tutor in Gymnasium), strangers/foreigners often mistake me for American and proceed to give me a golly handshake and exclaim how pleased they are to meet "one of us."

I am quite capable of overlooking simple racial blunders, therefore the error was insignificant until I also became associated with the Ugly American. In social settings, I find it unprofessional and rude for this forementioned subset to confront me concerning "harsh" socio-economic views and a lack of cultural sensitivity. I then politely explain, in simple terms of course, that I have lived here for six years in full assimilation to profit business relationships. Awkward silence is rewarding, but uncommon. Generally, he argues his point beyond reputable salvage, only to expect to see me again another time. "Pathetic" does not even begin to describe this behavior.

As German girls are raised to be very vocal and honest, I have no problem holding my own in an argument. I am, however, tired of dealing with the ignorance and would only like to add a simple "Amen" to your original address.

Life in Korea is good, but I miss my German colleagues and their culturally-sensitive ideals. Sometimes a little bit of home would not be so bad.

ExpatJane said...

Guten Tag Rangershnoah!

I'm so glad to get your comment. I knew there had to be an angle I didn't know about.

Yeah, what about the Caucasian who "sounds" North American but isn't?

I'm sure you get more of an earful than I do considering that most are smart enough to not to breach the race topic within earshot of me.

I'm with you on Korea being good, but I too am feeling the tug of home these days. Of course, having recently been on vacation in the States makes it worse. ;)

Thanks for your comment.

Unslung Hex said...

Rather exhausting read up there. I read your post, and a few comments after that.

I am in my 30s, East Indian (hate adding 'East'... but then). Lived on the East coast of US for a decade before I decided to move back to my own country.

Racism is born out of stereotypes to an extent. While my experiences pale compared to some others, I never felt at home in US, considering a context of my skin color, culture and ability to adapt.

So I returned. But my excuse, I realized, holds good back home too. I have differences that sets me apart amongst people of my own skin color. I don't fit the stereotype.

Options, burn self with obsession over the reactions. Or, understand self, others, and reconcile to the reaction and just move on with life.

Maybe I paint a simple stroke and expect it to reconcile the image. Atleast I prefer it that way.

I prefer the later.

ExpatJane said...

Well, I don't fit the black American stereotypes either and I get my fair share of flack from my own people because of it.

However, this post was about a specific sort of frustration. In not mentioning the others I'm not asserting they don't exist, it's just that the topic this time was the arrogance of the many young white men I'd met here and how it's pretty predictable at this point. That's so much so that I can see it coming and I just side-step it most of the time these days.

However, the same exists in black America just as you say it exists in the East Indian community. You have people saying people "talk white" or "act white" because they speak standard English or because they actually dare to get an education. You have people taken to task for being "self hating" if they choose to date someone who isn't black. You have people seriously being criticized when they try to eat balanced diets and exercise that they're trying to be white. It's a level of stupidity from my own people that I just can't stand.

Talking about one doesn't exclude the other.

I hope you're not assuming I was burning with anything outside of the need to express my frustration. I prefer the later too, but that doesn't mean I won't talk about it when it comes up. Clearly, writing it out is a way for me to reconcile and move on.

Take care.

Felicia said...

You have really gone through some stuff!

I've heard certain comments in the teacher's lounge from time to time that would make anyone: African-American, Latino, Asian, etc. fume, but I just tend to either remove myself from the situation and realize what kind of people I'm dealing with; I'm only speaking of the bozos who say ignorant things and thing they are dropping pearls wisdom. I speak fluent French, Swedish in addition to my native English and have lived almost all of my adult life abroad. These guys do not have a clue as to the amount of my life experiences and education and joie de vivre that open doors to all whom I come into contact with. They are always amazed, AMAZED at how much I like Korea and Koreans and how generous and kind Koreans are to me. Their biggest mistake is walking around with a sense of entitlement. They can say all day long how they are not classist or racist but people can sense their true intentions behind every word they utter and act they commit and that is why you always hear them complain. I'm with you, "if you don't like it, go home". I have not had nowhere near the amount of degree of negativity to you've encountered with these jokers, I think it's because I'm all about my life and my interests and they KNOW, I'm not into bitching about this that or the other, not saying that you are, but they KNOW I'm pretty content, and negative, insecure people usually don't hang around those that are the exact opposite of them.

Misery loves company. I have better things to do.

Keep being a positive force and DO NOT ENTERTAIN these buffoons.

Ciao Bella!

