Wednesday, March 17, 2010

dagTopics: On Foreigners Treating Korea Like a Zoo

about "dagTopics" Through controversy and conflict and good debate, we learn from each other. I post something about my life here in Seoul. I add a little commentary that presents my point of view. Though I'm always trying to be clear and focused, I'm not always settled about how I feel about the issues. Those issues that bug me and that I think are profound enough to share, I'll post as open topics under the title "dagTopics". My hope is that I can discuss the issues with friends and strangers. As long as the comments aren't from trolls or flamers, all will be welcome.

In comedy, there's a significant difference between laughing at someone and laughing with them. The problem is magnified when the way we classify people--sex/gender, class, and/or race--is foregrounded within comic situations. Comedy can be oppressive, even when we're just out to get a laugh. The foreigner-authored video below, from Seoul, shows exactly how oppression works in humor: if the man is the joke, and he is in this example, it's oppressive. And I'd say, in this case, racist. And that will likely piss off the people who are a part of the video because it's more than apparent that they're absolutely unaware about how offensive it actually is. And I'd say, tough, because they should be more aware and they should care about it.

I've had it with people who are incapable (because they don't care to be more responsible) of understanding how offensive and bigoted some of their behavior ends up being. There is a two-fold response from my foreign friends in these situations. First, they like to point out how they are with Koreans. "You know, we were with Koreans and they didn't have a problem with it" is a typical argument. Second, folks will point out that they weren't intending to be oppressive. (In addition, somebody is sure to write about how bigoted Koreans are in the comments following this post. So, a third response is always that the subjects are bigots, too.)

I'm tired of hearing foreigners defend offensive behavior; saying "I'm with Koreans" is just as dumb as saying "Some of my best friends are black/gay/Mexican/[insert commonly oppressed person's class.]" My UK and US friends know better: they would never be permitted to make that bullshit claim at home. Why is it permissible here?

It's embarrassing for me to watch this video and think that these folks felt that filming an old man enjoying himself in a park near his home and mocking him is funny. I say they think it was worth doing because they published the video for everyone to see. That it was something that might make people laugh, well that annoys me even more.

What is it in this video that we are supposed to laugh at or with? Why laugh at or laugh with? Well, try this. Watch the video with the sound off and then with the sound on. With the sound off, there's nothing much to find offensive. The video might seem a little intrusive. But the old guy is dancing in public. We don't know the author's intention and, I'd argue, it's not worth it to guess. With the sound on, however, the whole purpose and intent of the video become part of the viewing experience: from the exaggerated laughing and filming the people laughing to the sexual quip at the end about being turned on, the entire narrative is framed at the expense of the man. The joke is him. Not the dancing. Not something happening around him. Nothing coincidental. It's staged to show the white people laughing at and mocking the Korean man. In addition, I know that Koreans were present at this scene and with the foreigners making the video. Where are they? Why are they not shown mocking the man? (I can answer that but I don't think you need me to.)

The fact is, the folks aren't sharing a moment with the old man that is genuinely humorous; they are mocking him in order to actively and aggressively create a comic moment. And this is where racism becomes an issue. And what 할아버지 (harabeoji: grandfather) is doing isn't by any stretch of the imagination odd. It is humorous, I suppose. I'd smile and laugh, for sure. So, don't get me wrong.

I'm trying hard to make the point that the audio does something to what we're supposed to find funny, changes the innocent humor in an old man dancing in a park to a more critical humor that examines the man himself, and it laughs at his expense because of who he is.

Quite frankly, I find the video rather disturbing and unfunny. I never have been comfortable with using a video camera in this manner. Nevertheless, without the banter, the video is funny and rather candid. It captures something real, possibly poignant. The video is engaging because of what somebody did with a mundane moment. It's a 28 second primer in how photography is never innocent.

