1.07.2014

When I Step on the Scene...All Eyes on Me

"I love the attention, but I don't like too much of it" ~Your Inner Celebrity 

The lyrics in the song could not be more real as Black chick in Korea. But its not all fun and games as LMFAO intended it to be. When I first arrived here, I immediately noticed the blatant stares, especially by older Korean people. As soon as I walked onto the subway or bus, their eyes were on me. They would walk right up to my face and just look. They sometimes would look me up and down, as if they were amazed I was able to stand up right on two legs. Others would reach and touch my hair and then keep it moving as if they had not just violated my personal space. By the way, ask any foreigner in Korea and they will tell you that personal space is virtually nonexistent here.

I've been here all of five months and upon arriving I told myself that I was not going to get upset or annoyed by the stares that everyone had warned me about. And when a Korean man or woman (always older) came up to me I would engage them in conversation. They'd ask about my hair and I would ask them if they liked it. Usually they would smile and say yes. Others, clearly shocked that I could utter 2-3 words in Korean would literally back down and leave me alone. Some would touch my legs. The attention is not so bad in the beginning. But then it starts to really annoy you. Mind you, 98% of the time its older Korean people. Younger Korean people could care less about you. With WiFi everywhere their eyes are stuck to their Samsung Notes as soon as they make their way to a comfortable position on the bus or subway.
Saturday night, I was standing relatively close to my Korean male friend waiting on the subway and two older Korean ladies walked by and stared us down. My friend, who had not noticed these things before said "Whoa that was weird". And I said to him "Get used to it when you're with me".
I was fine until a couple of days ago. Monday evening, after meeting a friend and enjoying the day, I boarded the subway around 10:20pm. As soon as I stepped foot on the car, an older Korean man (Ahjussi) starts staring at me. And when I say staring, he is bending down to get a good look at my face. Then he starts cirlcing me. I kept my eyes on my phone. Scrolling through messages, taking advantage of that 5G WiFi. The man was being excessive and it was bothering me. I tried to ignore it, but I was getting hot. Then, all of a sudden, another older man, standing behind be yells at the creepy guy. "Ya! What is your problem" he yells in Korean. "Why the hell are you looking at her like that?" he sucks his teeth. "She is human like the rest of us!" he says. He continues to yell at the man. The creepy guy slowly sits back in his seat, but the older man behind me is not done. He tells him to get off at the next stop. Everyone is staring. Mind you, in Korea the subways and buses are very quiet. So, this was AWKWARD. The creepy guy gets off at the next stop and all is quiet again. The man who helped me, got off at the following stop. He did not even look at me. I did not know what to do. I was kind of in shock. I should have thanked him. I should have. But in that moment, I could not believe what had happened.

After five months in Korea, I felt so different. Like a spectacle. It was inevitable. Some would say that Korean have never seen black people before--well I don't agree. Curiosity is one thing, but blatant rudeness is another. In the states was I invisible? Or just normal? What some would label as racism towards foreigners, I label as fear of foreigners...same difference?

Until next time good people. 

20 comments:

  1. I'm glad the one older gentleman stood up for you. I have no idea why that guy did that (never seen a black person or whatnot), but I have a theory. I had a cousin in the Army years back who went over there. He told me that a lot of the white people were going over there telling all kinds of stories about blacks. One reason was to make sure the Korean women didn't start dating black men. Not saying this is why that guy ogled you, but I wouldn't be surprised.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "He told me that a lot of the white people were going over there telling all kinds of stories about blacks. "

      Ok, two things:
      1) That reminds me of a post here that mentioned white U.S. soldiers telling the Japanese during the post-WWII occupation that it was Black people who operated the Nagasaki/Hiroshima bomb planes. Wtfing over that to this day.

      2) WHY CAN'T THEY KEEP US OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS?! I'm flabbergasted and irritated.

      Delete
    2. Awww MAN! That is just awful. But very much a plausible theory. Like how in WW2 they said the Black soldiers had tails and whatnot.

      I remember a post I think K did a little while back talmbout how racism is the USA's biggest export.

