Caveat: More neverminding

Normally, I try to change themes with each new post. But this racism thing seems to have opened a can of worms – not so much among others, as in my own mind – although I’ve received some feedback, too.  

My friend Christine wrote a long comment in an email to me, which she sent to me right as I was posting my first “nevermind” (previous post). She said things that surprisingly matched what I wrote in that post, but one thing she said that I didn’t address stands out.  I will quote the relevant paragraph:

I would never defend racism, especially after my own experiences with them. But honestly, after all the racial slurs / comments I’ve heard in America towards non-whites (and many directed at me), I don’t feel like Koreans’ racist views are all that unique, only disturbing in how comfortable they are in them. But you know…if you want to see things as cause and effect rather than good or bad, Korea’s own idea of race will probably change as they become economically wealthier, better known globally, thus inadvertently attracting other races to move to Korea. 

I think this is a very important perspective, and it’s surprising to me that I didn’t include some mention of this before, in either my original post or in my subsequent apology. Surprising to me, because, in fact, I’ve talked about this idea very often with friends (probably with Christine, more than once, last year): Korea is changing rapidly, including in its attitudes about race. I’ve said before that actually, I believe Korea may be better positioned, culturally, to become a country that welcomes immigrants than any of its neighbors, e.g. especially Japan or Taiwan, which are the countries it most resembles socio-economically at this point.

And if Korea is going to be welcoming immigrants, that implies strongly that it’s going to be dealing with its blatant racists in some way or another… much as Europe has been struggling, not to mention the U.S., over its long historical cycles of immigrant-welcoming and immigrant-bashing.

What I most want to make clear is that even in my anger, in my original post, I realized that the racists in Korea are not the majority. And my conclusion, now, is that they’re really no more numerous than in other places. They’re only more visible, because of the lack of social constraint on the open expression of such ideas.

Perhaps the same analysis could be applied to one of my other personal conflicts with Korean culture: ageism. This is one which negatively affects me much more directly than the issue of racism (which, given the bias toward people of northern European descent, actually favors me, in a majorly guilt-inducing way – see also the “charisma man” phenomenon, from Japan). I wonder if, like what I’m saying about racism, Koreans are only more open about age-related biases that, in fact, exist within and across most world-cultures, these days: the youth-worship, the superficial-beauty-cult (with respect to both woman and men), etc.

These tendencies are deeply embedded in the output of the world media machine(s) (i.e. Hollywood) , which Koreans happily consume, just like Americans. If anything, we should be looking for the origins of Koreans’ worship of youth, superficial beauty, as well as their preference for pale skin and blue eyes, not in Korean culture, but in the Western paradigms they’re avidly consuming.

More later.


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