I think you'd have to be naive and precious not to understand that this clip is offensive. Yet, I see foreigners in Korea acting like this all the time: turning on a camera to capture a Korean doing something while pointing and laughing at the Korean. I have to admit that my knee-jerk reaction is to beat the shit out of the dumb white person. In the US, I'm surrounded by unconscious bigotry everyday. Not your institutionalized and structural problems that people ignore, but your outright racist behavior that your friends insist you ignore. I never have ignored it and I'm not about to start now. Fortunately, I can write. I'd hate to put my future in jeopardy simply because a couple of my foreign friends are haters.

I realize all foreigners in Korea aren't white. But it'll come as no surprise to my readers that the yelling, screaming and mocking groups of foreigners are usually white. Will it?

Here's the video. If you haven't watched it and want to, I can show it to you offline. I removed the video per the authors' request. Continue to use the comments to discuss.


Juan Bastos said...

In this video, I see a beautiful person, and a really ugly one. I think I'm an auto-racist..

Pree-oz said...

Jan, you're a lookist. :D :D :D

Pree-oz said...

I saw this video first, and showed it to Gary because something didn't sit right about it. I didn't know what, at first, but it compelled a visceral reaction from me.

My white American friend moved to China and would take long walks through elaborate parks and gardens. She secretly videotaped two elderly people doing very silly stretching exercises. You can hear her giggle softly in the background.

I laughed when I watched the video, because I know she was in a country that was COMPLETELY foreign to her, and the quirks and culture of Chinese folks was interesting, educational, different and amusing. American old people powerwalk through shopping malls. Chinese old folks get dressed in sweat gear and do exercises in a park. Funny. Different.

If this video of the old man dancing were just a group of foreigners giggling, I don't know if I would've been offended. The old man was being a clown and having a good time dancing in the park. I get that.

It's the "OH MY... OOOH MY GOD... HE'S GOT A THREE PIECE SUIT... WHOA! LOOK AT... HAHAHA... HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL? HORNY..." that really bothered me, and I think Gary's onto something here about the audio.

In the United States, Asians are bizarre, weird, people to be laughed at. Look at Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles, or KFC commercials with Japanese sushi chefs. Look at Mr. Juniyoshi from Breakfast at Tiffany's, played by a white man! Weirdos. And the American audiences laughs AT them, not WITH them.

I'm sure some people will read Gary's post and think, "Give it a rest, Gary, no need to make everything an issue, or a racial issue. It's just people having fun with a goofy old man."

My response to those people are, A. Have you ever been in higher academia? This is critical race theory-- and now praxis. Grow a brain.
B. Have you ever been a minority and experienced the hotness that comes over your face while people laugh at someone who could be your family member? Maybe your goofy dad, uncle, grandfather? If not, then I suggest shutting the fuck up.

James said...

Praise, here's what Jo, the Korean guy - our friend - who's in the video had to say:

'it's a one type of comical dancing stemmed from a circus. fragmentarly, he looks odd, small and ridiculous but that's why he can catch other's eyes. he probably once used to be an opening clown. so basickly it's dancing for making people laugh. now those kind of people and circuses are almost gone in korea. I think the old clown is still doing well. he would be disapointed, if his dancing was not funny.
I think unfunny comedy is biggest tragedy for audience. so don't be upset guys. enjoy it. '

Context is everything. The old guy came up and started dancing to no music in front of Ross and the others (a mixed crowd of waygooks and Koreans, most of whom are off camera). He didn't object to the filming and they had a laugh with him.

This post of Gary's is a deliberate hatchet job due to a personal disagreement with Ross. Very poor. Trying to intellectualise a hatchet job is just piss poor.

Please just leave us all alone now. You don't like us. We get it. No need to carry on your petty cyber war.

Gary Norris said...

James, concern trolling has got to be below you. Certainly, Ross can defend himself.

But I do like how you got a Korean to vindicate what many people find offensive. Kind of exactly what I said you'd do in my post.

I'll let Praise handle the rest. She's the one you should worry about.

Gary Norris said...

I must admit, I thought long and hard about posting this blog. I wrote it almost two months ago. I decided I'd post it because other blogs aren't ready yet and I hadn't published in a week. I have upcoming posts on scooters and teaching.

I think the debate about how we look at each other, how we laugh with and at each other, and how we (re)present each other in media is important, timely, and valuable.