Felicia
www.nearandfar.wordpress.com

ExpatJane said...

Ha...well, it's not like I'm around these people all the time. In fact, I now go out of my way to avoid them.

But I had the misfortune of tripping over a few of them in a short period of time. That was enough to inspire me to write about them.

There is a new wrinkle to the story that I've not discussed because, well, it's still in effect. But once it's over I can't wait to publish an update to this post. Stay tuned...it's, however, probably going to be more than a year before I can comment on it.

sad1584 said...

My friend just sent me a link to your site and I'm so happy I found your blog! I just received my M.A. in Geography and I plan on participating in the GEPIK program in September(hoping to be placed in Bundang or Ilsan). I am also a black female who "doesn't fit the stereotypes."

I studied abroad in Japan for a year(2004-2005) and I did my fieldwork for my thesis in Nagoya last summer. I've had my ups and downs in Japan, but I can truly say that my worse experiences in Japan was dealing with these type of people. Actually last summer, I had a clash with an American PhD student who was also doing his fieldwork. He kept on calling me "honey" and felt like he had to "teach" me something. In addition, he was also asking some extremely personal questions. Eventually, we clashed.

I had to deal with a fair share of these type of people when I studied abroad the first time. I've noticed the way I dealt with the most recent situation was quite different than when I experienced it for the first time. Even though these clashes SUCKS, they have made me a stronger person in the process.

ExpatJane said...

Great to hear that you got referred. Really, that's awesome to hear.

I'm feeling the heat of it again. Of course, since I blogged about it over two years ago at this point, it's a bit passe to hem and haw over it again. But your comment is well-timed.

Again, is encountered the man that inspired this post and, you know, he's just as offensive now as ever. Now, it's simply because I called him on his horribly bad behavior, so now when he sees me he slinks away. However, I think ass hole or not, if you felt so passionately to call me out about my behavior like a child you should be passionate enough to stick to your guns. I was right. He was a presumptuous prick and his silence proves me right ;)

You're right. These clashes make you stronger even if, in my case, a bit more gun shy in dealing with certain people.

sad1584 said...

I also became more gun shy with dealing with certain people.
I was easily offended by these guys at first which equaled a lot of clashes. But the more and more I encountered those type of people(which I really tried not to), I developed the attitude of "to each it's own" and kept my distance. Tried to mute out any idiotic rhetoric. My life in Japan became a lot easier that way.

But there are times in which the line can be crossed and action needs to be taken. That being when the guy mentioned previously started to touch me in an inappropriate manner and also did that to a Japanese waitress. That's when I couldn't keep my mouth shut.

I'm sorry you had to deal with that ass again, but it must have felt good that you were able to shut him up.

Anyways keep on blogging and keep up the good work! Hope you don't mind any questions being sent your way as it gets closer for me to come to Korea!

ExpatJane said...

He whaaaaaaaaaaaaa? Oh!!! That's definitely inappropriate. Well, without revealing too much of the story 'cause that would get closer to his identity, I just thought it was pretty funny that he was hanging with his students. Good grief!

Get some real friends. Not that you can't be friends with students, you can, but until they're out of my class and out of my range of power I keep my free time to myself. Of course, I got to snicker a bit over that. Especially because by the time he and his students made a second pass the friends I was waiting for had joined me.

He's an ass and I get catty after being offended by one.

You're welcome to fire off questions my way. Just use my email (on the right, under...lemme check...under my profile and list of projects).

Kit (Keep It Trill) said...

I know you posted this long ago, but I read it first. I never met black non-military person who lived in a Korea, so I wanted to see how you got there.

Hope you're nearing completion of your International Studies. What a unique experience. Your experiences with white American racism over there didn't surprise me. We're like turtles; we live inside our beliefs for better or worse.

Stay strong.

~ Kit

ExpatJane said...

I finished almost a year ago. I graduated in August of last year.

As for never seeing something and then taking that as proof of non-existence, I liken it to the philosophical question of the tree falling in the forest. It doesn't matter if you've never seen or heard it or heard of something, it can happen and exist. There is a certain level of arrogance people have if they've never experienced something but the stunning disbelief was nothing more than low expectations of blacks stemming from stereotypes. I've studied just as much, if not more than most people I know, no matter what their race. To be 100% honest, I'm sick of people being surprised that I'm very educated.

I had some ass I met on Christmas of all days going on about how he'd never met anyone who went to law school but didn't take the bar exam. Um, yeah...I know of a some; one being a minor celebrity. Of course, that guy was white too. He was just so stuck in his own world of going on about how he was an attorney and bragging about it that he just couldn't imagine someone who can live without that kind of validation.

