A Racist Novelty
I recently had an interesting conversation. It took place in a bar where the crowd was boisterous and drunk. Happy though, and the feelings of mirth radiated throughout the Edmonds establishment named the Channel Marker. It was a Saturday night, and the level of energy was higher than most Saturday nights in Edmonds. Not particularly wanting to be social extrovert and conversation hopper, I greeted the familiar faces that pop up in your home town bar, received heavy and loving hugs from those who were more intoxicated, and found my way back to quieter areas. With me were my cherished friend Trevor and his crew, and the daughter of the Korean Consulate General, who happens to be my next door neighbor. You could say my neighborhood is peculiar in a way, but I suppose everybodys' is to them. We were sitting comfortably around a table, enjoying fairly priced alcohol, and our conversation was a relaxed one. It would pleasantly build, break off into side conversations and at times come back to involve everyone.
Now it was during one of these side conversations that I had with Suzan (the Korean Consulate Generals daughter), where thought provoking questions flourished. We automatically had things to talk about given that she was born and partially raised in Korea, and I lived and worked in Korea for nearly 7 months and could flaunt my own Korean vocabulary which consists of an impressive 7.5 words. It was during this exchange of words that I informed her on many different occasions, my friends and I were denied entrance to certain night spots while in Korea. Furthermore, we were absolutely and positively (based on the translation of my Korean brother Johnny Blaze) denied entrance solely because we were white, foreign, and or of non-Asian descent. I can vividly, albeit drunkenly remember the faces of those door men taking one look at us, saying something indeterminate and shaking their heads "no" or "anneeyo."
How we arrived at that point in the conversation I can't remember. Call it a lack of charm, a lack of common sense, or simply a lack of fear to explore uncomfortable areas. She understandably did not take very kindly to my comments. As a side note I want to stress how much I love all that is Korea. A truly one of a kind and wonderful culture. I have said many times that it was probably the most hospitable countries that I have known. However, no place is without its flaws. America sure as shit isn't. So I respectfully told her, without incrimination or accusation in my tone, that a couple of times I was discriminated against because I was white.
We tasted discrimination not because we were rude, or flatulent, or violently jump kicking innocent bystanders in the lobes of their ears, but because we were foreign. How curious it felt to be discriminated against; strangely I wasn't even offended at the lack of decency in these quiet Koreans barring our entry, the only thing worthy of getting irritable over was having to wait for beer. I wonder if those doormen really cared about doing their job. Their delicate racism, if such a thing exists, was more novelty than anything. I recall giggling when the situation was fully explained. I laughed at the fact that this kind of thing still exists, at least in countries yearning to establish/advance themselves in the first world. Maybe its a bit of my own naivety revealing itself, or my own untarnished faith in the world to be so surprised that an act such as this, however harmless, still happens today.
So I told Suzan the Korean national that this happened to me (which makes me sound like an insensitive schmuck, but I assure you it wasn't completely inappropriate), and she flat out refused to believe me. She said "no...there's no way" while incredulously shaking her head. "Maybe there was an issue with your wardrobe." Upon hearing this I exploded into laughter on the inside, as my wardrobe while in Korea could be described as questionable. I did own a raging mohawk at one point. This is besides the point though, and it wasn't our clothing that prevented us from getting inside that night. But I sensed the seriousness in her tone, and saw it in her eyes. I knew immediately I had stumbled upon the sensitive ground of patriotism and pride for one's country, knowing the same ground intimately myself having been a traveling American for months. Having sensed this pocket of sensitivity like blasting cold air on a nerve naked of enamel, I knew to just drop it faster than a hot bowl of kimchi. Interest in arguing the subject was immediately lost in the interest of increasing diplomacy, and also in shock for Suzan's inability to accept something negative about Korea. The issue was dropped and we agreed that the soft racism was probably caused from my wearing of jean shorts. I wanted to tell her that you can love and be proud of something without it being perfect, but maybe she can come to find that kernel of truth in her own bag of popcorn.