Thursday, September 8, 2011

White Privilege: Not Just for Americans

Before coming to China, Jason and I were hoping to teach English in Korea.  Of course, now we know that it was simply not in the plans for us to avoid going to China, but I had a hard time grappling with the reasons for why we couldn't find a position teaching English.

"Hi, you are Korean American, right?" the girl at the teaching agency asked.

"Yes, I am.  But I was born in America and I've lived there my entire life."

"Yes, but it is very difficult to find a school that will take a teacher who does not look like an American."

To which my next question should have been, "Well, what the hell does an American look like?"  I suppose people everywhere are ignorant of the fact that different countries contain a diverse range of physicalities.  I'll admit that it still surprised me just a little bit (ok, maybe more) when I met a Chinese-South African, or when I realized that there is a huge Asian-Australian population-- a group of people who look a lot like me but speak with a way cooler accent.

Does it get frustrating when I walk into a class full of students fully expecting a "foreign-looking" teacher whose disappointment is clearly written all over their faces because I look Chinese?  Yes, and the whole explanation about not being from Korea, and having not much of a Korean national identity, is never easy to get out.

But what is more infuriating than having to explain myself a hundred times a week to taxi drivers, restaurant workers, office workers, sales clerks, and nearly every other person in China is that I could never get the job in Korea, or the job posted here on the blog, simply because I don't enjoy white privilege.  Not only that, but the job very well may go to some idiot whose Modus Operandi it is to sleep with as many unsuspecting Asian women and get as plastered as possible every night while still being able to show up to class the next morning, just to play a pirated DVD of Friends and sleep off his hangover at his desk.  But it doesn't matter.  Because he is white.

So what do I hope to gain from my little rant?  Really, nothing.  I'm as little of a fan of white guilt as I am of white privilege.  Am I saying all Chinese people are ignorant for thinking that I look Chinese?  No.  Because frankly, so would Dave Chapelle.

I suppose I'd like to say just this: WAKE UP.  It's no surprise that the world is a diverse place, and thankfully, the media is just starting to catch onto it.  Racism is still a problem today, but namely because of things like this advertisement and the people who perpetrate the problem are those who assume that one's ability is based on the color of their skin.  If the Chinese continue to believe that because "we all look the same," racism is not a problem in this society, they are sorely wrong and will continue to fall short of the social advances of their world power neighbors, who are just now learning to embrace their diversity as an asset.

'marshawu,' you should seriously start reconsidering the wording on your advertisement.  And I'm not your friend.

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