I will correct you to say it wasn't exclusively Americans. I've encountered this attitude from young white men from Canada and the UK too. The US doesn't have a monopoly on racism.

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement.

kyoung-ju said...

While I fully fit the criteria of 20-30 year old white male, I could not agree more with you on how much these types of guys annoy the hell out of me in Korea, too. If they weren't so sad, they'd be a thesis topic. Enjoy your time in Korea, it is much more enjoyable socializing with local people anyway.
And well done on taking down Scott Burgeson, he epitomizes such people.

ExpatJane said...

Thanks for the support.

I was very careful when I wrote this to make it clear that I was targeting a specific group and not all white men.

That would be silly, no? ;-)

It would be like certain blog commentors who put all black K-bloggers in the same pot. (BTW, I'm not distancing myself from Mike. It's just that I'm not as gung ho to write about white privilege as Mike is, so for Scott to even bring me up as an example was idiotic.)

It's just a good thing I've got the day off and I'm still dealing with mild jet lag after running away to L.A. for a week. It means I'm literally sitting here, avoiding the heat and wasting time on the net. It's the perfect day for a virtual brawl.

jane00 said...

Ran into this very long blog by accident, but I skimmed through it and christ...


Chill out. There are morons everywhere. It sucks, but it's not worth dwelling upon.

ExpatJane said...

I wrote this over two years ago and I wrote it when I was annoyed. Maybe had you read versus skimmed it, you would have noted that.

Yes, there are morons everywhere. However, until you've lived here and get a whiff of the genus of foreigner that dominates the scene, you're point that there are "morons everywhere" is dismissive, simplistic and, frankly, moronic.

Nathalie said...

I'm a bit late on the comment, I'll admit but I just found your site via A Shaded View of Fashion, Diane's blog which I read weekly. Loved your interview with her, btw. Anyway, this white boy scenario in Asia is both typical and ridiculous. Disclaimer here, I'm a white American female, but I've lived in Asia (Taiwan/China)and had quite the time being confused and disgusted by the foward attitude of (esp.) American men. There is a place that men hold in general in Asia that makes white American men feel especially empowered. Not to mention the attention they get from the Asian girls. But this you already know.

ExpatJane said...

Yeah, I know I'm not the only one who has encountered it. I just tried when I wrote this a couple of years ago to narrow down the topic enough so that it was clear I wasn't generalizing to all white men.

After years here, believe me, that's one part of living in Asia that I won't miss when I go.

What's interesting to me is why is it so over the top here? I wonder who their equivalents are back home (mostly, so I can avoid them.)

Kanani said...

I learned a long time ago that educated, cultured non-white women can be very intimidating to white men and women.

When I recount a childhood filled with classical music, of listening to everything from Brahms, Basie, Earth Wind & Fire to Fleetwood Mac, people get a little sussed out. I don't know why this is. Did they expect my cultural heritage to be so slim my entire upbringing was "asian?" Or I have to crack up when people ask me if I ate Hawaiian food growing up, when in fact, Hawaiian food --unless you're catching it in the ocean or pounding poi, is mainly some sort of asian "fusion" concoction.

Anyhoo...it's their issue not mine.

ExpatJane said...

Yeah, it's just this small box of experiences we're supposed to have. Which is funny because, as they don't know much about what's in that box, how can they be so sure of what our experiences were?

It's definitely their problem. My problem is you can't screen through them to figure out who the ignoramus is that's going to slam you with some stupidity like this and who is actually sane and worth talking to ;)

Tomek said...

Hi,
I just read your post and all the comments and all this ‘Korea is the wicked place’ name tag makes me more and more depressed.

I am Caucasian Polish guy and I have visited Korea first time two years ago I have meet more then few great people but (literally) bounced from some complete idiots. Yes, there were all white young Americans. I was pretty sure that, well, how to say, shit happens. But when I was reading your blog entry and all this sad comments that follows many of my Korean experiences started falling into right spots, like elements of big jigsaw puzzles… ;)

But that is not only depressing thing that I have learned in last few weeks. I never been in USA so only recently I bumped on internet on ‘Asian fewer’ issue…

So I fell not so all happy and wanting to go to Korea again, as white guy, even worse, with Korean wife…. ;(

I will be judged by everyone, foreigners and Koreans, so depressing… well, I read it already so at least I will not learn hard way, but who knows…

Anyway, great blog! Take care!
Tomek

Regina said...