      Its one thing to deal with someone who has never seen a Black person their whole lives, not on TV or anywhere, and rubs your skin wondering if the chocolate flavor will come off onto their hands VS. someone reacting to some racist crap you don't even know WHAT was said about Black folks and you sitting there maybe possibly being put in DANGER of that shit.

      But really don't feel bad about not being able to thank that guy who stood up for you. He possibly thought you didn't understand a word of what he was saying to to the staring dude. He was simply disgusted at his fellow countryman for being such a complete asshole and the "she is human like the rest of us" shows his level of empathy and compassion - and well lack of ignorance that made the ignorance of the creepy staring guy absolutely intolerable to him.
      Good on him for running that guy off the train.

      iCant with white people running their mouths on us all over the world. Simply. Can. NOT.

      Delete
    3. I'm always learning things on here.

      Anyways, I was thinking about an incident a friend of mine was talking about concerning her uncle while he was in Japan .The natives wanted to take pictures with him because they thought that he was a basketball player. I guess being a 6'6"Black man made people think that. (Ironically, he was a computer engineer who hated the sport).

      I'll be honest, I'll do my best not to show my fear but that would freak me out. I can ignore the stares, but Ill be scared of the stalking and the personal examinations. I think that I would probably tell them that the creepy stares makes me feel uncomfortable in a nice way.

      Maybe some of the older Koreans who are from smaller towns rarely/never seen a person of color. I read one girls blog on how her boyfriends future in laws have never seen a Black person and White people in their small town, but in the big cities and where TV(CNN) I see it to be less of an excuse.

      I also agree about White society role in this and the point about the White soldiers is an excellent .I've always felt that when people get into someone else's domain that they will show out: their bigotry nd other supremacist behavior. They want to look good by putting the lies on us. I've also heard the same thing about White U.S. servicemen doing this with the Inuit women in Alaska. It may be one thing for some Asians in those countries to respect lighter skin but it's another when you have guys who have no idea about you or culture,..to spread lies about your people. When it comes to Blacks and Whites being in countries like Korea, most of them are not going to educate the truth about us or be our friends. It's about them and the bogus pedestal that they want to maintain throughout the world.

      Delete
    4. @M- I've also heard the same thing about White U.S. servicemen doing this with the Inuit women in Alaska.

      I'm sure this was the case back in the day in Alaska. There weren't many other women (black or white up there). Now though you notice a lot of intermarriage and marriage with your own race. The state is mostly now people from outside Alaska like Hawaii, different groups of Africans going to college, people from the lower 48, and a large group of Caribbeans. I'm not saying its all champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

      As I stated the incident my cousin told me about was back in the 80s so I cannot confirm that it is still going on, but I'm sure it probably is.

      Delete
    5. ^ Yup. F*cking bullshit.

      Delete
  2. Jojo you're right about being put in DANGER. You know whats interesting...Koreans become very embarrassed when their countrymen act a certain way, especially in front of foreigners. There was a mentally disturbed man on the train a few weeks ago and everyone was doing their damndest to not look his way. So, you're right I am sure he was just absolutely disgusted.

    Also, I do remember hearing that nasty things were said about Blacks from white people especially during wartime back in the day. And this could especially be true in Korea during the Korean War. Its funny because I am reminded of that war when the bus rolls by Camp Henry or Camp Walker here. They look just like they do in the movies...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most of the time when I meet a new Korean person, they always make sure to tell me that they didn't know black people could be so beautiful and nice like me, because they are used to seeing blacks in such an ugly light in the media. The first time I heard that it floored me, especially since it was coming from someone who worked at the office of education in my province!!
      BTW tiger I've been in Korea for 5 months too. I sent a message through the contact section, but is there any other way for me to contact you directly.
      Please check out my youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/1NonlyChloe

      Delete
    2. Chloe yes, I get that too. They are generally and genuinely surprised that I was so kind and calm. You're here!! We may have been in orientation together and not know it. Add me on Kakao tyger1123 or email me at hangi373@gmail.com