It really has nothing to do with who is in the video. It has to do with the thing itself. I would never make this video. And if I had captured it and the audio without thought, upon seeing it, I'd have deleted it.

James should be aware that I have readers from all over the world. No names were mentioned in the post because it matters not who the people in the video are. Nobody knows who Ross is out here and nobody cares.

I'll be transparent, though. I know James's Ross in the video, but not well enough to have anything against him. I wrote a snarky comment on his Facebook wall about this kind of behavior. I wonder how he couldn't see the possible offensive quality in the video. So, I blogged about it.

I think it's fair. It's a topic we should be willing to discuss without making it personal.

Pree-oz said...

First, I'm not talking about the hearts, minds and intentions of those in the video; I am talking about the video itself. I am not talking about the dancing, the people, the lack of music, who came up to whom, or the Koreans that were sitting there. I am glad Jo and Sujung enjoyed the man dancing. They would. Jo is right, a clown is a clown. He meant to make people laugh. I acknowledged that in my own comment - saying that laughing while the man danced is not racist.

With all due respect to our Korean friends, they have NO idea what it feels like to grow up as an Asian minority and experience the racism that we have. They've never been a racial minority in Korea. When they laugh at the man, they laugh at their own.

I'm not saying Ross is a racist, or your friend Brian, or anyone else. In fact, I was afraid that one of you would assume that so I asked Gary not to post anything on Dagseoul, and he acquiesced because he agreed.

It's THE LANGUAGE used while watching and laughing at the man. Maybe it's subtle or non-existent to you, James, and to any other white person watching it. Maybe people think I'm being hypersensitive, but try to look at it from my point of view. I can tell you I have been in this type of situation, with my many white friends in Chicago, when they are laughing at an Asian being a weirdo Asian in a movie, or laughing at some nerdy Asian kid trying to get attention by reciting the digits of pi to the 50th place, and all I can do is feel awkward. Do I say something? Do I smile? Don't I have a sense of humor? Usually, I just felt angry at the ASIAN because he's putting me in an awkward situation. And why should I feel this way toward the Asian? I shouldn't. But this is a very typical and tragic thing that happens to Asians being afraid of being stereotyped.

Maybe when white people come to Korea, they feel like they are the minority so they don't have the "white burden" on their shoulders anymore, that an Asian-American's complaint about race doesn't count here. But I think it counts. Because in the world outside of this peninsula, Koreans have very little say. It's just that Koreans don't know that. It's still a white man's world.

All I can say is, no matter what Jo says, and Jo I respect as an intellectual and a person, I still think it's got an underlying racism that I don't know if people are willing to dig deep enough to admit. I hope that JO AND I can have a conversation about that, about our life experiences, what he might have observed in studying abroad, and what I have observed living here.

Is it harmful? Maybe not. Maybe not to everyone. But I can tell you that I'm literally shaking right now because it takes me back to many, really awful situations.

As for Gary's attempt to intellectualize a hatchet job because of a personal disagreement with Ross, it's simply untrue. He doesn't mention Ross in the note nor is Ross's face in the video. He also did not publish this post earlier, although he and I had a long discussion about it back then, and in fact he and Ross had a long discussion about it.

I suggest that you stop following Gary's blog. Because he is inflammatory at times and he will bring up any issue no matter who's involved, usually to lure them into a conversation. This makes people upset at times, and I can understand that. So don't read it anymore.

Gary Norris said...

Praise. What I think James and Ross don't want to admit is that the audience can't know the context and so the person responsible for a video clip of a Korean is responsible in some part for how that man is seen by others.

What Ross and James don't want to admit is that they are responsible for your offense. And they don't care to admit that because they don't really care about anything but the fun of filming the funny guy and laughing at it.

If Jo really cared to comment on this topic, he'd do it himself. So, James's posting Jo's response is really kind of creepy. But not uncommon. James is absolutely using his Korean friend to make you and me look like assholes and to assuage his own feelings about my post about his friend's video.

And Brian's comment in the video, his sexualization of the situation, is what most white men do with most situations in Asia. It is common and it is something I think is worth talking about.

