So, an interesting thing about being in Seoul is the renewing of your self worth a little bit as a Black woman.
I knew Korea/Asia was going through a White/Pale Skin fetish but sometimes it's just overwhelming. The aesthetic here is Pale skin, big eyes, and a small face, so many Koreans-especially K-Pop stars-are lightening their skin and getting the Double-Eyelid surgery in an attempt to look whiter.
Sometimes, I hate going shopping because there are some stores, especially the European/American Brand Name Stores that have nothing but White models. We went to Forever 21 and nothing but WHITE models. They ranged from pale to sallow beige. Even the White girls I were with were annoyed. I mean you're in freaking Asia yet your 'diversity' is just white to tan caucasian girls. One store just had two asians, but they were so white, obviously mixed, and barely looked Asian. They got the whitest Koreans they could find.
I came up with a new rule: if you do not feature asian models or other colored models I will not buy from you. I really prefer the stores that do not have any ads, just mannequins modeling. Those are the only places I will spend my money.
Another thing is the subtle stabs when you hear the praising of pale skin. When I'm with my white friends some storekeepers will compliment them on their white skin and wished their skin was that pale. When we go out in the hot Korean sun, my Asian-American friends will complain that their skin might darken and slather on sunscreen. And finally one of the U.O.S. Korean boys when asked what kinda girls he prefers, he said light skinned girls. I told him "The Darker the Berry, the Sweeter the Juice".
That is my motto that I say repetitiously and it is one I say with pride and determination to try and break through mine and their consciousness that has been berated with images of White Supremacy for years. "Black is Beautiful" is what I repeat to myself over and over again.
And that is another thing. Apparently I'm racially ambiguous. A Korean woman told me I looked like Sandra Bullock...yeah. I excused myself to go nurse my adopted New Orleans baby.
My Korean roommate and even many whites didn't know my race and when I say Black, I always have to follow it up with "Full" and "No White people since slavery". I even have to show people a picture of my parents. I feel I should just carry around a Pictorial Family Tree wherever I go. The "ooh you are so exotic" kinda gets grating after awhile. I am no one's special snowflake. I am a proud Black woman.
Also I get a lot of stares here, mostly by older people. It's not so much staring as it is gawking at me which I get because I guess Koreans don't really see many foreigners but I always feel like they are trying to figure out what the hell I am. It seems the concept of race here is not as prevalent as it is America. Jaeyong, Jinsook, and many other Korean students had a hard time figuring out that the African Diaspora is a mosaic of skin colors, hair textures, and facial features. Well Jaeyong thought that Jessica Alba was black, but that's another story.
I am not the only one who gets stares. Many of my white friends and other foreign students get stares and hostile glares while here. However, some of the white foreigners unfortunately conflate the stares with racism. I corrected my friend who conceded that what she was experiencing in no way mirrors what people of color go through. I don't at all think it's racism that I'm experiencing but apparently it's just a curiosity thing as they don't see too many foreigners. I'm fine with it now, I kind of like the attention.
Sometime it all gets frustrating and irritating and grates on my self esteem, but I try to ignore it because I am having such a fun time and I also get some Korean men who break custom to say hello to me, which is fun. Also it's fun having staring contests on the subways.
Picture: *Sorry* My friend Maegan from Kentucky and me on the Right, I'm the girl in Red sorry*