Well, first, thanks for your comment.

But I made it clear from the first go that I was only talking about a certain type of person. At least three of my personal friends are married to Korean women and they're white men.

It's not their race. It's the attitude and the entitlement that comes with their place in society that their race and gender gives them. In general, white men are viewed as being at the top of the totem pole in Western society. The guys I chose to talk about here think that their opinions matter over anyone else. Also, I'm not so naive to think that this attitude doesn't exist with men of other races. I've just yet to experience it.

If you're a nice guy who happens to be married to a Korean, that's cool. Who cares? It's your attitude and how you present yourself.

David S. Yunk said...

Interesting observations. I am white, and I am in my early 20s. I am thinking about doing the whole teaching English in Korea thing. To keep your stereotyping on point I was going to ask you if Korean girls are "easy."

Regina said...

The problem is with blogs and comments it's hard to read sarcasm or hostility.

If your comment was sarcastic. Ha...very funny but I can't help you with your question about Korean women.

If your comment was hostile, well, here I go:

Interesting that when stereotypes are applied to white males it's offensive for years. It's pretty clear that the post came about from specific interactions with men who all happened to be young, white and North American. Also, please note this was over an eight year period. However, when a person of color brings up stereotypes as an issue we're playing the "race card" and are told to get over it.

You know what. When that balances out...when I can complain about being back home in what's thought to be the most dynamic city in the world and people are shocked that I'm not only black and female but well-spoken, smart and educated, get back to me about stereotyping.

I was more than clear that I was referring to a specific segment of men I'd met, so get over it.

As to your question about Korean women? Since I went to the best women's university in South Korea and many of my closest friends are Korean females, you get no help or advice from me on that point.

David said...

Just thought I'd add another perspective. I'm a white guy but not North American, I'm Irish. I've been living in Seoul for three years and I mostly agree with the blogger's assertions. I've found many of the white Americans I've met here to be whiny, immature and ethnocentric. They come to Korea with a sense of entitlement which can be infuriating at times. Living in Seoul has been the first time I have had regular contact with white Americans and I am continually shocked at how racialised their thinking is. They're always refering to white guys, black guys, Asian guys etc as if that sums up someone's identity. Back in Ireland if you said a "black guy" most people would look for further clarification, is he black and Irish, is he a recent African immigrant etc? People in Ireland tend to view people based more on their nationality or cultural background than "race" which is just a social construct anyway.
To be honest I resent being lumped in as a white guy when talking to Americans. Sure, I may be white but culturally I am Irish and European. My identity is very different to that of a white American. In fact I am turned off by the often boorish and infantile behaviour of white Americans I meet here.
I think the racial paradigm through which Americans view things is too restrictive and more a symptom of the problems in their own culture more than anything. For example, I once overheard an African-American girl in Itaewon discussing Northern Ireland with her friends. She said, "Why are those Catholics and Protestants killing each other anyhow? They're all white folks." To be honest, I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from laughing.

Regina said...

Thanks for the perspective. You're probably right.

I'm one of those Americans. I do think that Europeans are a bit more evolved on the race relations chain.

I can sort of speak to that perspective that the girl you overheard expressed. In my experience in the USA, race trumps religion or culture. When people were immigrating to the USA, it used to be that white immigrants from various nations would have a hard time. However, now it would be unheard of for a white American of Italian descent to be discriminated against by a white American of English descent. In fact, they've intermarried and their kids have animated conversations about their heritage.

However, I've been to Europe (not to Ireland, so I can speak to how things are there.) There is tension in countries like France and Germany for sure. There are extremists politicians in places like the Netherlands and Austria (and Austria is one of my favorite places on earth as I spent one very wonderful month in Vienna a few years ago.)

Racial tension is in Europe too. I just think that it's different. Europeans just seem to be much more comfortable with the differences.

You're Irish, so you get a pass because one of the guys I wrote about in this post was British. However, he was probably looking at it more from a class perspective than race.

Emma said...

long writing and comments..
I accidently came to this blog and read your writing about "white guy" in Korean especially ESL teachers. Well as a Korean woman, it is really hard to notice if they are ordinary type of "Western people" or not. But many of white male ESL teachers that I met was really really disappoing. I agree about your thought, their real purpose to come to Korea was almost same.(I know not ALL OF THEM wouldn't come here for the same reason. But in fact high percentage of them have a same purpose.)

