This was uploaded, of all places, to a DIY website–a place where people who do stuff like make soap, candles, and that kind of thing hang out.
If you looked closely, I’m sure you caught the two disturbing things about it: first, that “How I see myself” is full of images of white people… but secondly, that image about “How my mother sees my friends” is… yep, a group of black people.
And what do you know, but in the comments to the original post, that particular image is singled out as being especially funny. Oh, hee hee, ha ha. Black people are hilarious, apparently. Heaven forbid you actually be friends with black people. If your mom looks down on your Korean friends like they are black, imagine what she’d think of you being friends with actual black people.
On a DIY website, where “nice” young women go to network with other people who like to make things like soap, skin cream, and so on. And people actually singled out the image with the black people in it as especially funny.
(Mrs. Jiwaku commented about how racist she found it, and the comments thread went silent after a few more individuals commented about how excellent or funny the post was.)
This is one of the biggest frustrations for us in living in Korea, and one of the reasons we’re leaving: because as nice as many of our Korean friends are–not everyone thinks this way–it’s extremely rare that any of them stand up to someone who says something bigoted… and so, often, Miss Jiwaku finds herself alone saying, “What you just said is racist!” or “What you just said is sexist!” or “What the hell are you talking about?” And the hardest part is saying that to people she’s known for a decade or more, and who have been coming out with this shit more, not less, in recent years. That, to me, is a measure of something: that average people who never used to use Korean racial slurs or criticize foreigners, are now doing it with increasing regularity, despite no increase in their interaction with non-Koreans.
(It’s not like this is attributable to a bad personal experience, in other words; anti-foreign sentiment just seems to be a growing part of the zeitgeist. Perhaps that’s in part due to the growing presence and visibility of foreigners here, but I suspect that Anti-English Spectrum (see Matt’s series on this hate-group here) is a part of it too… they surely helped shape that zeitgeist, by cozying up with reporters and getting coverage in the news as well as online.)
I’ll emphasize that not all Koreans think this way. It’s just that when such attitudes go largely unchallenged, people who are by local standards “nice” and “average” will from time to time come out with lines like, “But Chinese people are dirty!” or “But black people are uneducated!” Even if plenty of people know that these things aren’t true, until they start calling people on it when they say these things, such attitudes will be socially acceptable here… certainly much more socially acceptable than, say, a woman smoking a cigarette or a young man going to a cinema with a male friend.
It’s really tiring to have to live in that environment, especially as a mixed-race couple. That’s another part of why we are leaving.
For those who are curious, I’ve made up a rebuttal image. I think I should probably make a Korean version, as well, so that people who don’t speak English can see what we deal with.
To be fair, I’m pretty sure my family doesn’t see Mrs. Jiwaku as a kind of Yoko Ono-type, and her family seems now to be trying in earnest to get over the horror of it all.
The rest of the images rely on some kind of exaggeration, and leave out the fact that, in reality, most of the friends we actually spend time with are mutual friends. Exaggeration, yes… but there’s grains of truth all over this thing.
If it resonates with your experience, feel free to repost it!