Sunday, November 3, 2013

Racism on Facebook and in South Korea

A Facebook friend of mine began this horrible flame-war about racism today that has given me a lot of mixed feelings. Basically, she was bemoaning the fact that Halloween has become an excuse for blatant and forgivable racism. I can definitely see the point--I mean, when I was three, my mom painted by face with mascara for a beard and put me in a poncho and I went as a Mexican. I suppose you could say it was a different time, but it certainly wasn't the most politically-correct costume choice.

However, this friend took it several steps further--painting those that participate in All Soul's or Dia de los Muertos as culture-appropriating assholes. This accusation has its flaws, as they are not one and the same. All Soul's is a Catholic holiday, not strictly a Mexican one, and Dia de los Muertos is the Mexican mode of celebrating this Catholic holiday. As a result, not all who celebrate Dia de los Muertos are Catholic, nor are All Soul's supporters necessarily Mexican. When others attempted to point this out, they were flamed as racist mansplainers. Althought the writer of the post was saying "I hate white people" and "I hate how white people [blahblahblah]," which is, in my opinion, just another form of racism. It spreads the hate, pure and simple, and prevents people from coming together to solve problems. Of course, as a white person of privilege, I am able to say that this is, for me, the most poisonous aspect of racism in the world.

However, having another, more unique perspective--that of a white person living in South Korea, where I am constantly discriminated against, put into positions where others, possessing the cultural capital that I do not, are able to disadvantage me with their words and their actions. I suffer from the discrimination, but also the paranoia of perceived discrimination--that nagging voice in the back of my head that questions why something is happening--is it because I am white or is it because of something else that I don't understand? Being put in this position--where people have literally spit on me because of the color of my skin, where I am judged daily because of how I look--only reinforces the importance of coming together. I am lucky that I grew up in America as part of the majority, where this racism was not ingrained in my psyche and doesn't define how I perceive the world around me. I have that privilege. But I also have perspective.

I have watched this daily grind turn some foreigners here into racists against Koreans, but it only perpetuates the cycle. Whether or not a minority can truly discriminate against the majority, how does perpetuating hate in any form serve anyone? Does it vindicate the minority? I've sat around with foreigners, making their racist jokes and whining about their discrimination. But I've never felt vindicated by that. I have felt vindicated by finding Koreans who aren't intentionally racist, educating each other about our cultures and beginning to feel understood.

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