I hope you don't be too pessimistic. It is true that many Koreans prefer 'WHITE' people because they were unnoticely educated about 'black' people or other race by mass medias(ex.stereotype hollywood movies). But young people like or curious about non-white races.. For me, black people are just too rare in Korea. So if I walk in the street with black friend, all people stare us. Even bus drivers stared us!!! And I had to became a gosship to everyone...I felt really uncomfortable because that everyone stare me and my friend whenever I go someplace. I need to be brave to deal with the attention.

I envy you that you live in the US. You know, in there, generally woman is more repected than Korea.
Even though you're a black woman I think you have more opportunities for yourself in your life than ornimarly Korean woman. As like you blamed the white guy treated you in Korea, Korean women treated how the Old Koreans and Korean guy want to. Korean guys want their wife raise their child, do all housework and earn some money! hehe if I want to get marry to Korean guy, I have to sacrifice myself too much!

Regina said...

Trust me, Emma, I know. I have a great group of female Korean friends from my studies at 이화여대. Some have left Korea to pursue their education and to have a bit more freedom. However, what I noticed is that almost all of them would like some time abroad, even if it's not permanent.

However, I was in Korea for eight years. Since I was teaching on the university level, I had more perks than most. Also, during my time there, I saw the number of black teachers slowly increase. We're not the majority here, so we won't be there either. It was just nice to leave and see more like me there.

I'm not an anomaly no matter how many people who aren't black want to try to tell me that I am. I know quite a few decent, intelligent and educated black people. The folks went to school with me. These folks are my friends.

Funny how the things that feed the stereotypes, mostly the media, wants everyone to think that we're exceptions. We're not.

Keep your head up. Believe it or not, I did meet nice Korean men who weren't misogynists. Rare, but possible.

PD said...

come on, regina!

what do you mean you "met nice korean men who aren't misongynists. rare, but possible"?

whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

we're not misogynists! we love y'all! and most of us were raised by mothers who thought nothing of smacking us around in public when we got out of line. hell, many of us downright fear you guys, especially once you become ajummas. i demand an apology!

Regina said...

I guess it's all perspective. It also might be culture. I do know a few nice Korean men, but a lot come off as hard and inflexible.

That might simply be because they've been slapped upside the head one too many times by a female...I was amazed at how often Korean women just hauled off and slapped men. Weird...

Forgive me and realize, no matter how long I was there, I was still an outsider looking in.

Alex C said...

Wow, very interesting and insightful. I actually stumbled upon this blog while looking at korean study-abroad programs. But I would agree your attitude about many white men is spot on. I happen to be of mixed race descent, Italian/Costa Rican, however my physical appearance matches that of a stereotypical Caucasian surfer...I am sure you can imagine what I mean. The point is I have always been labeled as a "white guy" who has "yellow fever", when in reality I am nothing of the sort. I grew up in a predominantly asian-american community, and most of my friends are asian.Yet the funny thin is many of my asian friends are still shocked by my knowledge of asian history and culture. Unfortunately, I am not as eloquent with my words as you are and cannot begin to express all of the situations I have experienced. However, I am extremely interested in going to Korea especially after my 2 months in China I spent 2 summers ago and would love to talk to you about your travels. You sound like an extremely interesting person!

Alex C said...

Regina I stumbled upon your blog, looking at Korean study-abroad programs and I have to say I am really glad I did. Your insight into the arrogance and limited perspective of many male Caucasian- Americans is pretty spot on.

I am of mixed race origins, Italian/Costa Rican, yet because I look white, I therefore am white, and have been labeled as a white guy with "yellow fever" because most of the women I have dated are of asian descent. Yet my asian-american friends, who I spend most of my time with, know that is not the case at all.

I am often confronted with people who are one, shocked to know I speak spanish and two that I am of latin heritage and two have a genuine interest and love for asian history, politics and culture. (I am a comparative politics major) Though this group's ignorance is not as blatant towards me because I look like "one of them" it still exists, and it is very annoying. However, stereotypes exist for a reason, and that reason is they are easy, its so much simpler to just assume than try to unravel the enigma known as the human mind. People are incredibly complex and we cannot even begin to understand how and why the brain works the way it does. Sure we can see the practical cause and effect of its mechanisms via social sciences like psychology or sociology but we are just scratching the surface now in understanding the basic mechanics behind why we do the things we do. (my other major is philosophy of the mind).