Gary Norris said...

in addition, it's quite clear James didn't read my post and didn't bother to get Jo to read it either.

1. I'm quite clear that the dancing man is funny. I admit I'd laugh. I don't see anything wrong with being entertained by the man.

2. It can be inferred, even though I do a little more than imply it, that what I'm most upset at is how the video captures the white folks mocking the old man. They aren't laughing at him, the mock him. My point is that the video is passively constructed in a manner that permits the intrusion into a poignantly humorous moment--the man dancing in front of the foreigners--of hostility and aggression.

These are two not to be ignored points in my post that mitigate the notion that I'm out to torment people I'm mad at.

Please take into consideration my points. All of them. I have taken into consideration and tempered my response to the video.

James said...

Jo commented because he was there. Unlike you or Praise who have skillfully decontextualised the situation for your own, admittedly mad, ends. Perhaps you should talk to Su Jung, Sun Young and Mario about it too? And why not have a word with Brian and Lisa who you've also smeared? I'm sure they'll be overjoyed at your outing of them as closet racists.

You've made this personal. It's deliberate and it's not a debate. I know you well enough to know that you don't 'do' debate. The number of people you've expelled to your Facebook gulag is testament to your inability to accept alternative points of view to your own.

This isn't racism, no matter how much you dress it up and give it a biased reportage. Racism exists here, sure, some of it from white foreigners. Why not find some concrete example that does real damage? Something that isn't related to you personally.

But here's the thing on your position: why do Koreans need a protector such as yourself to act as a kind vanguard? Are they not equipped to do the job themselves? Your position demeans Koreans as much as the situation you profess to be reacting against. Again, there are Koreans in the video - on the other side of the camera, in earshot - you're suggesting that, if what you claim is happening is true, then they're either stupid or naive, or that the old man is stupid or naive, or that all of them would sit in quiet acquiescence to offensive behaviour. You've talked to Jo and Su Jung, right? Do they seem like that?

Do only you two, and you two alone, understand every minute inference of racism? My friends aren't racist. It had nothing to do with the guy being Korean. It was to do with his actions - he came up to them and started dancing in a funny way. If he had been white, would you have even commented? Of course not. They didn't use any racial epithets. The sexualised comment is just too ludicrous to discuss. This is a 21 year old kid making a silly remark. Get a fucking grip.

Anyway, Praise, you're right, I should steer clear of this blog. It's quite, quite, mad and very, very sad to see two smart people take such a strange siege mentality against people they used to be friends with.

Gary Norris said...

james, don't be silly. I don't think I'm protecting Koreans.

I'm writing about white power and racism. I've always done this.

Pree-oz said...

Maybe you won't see this comment, James, but no one on that video is my friend. I don't know a single person on that video. Stop making it seem like I am hating on your nearest and dearest friends, because in the words of someone I used to consider a friend, we are all just part of a transitory expat community.

Thanks for ignoring everything I wrote! I am so frustrated trying to explain this to someone who can't see it.

Maybe you feel the same way, and we leave it at that.

Gary Norris said...

And James, you know you're a lurker. Lurking on this mad blog. Say you won't read it. You will.

It's not a debate. You're right. Right now, I posted a topic. The topic is white people treat Korea like a zoo. And I want to see if other people agree or disagree.

You're wanting it to be about feelings and friends and drama. A smear.

But there is no smear. No names mentioned. Not until you appeared and decided to stand for decency. And drop everybody's name. And still with all these names, the people who read this blog don't know any of us.

My god, can you imagine somebody seeing racism where other people see humor and having a good time. Never. Mad, I tell you, mad & mad.

One thing I can add since your post further illustrates you haven't read the original and seem to be refusing to in some sort of weird protest: our recent emails.

I have a number of emails from you wondering how I can possibly consider anybody in Korea a friend because the convenient thing about Korea is that we are all here temporarily and therefore not obligated to anyone. You scolded me for insisting that we should expect more from our friends. And you insisted that even I couldn't be trusted as your friend because I might move away in August and never talk to you again. (That made me smile. The way I contact you all depressed and lonely and you shit on me because I might treat you poorly some day. You passive aggressive you!)

