Chiara was poking around craigslist and found this post in the rants & raves section. I don’t even know where to begin in thinking about this and how it’s scary and frustrating and sad, so I’m just going to start writing about it as I think about things or talk to others about it.
One thing that is noticeable is that the writer doesn’t seem totally ignorant of the existence of rest of the world, and it seems that the writer has traveled some. It’s scary that a sense of the world being larger than yourself, or getting to see other places isn’t enough in itself to escape one’s prejudices, and that your experiences in a foreign place can actually reaffirm or solidify those prejudices.
This part of the statement also stood out to me:
A lot of the students at IU are from Seoul, for example, which is basically like New York. If I lived in a city of 10 million people who all basically looked like me, I’d lose my mind and sure as hell wouldn’t be smiling at them.
I take this to be saying that Seoul is the size of New York but that everyone looks basically the same, which exposes this inability to recognize the difference in different groups of Asians or to ignore the combination of Asian (and other) cultures that surely exists in Seoul. It’s frustrating, because although it’s nice to have a sense of soldarity with other Asians in the US, in some ways it reinforces this idea of a homogenous, singular Asian culture.
Asians and other foreigners:
First of all, you have to understand that OVERT racism is not only acceptable in east Asia, but encouraged and even taught in the schools. So it’s only natural that they would seek each other out first as social contacts. Having said that, some Asians desperately want to fit in and don’t know how. Someone should teach them the ropes, and I think as guests in the US it’s their job to acclimate to the culture. They should learn to smile at people in public, for their own good. Nice people who deserve to fit in and make friends but they just don’t know how. Changing a bit to fit in with the host culture also goes for all the fucking latinos that show up in this country and expect to be treated like prodigal children though they can’t be bothered to learn English, or pay taxes, or follow laws. If you think I’m just being a bigot, learn Spanish and talk to some Mexicans about their opinions on the subject. Better yet, go live in Mexico and experience firsthand the ghetto mentality that they are raised with. Secondly, in most countries it is considered weird to smile at strangers, especially on the street. In France, for example, I was told that only retarded people and perverts smile and say hello to strangers on the street. I’m assuming that it’s no different in China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. A lot of the students at IU are from Seoul, for example, which is basically like New York. If I lived in a city of 10 million people who all basically looked like me, I’d lose my mind and sure as hell wouldn’t be smiling at them. Finally, the social unit in almost all cultures is the family. Friends are entirely secondary and strangers are just a nuisance in daily life. Americans are much more mobile and I would say that college is much more a social time for us than for most foreigners, so we have the idea that everyone wants to meet everyone and get to know them. But for many foreigners, strangers are only tolerated, rarely trusted. At least until they get to know you, by some miracle or accident, and then they will treat you well.