I'm sorry if I sound like one of those pricks you described in your story. Not trying to lecture, just trying to offer some insight into the discussion. I'm new to this whole blogging thing :D. As a matter of fact this is my first post...haha

If you do not mind, I would love to talk to you about your experiences in Korea! I plan on either studying or teaching English there, and it sounds like you have a lot of very interesting experiences and insights.

Regina said...

Alex C --- thanks for the comment. First, no worries. This whole social media and blogging thing is still new to many people.

However, I realize ease is part of it. It's just that when everyone goes for easy you get the situation I was in: the same conversation happening over and over.

Now that I'm back home and in NYC, you have it, but not so much. That's because it's incredibly diverse here. You still have issues of group identity and the mess that goes with it. It's just much less.

Anyway, I'd advise you to click around my blog but to also find others. The K-blog community is a really active one. In fact, some of the better ones I know and link to. Check them out and find some favorites. You can leave me questions in the comments. If you want me to answer privately, just leave your email and I won't publish the comment.

David said...

ExpatJane,

Thanks for insight into a perspective that most people in the world are unfamiliar with. It was an interesting read for me as a white guy in my 20s getting ready to depart for Korea.

I'm glad you did not malign all white people but I don't think that simply narrowing the subject down has merit either. People are individuals and defy stereotypes so just because I'm from a mid-sized city in the Southern USA doesn't mean I'll be completely befuddled when encountering a successful black woman. I've lived in Shanghai, studied in Taiwan and London, and have traveled throughout many other countries so you can imagine it might be frustrating to be written off because I'm not from LA or NYC.
Of course, I do know many people who you've described to the tee but I hope to not find them in Korea!

Being perceived as boring is a negative stereotype for white people. This might not elicit much sympathy since it doesn't compare to job discrimination, income gaps, etc but it is certainly not justified by those things. A doctor won't refuse to treat a chicken pox patient because there is a sicker patient down the hall.
You've faced condescending attitudes and stereotyping but it does not give you the excuse to do the same and claim it's not racist as you're just talking about a subset.

I won't argue that you may have had a disproportionate amount of negative interactions from white male teachers. But to avoid the subgroup because of that strikes me as disingenuous. In the US, young black males commit a disproportionate amount of violent crime but to avoid all of them because you have had some bad experiences is, in my mind, the same thing that you encourage.

I also find that giving a "pass" to whites from England or Ireland while lumping 120 million white American men together is just as absurd for the same reasons I've mentioned. But even assuming that the Englishman was being "classist" isn't that no better than a racist?

Anyways, have a great night and I hope you've had plenty of positive experiences in Korea since then.

Regina said...

Since I wrote this years ago (check out the dates), I don't think I gave an exception to men from the UK or Commonwealths. I know for a FACT that one of the incidents I wrote about or had in my head at the time was from an Englishman who just couldn't wrap his head around why a black woman would have been where I was (the inner sanctuary of a member's only club in Seoul - I was a member.) I just scanned through it and that incident was the third one. So, no, I didn't build in an exception for the English. In fact, the post was inspired by the over arching gall of some American guy. However, the other ones involve American men, at least one Canadian and at least one Englishman. I chose those interactions on purpose but didn't disclose their home countries at the time.

Why? I was living there.

In fact, wouldn't it be the slave trade from England and other European countries that is part of the legacy that we're dealing with here?

If you say that being critical of the behavior of a subset of a group is racist, fine. I'll take that because, unlike other Americans, I'm neither scared nor offended to be called that. It's thrown around so willy nilly these days that everyone probably ends up being called that should they dare to have an opinion on race. I just disagree that it's true. However, if you think I'm racist, that's on you.

I had some specific interactions with a particular subset of the population that was there - young white men who'd not been around a lot. I decided to write about it. Plus, it's a blog where I was specifically talking about the unique experiences that happened to me while living in Korea.

Trust me. I get judgment here in the great US of A too. However, negative stereotypes of black people permeate the landscape here. That means an older white woman but also an older Latina woman will hold on a bit more tightly to their purses when I enter a subway car.

Funny because between my Android phone, iTouch and laptop, I've got more valuable things on me. But, isn't that the exact point I'm commenting on? Being judged by the content of my character be dammed, some people really just like to size people up based on little to nothing.

Ultimately, the point is I don't get to walk into a situation with a clean slate. (Honestly, few do as we're judged by how we dress and groom ourselves too.) What I mean by clean slate is, usually, whites get no assumptions foisted on them based just on race in normal situations. They will if they walk into the middle of a black family BBQ, but how many do that? How many times has someone called me based on my resume, talked to me on the phone and then arranged to meet me in person assuming I was white? A lot.