And here you are, James, doing the exact opposite of what you suggested I do. Here you are asking me to take your feelings seriously about other people when you told me you don't operate that way. Of course, I knew you were full of shit. I knew you cared about me and you and our relationship and still do.

What's it about with you? What drives you to lurk on my blog and read what you have already decided is mean meany mad stuff about foreigners in Korea? What could the motivation be?

Maybe we were friends after all? And maybe I'm not attempting to publicly trash people as you insist.

Maybe it's "you're wrong day". We'll see. At any rate, I'm into the public debate. I'll post your responses. I'll post anything a person might write about this save for flaming and trolling.

Though I think you've got my intent completely wrong. I think it's illustrating my point about white folks and how they see the world. It's their privilege to define point-of-view and they hate it when somebody defines it for them. Though they do it to others every day.

Kind of like a guy filming another guy and his friends mocking the guy and then claiming it's all innocent and meaningless fun.
(That is until somebody asks the question: is it really fun? is it really harmless? is there no intent there? etc.)

PS: I love you, James. I don't really know Ross and Brian. But I decided the topic is more significant than their discomfort as long as I didn't name them, which I didn't. Nobody else figures in the video, so I thought safe yet hits home.

As a funny aside, I told Praise last night over pajeon that I figured it would be you who'd get all upset about it because you think my writing is not decent. You have called me a bully before. But you know, when white guys call me a bully, I actually take it as a compliment.

James said...

To both of you.

I do think you're mad for doing this. I do think you should be spending your not inconsiderable energeies chaisng the real demons - the ones that matter - rather than castigating silly nonsense posted on a Facebook wall.

There are far bigger problems of racism in Korea than anything this jokey video suggests. And I can't help but feel because of its timing, because of what's happened in the last couple of weeks, that it was a direct attack on my friends. I care about them, I'll defend them, because I think your targets are wrong and your motives misguided. I don't undersatnd why you're doing this.

Praise, if youn think I'm ignoring your points - you're right - because in this context they're misplaced. I get it. I don't get how you extrapolate all that from this silly video. Why don't you get something concrete, something real, that's worth talking about? Or even, as I suggest, talk to the people who you know that were there about this perceived incident?

Gary, I think you constantly do the worst thing: you paint Koreans as *victims*. All of your writing about white racism against Koreans does this. That's my issue.

And as for what people think about this - you're well out of the loop - but only because for some bizzare reason you've decided to make yourself out of it. The people we know don't disagree with me. Nobody knows why you're doing this. With one notable exception, no-one slagged you or Praise off or had anything bad to say about you. Hence my complete surprise at your email slating people who thought well of you. Again, why? Why? Why? Why? We're not your enemies. But perhaps your the kind of guy who always needs one, real or imagined.

Lurker? I hadn't visited your blog for 6 months until yesterday when I suspected you might be writing about me or us. But fuck it, you love the attention. I know your online persona is more important to you than real life. That's the real mystery. You're such a nice, funny, decent guy in real life, yet you're a bullying monster online. What gives? Why do this? Why fuck up such a good situation with friends who genuinely liked you for the glory of a few page impressions? Weird.

Anyway. I don't want any of this to spill over into tomorrow, if only for Zach's sake - who incidentally is freaking the fuck out because of this shit you've started - let's be civil at least and have a good night.

James said...

Just one more related point.

Why do you never talk about what good foreigners do here? Is it all so negative?

I know plenty who do various charitable work. Working with NK immigrants, other immigrant Asian and African groups (you could talk about how badly these groups are treated in Korea), pet rescue, recycling clothes, literacy groups in poor areas, working with sex workers, women's groups, legal resources, the list goes on.

Ross, the guy you slagged off, has done benefit gigs for a number of charities. Charity, huh yeah, but it's something. More than you've done.

You never talk about thess things. Why? Because you've never taken the time to look into them. You slag off places like Itaewon, yet you don't know why such a place exists. Historically, it's where all the dispearte foreigners live. Why? Because up until recently they couldn't rent an apartment anywhere else. It's the only place where many black people can rent an apartment. It's where most North Koreans go because they're discriminated against. Take a trip to Haebongchong someday.