      Delete
  3. So, last year my twin sister and I went to Shanghai for 2 weeks. We are used being stared because of the fact that we are twins. Whether it is in Africa or in Europe, it seems that some people are always keen on guessing whether we are twins or not.Some have the courage to come up to us and ask us whether we are twins. Sometimes, the staring can get a bit uncomfortable though. So on our first day in Shanghai, we arrived around 11 pm and after much difficulties trying to find our hostel, we went to sit in a Starbucks, as soon as we were seated, I noticed we were getting stares which didn't bother me. Nevertheless, the one thing which annoyed me was this one man taking pictures of us. He tried to do it discreetly but we still noticed him. So for the following 2 weeks, we had strangers taking pictures of us. At last whenever we went to visit tourist attractions or museums, people came up to us asking them to take pictures with them. Most of these people weren't from Shanghai. The stares can get really uncomfortable, sometimes it's as if someone is taring right through you, it is as if they have laser eyes. Having the feeling of being an attraction is a bit disheartening, objects or places are meant to be attractions, not human beings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "objects or places are meant to be attractions, not human beings."

      Wow, that is excellent and sums up my feeling on your experience and Silver Tiger's experience. You all are not there for someone's amusement or ogling. I'll admit sometimes when I think I will never see something again I use my camera to take picks but NEVER of people. That is rude and disrespectful. Honestly, unless you are doing "Where's Waldo?" there really is no point to stare. It is just really creepy.

      Delete
  4. Considering the number of Korean women who married Black soldiers after WW2 and the Korean War, I'm actually surprised to learn that white soldiers spread lies about their Black comrades (ditto, M, on learning something valuable each time I visit this blog). Call me naive, but I doubt those Blasian marriages would have happened if many Koreans believed the white soldiers' lies. Which makes me curious, Silver Tiger, about the racial makeups of Camps Henry and Walker. Historically, have mainly white soldiers been stationed there?

    And I know better than to expect that Black people will be welcomed with open arms in East Asian countries. Yet with the globalization and appropriation of hip hop culture, especially by K-pop stars, it truly boggles my mind how Koreans of all ages seem so taken aback by your very existence. If a foreign visitor exhibited the same abhorrent behavior which you described towards Koreans, it would be called out for what it is: disgusting and unacceptable. So how (and why) is the reverse is OK?

    As for that guy on the subway, he sounds like a sociopath. I hope that the Korean subway system is similar to Japan's, where there are attendants at every stop to help with maintenance, remove unruly passengers, etc. If it is, then please make a formal complaint.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Silver...honey...I had a similar experience while riding the bus in West Virginia. *blinks*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha!! Now multiply that experience for every time you step out of your house.

      Delete
  6. I live in Korea too, but I live in the south in a really small town. When I first got here I felt like everyone was staring at me. It's toned down a lot now since I've been here for 5 months. I still get the occasional stare, but people are really friendly here and usually just curious, so when they catch me looking at them while they stare at me they will either smile and look away or take it as an invitation to come talk to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Overall everyone is very friendly. But those small incidents really make you wonder about what Koreans really think about black people. Koreans do not show emotion so its hard to tell what their intentions are. If you livw in the south you must be close to me. I'm in Daegu.

      Delete
  7. Curiously, I have the opposite experience here in Taiwan, older people seem to like me the most haha. Most of the people who engage me in conversation seem to be 50's+ There was a woman who came up to me at the park and talked to me for 30 min., giving me suggestions on where to travel, telling me to be careful, talking to me about her son who works in Japan. I find that people my age are the most hostile toward me, don't really know why. It can be frustrating sometimes, especially when people think it's okay to insult you because they think you don't know the language.

    An older lady and her friend sort of came to my defense when a group of late-teens/twenty-somethings were constantly barraging me with insults by telling me not to listen to them, that I was pretty, ect. Even if it was just to make me feel better, it did give me a good feeling. I think at this point, I just like to focus on the positive :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fascinating!!!!! I'm curious about the sociology behind that. It may very well just be a sign of the wisdom that comes with age.

      Delete
    2. I can't speak fully on younger people (I'm early twenties), but I have noticed a lot with my younger sister and the friends that she talks about. There are some noticeable internal issues with themselves and their "blackness". I've noticed my sister has some color issues, and so do her friends. With the amount of anti-blackness and issues of the sort within the media, I wouldn't be surprised if that was making it's way to Taiwan. The younger generation is connected to the internet 24/7, it's no telling what they see and are made to BELIEVE about us.

      Delete

Comments are no longer accepted.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.