What I find notable is why white men choose to come in and lecture me on my opinion and how I expressed it. It's a comment section, so fine. However, I wrote about a lot of different things, yet let me be critical about something that happened to me a few times over and here comes a white guy defending his own or lacing in criticism of me for writing about it (or maybe merely being critical of how I chose to write about it.) To be fair, there have been some really supportive comments from white males or, men perceived as white. I guess it just comes with the topic.

Eh, this stuff happened to me. I noticed a pattern. I talked about it and tried to be more than clear that I wasn't talking about all white men.

Take it or leave it. It's my opinion and part of my story.

David said...

First of all, what I said about European guys was referring to your comment on "David's post a while back. And I quote: "
You're Irish, so you get a pass because one of the guys I wrote about in this post was British. However, he was probably looking at it more from a class perspective than race."

I can understand your perspective believe it or not. It must be incredibly frustrating for people to constantly underestimate you. My problem with this blog post is that to me it seems a tad hypocritical. I did not call you a racist, if you read my comment you would have seen my statement that I was glad you do not avoid all white people. Avoiding white male foreign teachers makes you judgmental, not racist.
If you are fine with that label then there's nothing more to be said.

Perhaps I'm already one of the "bad" white guys for being critical of the post but it is what it is. I guess I was "lecturing" you since as a white male I disagreed with you and was frustrated by your stereotyping. No, this is a simply exchange of ideas and I was more than civil enough for this public forum.

Regina said...

I never said you weren't civil. However, it's just that, a conversation. One that started when I wrote this years ago.

Maybe I felt the need to carve out an exception to make the Irishman feel better. Maybe it's also because my dealings abroad with Englishmen were a lot more civil than with white men from my own country. It's probably a bit of both because I know there is a rivalry between the Brits and Irish and I've got a soft spot for the underdogs, but I can't recall my frame of mind when I wrote it.

Well, good that I misunderstood that you'd thrown in a loaded term but you threw it in only to point out that I'm judgmental for having repeated bad experiences with a certain type and seeking to have more positive experiences with other people. Why should I have to associate over and over to not be labeled judgmental?

I moved to Korea in 2000. The first one of those incidents happened in 2000 where a young white guy just assumed I'd taken the university job he wanted. We applied for the same job. I got it. He didn't and was working for another university. The one that inspired me to write the post in 2006 was SIX YEARS LATER. It's 2010 and, if I moved back, I would STILL avoid that sort of guy and my life would be no less rich for doing so.

So excuse me that if after six years, I wasn't on some firm ground to have a very strong opinion. To take your example, I'll even say that if someone has been mugged by black men for six years and then decided to avoid the types of black men that mugged people, that I wouldn't have a problem with that. That would be pretty reasonable. In fact, you know what? I DO avoid black men who have a lifestyle of committing crimes. What's wrong with that? There are subsets, both good and bad, in all races. Avoiding the screwed up people is reasonable.

We can have a civil conversation, but I can also disagree with you. The disagreeing without name calling is what makes it civil.

Bcbgrl33 said...

I love this. I recently returned from Seoul after studying abroad during the month of July and I loved it and hope to return later in my academic career (perhaps at the University you studied at which has tuition exchange with my University)

Anyways, I too had to deal with white privilege and it's just like no matter where you go, even in a country full of people of color, there is always white male privilege and entitlement to contend with:
http://bcbgrl33.livejournal.com/12312.html#cutid1

Regina said...

OMG, girl...I'm reading your post and laughing.

Why? Because how many defensive douchebags have found my post and gone off trying to say I was wrong and that it was some exception usually not realizing that the experiences that I chose to write about in this post happened over a series of YEARS.

In fact, I'm so happy to see another post from another woman of color telling her story about an encounter in Korea of all places with another privileged twenty-something white guy who has the world already figured out that I'm linking it to these comments.

Hilarious and unfortunate.

Here is the link doubters: Seoul Searching from a Black Girl in Seoul: Dealing with White Privilege in Korea

Ryan said...

Regina--

I just discovered your blog this morning--looks interesting.

By no choice of my own I happen to be both white and male (I'm also American and arguably ugly, though I like to contend that I am NOT an ugly American), so this may not be the best place to post a comment, but I wanted to strike-up a conversation and hear more about your perspective on Korea and related topics.