Open your eyes. Stop seeing what you want to see. Start seeing what is actually there, rather than a few ignorant frat boys making tits of themselves that allows you to gain political capital to present yourself as the only good white guy. You're not. You know nothing. You do nothing. You write and rant on here and on Facebook. That's all you do. Until you do something, you have no weight. You have no gravitas. You're just another internet hardman pointlessly throwing his weight about.

Koh-NEE-cheewah said...

I have watched the video and I have read all the comments on this blog and have come to my own conclusions which I entirely own.

Living in Champaign and in America opens my eyes to implicit and explicit racism that happens all the time. From people assuming both positive and negative racial stereotypes on me or by living in a society where I know people judge me and see me for what I look like before finding out who I really am.

Granted, we all do this, no matter what race we cling to. However, power structure is very important when considering race. Now in Korea, I would see many argue that Koreans are in power, however, I would argue that universally that is not the case.

I think the video was created without malintent, and I also think those involved are not racial bigots. However, I do think that the point of view of the video does come from those who are used to being a part of the majority and while many of them acted "normal" in fact that normal has racial undertones, how could it not?

(Praise by the way, Utah is recruiting a massive amount of critical theorists in all fields like no other, many U of I professors are flocking there, what will come out of Utah once they have everyone there who knows?) Sorry that was an aside.

Back to my point. Point of view is important and though no one was thinking that moment, how can I be racist towards this Korean man, I would argue that by the very fact that there were certain people in the film or a certain person taking the footage makes all the difference.

I also hear the argument about other Koreans being there but not objecting. However, if I were there I would have objected very loudly weighing in at 250 and standing 6 feet tall (which by the way defies the physical stereotypes of Asian Men). Then would that change the argument since I am Korean and I do object.

One last note. Why are Americans taught not to discuss race anymore? It is no longer okay.... I see it in my students all the time, the majority no longer thinks race is an issue and the minority races are scared to bring it up.

Furthermore, I am in an environment where I am loved, but if I ever bring up race as an issue with how students are treated or the educational system, I am barraged by many faculty claiming race should never be discussed because it is not relevant to the conversation. Really?

When has race never been a non-issue in the U.S.? Does it stem from the racist views of Irish Catholics, or a ravaged Native American race, or Chinese and Japanese suffering under the "Gentleman's Agreement" or the Chinese Exclusion Act, or perhaps it is the lack of respect that our first African American President receives from Congressional members and the press. I think we need to continue talking about and evolve in our conversations of race and perception.

On another random note, Noonah, I cannot tell you how long I have been thinking about our conversation and about what you said about living in the majority. I keep wondering what that truly would feel like.....

Gary Norris said...

James, thanks for your points.

1. It's complete nonsense to say that I am victimizing Koreans--turning them into victims--by illustrating unconscious racism.

2. Just because your friends like Korea and Koreans doesn't mean they don't do bigoted things.

3. Both of your claims are typical white nonsense. It's about Empire. It's about white people being able to claim a privilege for themselves that they can define each and every moment. I'd say, at least this is correct: that man your friends videotaped and mocked--his 3-piece suit, being horny, a whole group of people laughing at one man, that loud white laughter that Koreans are always noticing and pointing out (no matter what J and SJ are saying to you)--didn't have the opportunity to define himself.

I'm sick of it. I posted about it. I will continue to post about it.

By the way, I'll mention again that you are the one insisting this about your friends. I'm saying it's about the guy dancing in the video and the comments.

You know, when I commented about white people and Thanksgiving, you did this. Exactly this. You made no comments about my posts. You only yelled at me about the feelings of your friends. And how violated you and they are by my language and my points.

Fact is, you still can not post anything relevant because ??? I don't know why.

But what you're doing is White. I know that much. One excuse after another about being victimized. It's ludicrous for you to say I am victimizing people you named.

But continue lurking. You seem to enjoy it.

Gary Norris said...

White Laughter.

