Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Things which bother me

Gentle readers, there are a few things which I have to get off my chest. They have been accumulating for about 1 and a half years now. So let's just get them over with.

When people tell a woman who just got her hair permed that her hair is beautiful because "it looks just like a foreigner's" or a handsome man is described as having a "nose like a foreigner" this bothers me.

When my student tells me that Chinese people are lazy because they can't distinguish between he and she in English*, this bothers me.

When I tell my boss some people think that Asians are not as creative as white people, and she replies "We aren't." in a tone of great certainty, this bothers me.

When people bob and smile and offer free discounts to white foreigners, this galls me.

When I explain the word "homemaker" and my student exclaims"Oh, like a Filipino maid!"in a tone of deepest contempt, this fucking bothers me.

When my student treats his Vietnamese maid like she's not even there when she comes to pick him up, this bothers me.

When no one but me talks to a student's Malaysian mother, even though she speaks Chinese, and everyone criticizes her parenting, because she's foreign, this bothers me.

When my student's father tells his daughter that America is dangerous because the "blacks and Mexicans kill each other and take drugs," this bothers the living fuck out of me.

Y'know when I first got here, I thought I would think about race differently. And I do. But these are the times when I wonder if it isn't just the same all over.

*The words for he and she sound the same in Chinese. For those who don't know Chinese, if you studied a Romantic language in high school, think of remembering the gender of every noun. Simple in concept, annoying and unintuitive in practice.


exangelena said...

In the book "Nickel and Dimed," (I'm pretty sure that's what it is) Barbara Ehrenreich tells a story about a Latina mother and her baby who pass a white mother and daughter in a supermarket. When the white daughter sees the Latina baby, she says, "Look, mommy! It's a baby maid!"
Yeah, and I could soapbox on for hours about the racism of beauty standards. There was some article that almost made me kick a hole through my monitor where nonwhites were getting nose jobs and eyelid surgery and said, "But it's not racist or self-hating! I just look better with a thinner nose/bigger eyes!" If you ever look at the Miss Universe or Miss World contestants, the only beauty queens darker than me are from Africa (and you know my ancestry and what I look like), all the contestants from India, Egypt, Southeast Asia and Latin America are white as snow.

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said... seems things are similar. sadly, in that aspect. so, are you teaching chinese in taiwan, and are from america?

yes...i know about that word gender thing. you are right in describing it.

what does "nose like a foreigner" mean where you are?

i once was friends with a japanese girl online. japanese-american, i should say. she once told me she liked my nose, or that it was "big." i guess my nose is not tiny, and maybe not "thin" but it is not really "large" to my mind. (i guess it's all relative!) it was an odd comment to me. "i like that your nose is big. it feels masculine" or something like that. i thought it was really strange! but hey. she said it as a compliment, so i took it. :)

does that make sense to you?

i love reading this stuff about places other than where i am. i feel so trapped behind a wall of...ignorance here. america is so not interested in other countries except in a really cloying, fake, distorted manner, and at odd times and for odd reasons. i long to travel more outside of this country, altho i've been all over it for most my life.

i wish i had time for so many more languages. i fear i'll never have time for chinese, japanese, and korean (although i can count for a while in korean, due to my years training in tae kwon do).

not as creative? nonsense. i've known more than a few asians in my life. i see NO evidence of that at all. in fact, all the asians i personally have known (a skewed sample, no doubt, due to my own interests) were quite creative. filmmaker, writer, graphic designer, art director...and so on. actor, singer, and so on.

yes, they use "blacks and mexicans" here, too....its a constant meme. to keep us from uniting. the white power structures' great fear. that the oppressed groups realize they have more in common than in differences.

exangelena said...

"what does 'nose like a foreigner' mean where you are?"
I'm not Loveless Cynic and I'm not from Taiwan, but some Asians get plastic surgery to build up the bridge of their noses or make it thinner. Source

"i love reading this stuff about places other than where i am. i feel so trapped behind a wall of...ignorance here."
Pardon me if I misinterpreted your comment, but isn't the gist of this post about racism in Taiwan, a nonwhite, non-Western country that doesn't have a long history of colonialism and/or domination by whites (AFAIK)?

Anonymous said...

The Taiwanese are openly racist, and do not feel a pinch of remorse for it.

-A Taiwanese American.

lovelesscynic said...

Nezua, I think "nose like a foreigner" means aquiline or just sharper featured. It was being used to describe a member of a Taiwanese boy band, but I'm still not sure which one it was.

Generally, the foreigners I've noticed get singled out as "handsome" are people with fairly sharp features, maybe among a predominantly Chinese society, it makes them kind of exotic.

And yes, I am a Japanese American living in Taiwan, and teaching English. Which has been interesting, partially in learning about Taiwanese culture, as well as just being able to be just a person for once in my life. Well, until I open my mouth anyway.

As for the anonymous Taiwanese American, I guess I would say yes and no. People here can be, in my experience, heinously racist towards black people in particular. Although pretty much anyone swarthier than they are is fair game for some.

However, I have met people here who have a racial consciousness. Often I think they see a solidarity with me because I am also Asian, and I apparently am not arrogant like an American (沒有美國的驕傲). I wouldn't say that Taiwanese are anymore racist than Americans.

Americans are just slicker about covering it up. They think the same things, I'm pretty sure, they just don't bother to hide it as much as Americans because they don't need to.

That said, I am interested as to where Asian racism comes from. How these ideas got passed along, when and how. But that's probably a topic for another time.

exangelena said...

"In 1990, then Japanese Minister of Justice Seiroku Kajima made an analogy in a speech about how prostitution ruins a neighborhood, stating 'It is like in America when blacks move into a neighborhood, and whites are forced to leave' ... Such statements by Japanese officials are not uncommon, as even ex-prime minister Nakasone continuously shared his belief in the intellectual inferiority of American minorities while in office '

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

exangelena, "nose like a foreigner" means nothing here. nobody would use that phrase.

and yes, i think i understand the post. i love learning about anything outside of my situation. is there a reason your comments feel antagonistic? or am i misinterpreting?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

anyway, sorry if my questions seemed stupid or ignorant. i have to admit, im not incapable of making such comments when trying to learn about other cultures. i was raised in america, remember. effort and willingness count, but they dont erase they hype i've absorbed growing up. thats why i ask questions. thats the only way.

lovelesscynic said...

Well, for the record, I didn't find your questions to be ignorant. And I thought you understood the post. And I wrote it. =)

Actually, in the US, "nose like a foreigner" might mean rather the opposite to what it does in Asia, wouldn't it? Since, as Pat Robertson so ably demonstrates, according to many Americans, the swarthier races are the real foreigners.

But you're right, we probably wouldn't use that word. Taiwan has very few immigrants, and most of them are from Asia, so the physical differences are less striking. Foreigner is just a stand in for white. America, there are so many people from so many different places, we have to get a lot more specific.