I also have a law degree, have been living in NYC the past few years, and have been in and out of Korea since the turn of the century (I speak Korean, too). Are you in Seoul or NY now? I'm in Seoul until January then back to Manhattan--perhaps we could grab lunch at either side of the globe sometime?

Ryan

Regina said...

Hey Ryan,

I'm in NYC now, so sure.

However, in the next comment you'd have to leave me your email. Don't worry. I don't publish comments with emails. The other option? For now, I've put the Google Voice widget on my blog, so have at it.

Also, I figure since I got a lunch invite you understand I'm not attacking all white guys. It's this odd slice of y'all that congregate in Korea.

A few ex-beaus as well as good friends are white men. I think that's possibly where a lot of my shock came in. I'd simply not associated with the type I talk about in this post before. Since, I got along well with them prior to moving to Korea, who on Earth were these guys? Realization: all of y'all aren't the same. (Shocker, I know...).

I then realized I'd been spoiled with a particular genus of usually well-educated and progressive men. ;) Live, learn, get insulted and blog.

Chiomy said...

Wow, I read almost everything on this post and I gotta say, I am amazed... you would think that both being foreigners in another land a white guy would be able to at least try to get along with a black person (male or female) but no, dominance still has to be established....I am really impressed with your blog as I have been looking for information on black women living and working in Korea. I am of African descent so I don't have similar experiences to Black Americans, however, I have experienced racism in varying forms due to having lived in Europe and North America at different points in my life....however, that said, there are so many people out there - asian (in broad terms) or white who don't discriminate who more than make up for those who do...

Regina said...

Thanks for making it comment worthy (I hate that Blogger doesn't let you edit comments like WordPress does...sometimes you just want to remove someone's email. Are you hearing that Blogger?)

I know that a lot of whites aren't bigoted idiots like these guys. In fact, a good number of my friends are those people AND I was very careful to narrow the set I was talking about to a narrow slice.

For the most part, people are better. It's just when you have that negative interaction and you realize what's going on. That's always very disappointing. I feel sorry for people who see the world like that. When it happens over and over like it did in the situation that inspired me to write this post, well, that's an anomaly and something distinct to the situation I was in and the situation I was having at the time.

Cari Nelson said...

It's weird... about a week ago, this woman I work with actually accused me of being racist against other white people (just to clarify, I am a white woman which might make this sound more confusing.) I was just trying to explain that a lot of times I tend to prefer people of other races/cultures or "minorities"... I particularly have something against a lot of white guys, granted I have just as many white friends as I have other kinds of friends. But, that doesn't change the how a lot of young, white males come across... there's a certain arrogance and self-entitlement that drives me nuts.

So, I dunno, maybe i'm somewhat racist against my own race? I don't think that's necessarily true if I prefer other races...? Maybe it's the same thing as my filipino boyfriend saying a lot of negative things about people from the Philippines? He says people are pretty poor there and you need to watch your back with most filipinos? I just know that there's a certain kind of white person (not JUST males but some women too) that makes me embarrassed to be white sometimes. I will sometimes think, "Seriously? Do you have to make the rest of look like arrogant assholes??"

Although I haven't been to Korea yet, i'm getting the feeling that I may want to avoid other white people while over there ;)

Regina said...

It's really amazing to get comments on this post when it's something I wrote 5 years ago. That's great!

Okay, let me get back on the topic...

I think racial loyalty is something that hits anyone who is mindful and watching the people in his/her life. Honestly? I remember noticing racism and hypocrisy with other black people. However, I know it's sensitive because it can be seen as being only critical of your own kind. Some people want you to tack on a laundry list of qualifiers when the point is that a lot of times it is racially specific.

If you've got an eye for human folly, you're going to see it no matter what race someone is. Yeah, what I noticed were that there was a certain thing about a lot of young white men in Korea. However, there was a certain thing about black men there too. There was also a certain thing, probably, about the black women that were there.

The reason I noticed the white males was their set of biases would usually run straight into my set of biases. Sadly, for them, I'm an anomaly: smart and educated. So a lot of them tried to take a condescending and know-it-all tone. Hell, no one knows it all. I definitely know some white guy from Wherever, USA who, like me, was having his first great adventure abroad wasn't an authority on much.

That's when we'd conflict. They just weren't humble and open to discussing ideas. I was sensitive to being taken for granted and people assuming things about me based on skin color. They were all about telling me how the world was and, when they were wrong, I let them have it.

So, to be fair, there are arrogant jerks in all races.