I can only imagine what it feels like to be the focus of this kind of group laughter. And when I watch the video, I see that laughter and nothing else.

If, in fact, the people who were there and the person filming wanted to convey a great multicultural moment where an old clown was dancing for the kids, then you all failed horribly. Why? Because you edited the video to show two things only: one guy laughing hysterically at the way the old man is dressed and one guy sexualizing the situation. You filmed a bunch of people laughing at an old man and a white guy making a crude joke. Nothing else is there.

I think it's apropos of the careless way we present ourselves to others. And with white people, it's indicative of a privilege we have long cultivated that we aren't responsible to other people, that we are able to interpret for other people what everything means regardless of how they see it.

James thinks I am making Koreans victims by pointing out white behavior in Korea. This implies several things about me that aren't true. I don't think Koreans need protecting. I know for a fact they don't tell people like James what they think because this is how people like James respond to criticism.

In addition, when you tell white foreigners that you are shocked by white behavior in Asia, they always point out the good WE do here. HA! My point is made.

I will reiterate my post with a follow up on Sunday. For now, it's safe to say that this video may or may not be racist. I think that the video of the man could have been fun and funny. I think the way it was edited and presented opens up a load of questions about just what the person who made it and the people who are in it think about the person they filmed. And I would submit that they are everyone them unaware of how they see that old man. And that's why they get so pissed.

Oppression works with or without active participation. I think the racism in the film is apparent yet subtle and I have claimed that it may even be unintended.

But one thing is for sure: it's not for James and his friends to decide. It's others' decision. In other words, and what makes white people so mad in situations like these: they have no power over our interpretations of their behavior.

James, though, had the ability not to post personalized comments and not to use rhetorical bullying tactics and not to rudely dismiss the Korean woman engaging him and not to publicly out his friends and not to speak for Koreans, et al. He could still attempt to address the video and the issue rather than the author of the post.

Pree-oz said...

Amos: You wrote, "I think the video was created without malintent, and I also think those involved are not racial bigots. However, I do think that the point of view of the video does come from those who are used to being a part of the majority and while many of them acted "normal" in fact that normal has racial undertones, how could it not?"

Excellent point, my brother. It's about point of view.

James: Stop coming to this blog. No one will dog on your friends personally because no one knows them. You sound like a bigot and somewhat of a sexist, and you have no idea. You can come at me now, but I don't hate you-- or hold anything against you even though your comments always make me cry. Maybe I'm a big fat baby. Or maybe, you are making it very, very personal. The last time you did this, went crazy on Gary telling him how everyone you know hates him, you had to eat your words. So what, 4 people don't like Gary and the controversy he stirs. James, you claim to be a progressive. Maybe you can see my point of view for once about the video without huffing and puffing about your friends. Or if you are angry at Gary about the facebook messages, then talk to him about that instead of coming to his blog after six months to check out if he's saying anything about you. WTF?

This is a a discussion worth having, and I think more people will want to talk about it. If your friends are as offended as they say they are, they can come and defend THE VIDEO as opposed to just their good intentions and the friendly context.

Pretend the video is like the movie "Crash" (haha).

Everyone else, let's discuss, even if you disagree.

Anonymous said...

Dear person who wrote this blog,

You, are a complete moron. You dont know me. Calling me a racist, without having ever met me and after seeing a 20 second video of pretty much nothing is stupid.

If you think im racist agains asian people, ill give a list of 20 names to tell u differently.

Id appreciate it if you would shut the fuck up and do something productive rather than write 500 words on nothing.

thank you, you asshole,


Eddie said...

yo gary, i know you wont let this post you pussy, but you are a bitter faggot and a racist yourself. Choke on a penis and die.

hana said...

They're just being a group of obnoxious children. That being said, hopefully they'll outgrow their racist tendencies as they mature.

Gary Norris said...

I've upset people who are in the video. Tough.

In my post, I call nobody a racist. I call the video--the way it is presented--racist. It's an important distinction. People are often part of something oppressive, active participants at times, and are not bigots themselves.

Hell, if you're an American, you're a citizen of one hell of a racist country--presently and historically. Doesn't make all Americans racists, does it?

Certainly not.

White people get pissy when you talk about race and they are involved. It's common.

Fact is, as I've mentioned in the comments, the video may not be racist. I think it is. And I posted it to open debate.

But not one angry, whining comment has yet to handle the content of my original post. I think that's a sign of the quality of the comments. Complaints that lack substance.

You're all nuts if you think I am going to delete the post, change my p.o.v., and stop pointing out what I think is horrible behavior.

My blog is about ethnicity, class and culture. And specifically my posts about ethnicity and race critically examine how we present representations of ourselves and others. If this isn't your thing, this blog ain't for you.

Here's to treating each other with dignity and respect.

The Blob said...

If it's not too much to ask Gary, I would like you to take that video off.

This has gone way too far and somebody foolishly told Brian about this.

I'm not ashamed of this as you know but I'm upset that something I made without malicious intent has become the basis for an argument that has been, at times, rather poisonous.

It would mean a lot to me if you removed it.

jinbahji said...

Talk about intense.

Being someone who was born in Korea and considers himself an American (though I lived in Korea for the first 8 years of my life) and living in Seoul again, here are some thoughtful and not so thoughtful comments:

1) It literally took me 20 minutes to get through the original. Be brief, GOSH.

2) Aside from some Europeans (Spanish/French mostly), I consider Americans and American humor to be one of the most obnoxious in the world. This includes myself.

3) Praise, I could see how this would bring back ALOT of painful memories of direct/indirect racism you had to grow up with. There was a reason why I got into fights every other week my first two years living in the States. I could see how this could dig up some scars.

4) Racism is what it is. And its everywhere and anyone who's entertained any thoughts which might preclude them into thinking anything unflattering about another culture/people/etc is guilty. Myself included. My point being, everyone is racist to a degree some hide it better than others. So people who deny that they are racist to me are the ones I worry about being racist the most. Seriously, we ARE different people. Yet alike. Just be honest.

5) So with this in mind, I'm not surprised by this video. Do I think the contents reveal a certain level of ignorance? Yes. Do I think this is rampant in Korea? Kinda. Do I want to crucify all foreigners who threat Korea like a zoo? Probably not because I'm sure I've been guilty too. This coming from a Korean-American who's turning more Korean by the day (scary shit btw).

6) As for what's going on between Gary/Praise/James - get a room and hug it out. Okay?!?! ;)

7) Conclusion: There will ALWAYS be ignorant (especially young) bastards and White Americans have been on the wrong end lots of times in History. Yet, they are not alone. Nor will this ever stop. As long as Americans think they are the greatest people/culture/etc on the face of the earth there will always be some dumbass who thinks this shit is funny and post it online. We are the country that invented "Jackass" and "Borat" right?

Yet, I can't really blame them. Most of them don't know any better. I just can't stand it when motherfuckers think they are not racist (not in the sociological, systemic way of course). Just be honest.

I think that's all anyone can ask really.

Just like why I will always be suspicious of any white boy who comes out to Korea to "Teach English" because they are fascinated by Korean Culture, when we (Koreans, Korean-Americans) ALL know its because of the women. Seriously. I have problems too, admitting it is the first step to a solution. ;)

Gary Norris said...

I know James and I have a weird bro thing going on. I just love his accent.

Only thing I'd say is that I don't think it's an American thing, I think it's a US & UK white thing. All the folks in the video are not Americans.

There's a great new book out called _The History of White People_. I recommend it. White folks get all uppity with their knees jerking when you talk about "white" and "white power" and it's helpful to remember that "white" is a legal category created to define who a person is. It's entirely constructed and, especially in the US where until 1952 you had to be defined as white to be permitted to be a citizen, which led to amazingly bizarre Supreme Court cases changing the definition all the time. That people identify as white and want to protect it and stand up for it is rather pathetic.

Anonymous said...


this is my last post, cuz I know by getting pissy on your forum its only benefiting you and the 5 disgruntled gyopo haters who read it.

jinbahgi & praise : boo fucking hoo, you got ripped on in high school for be asian. Get a fucking grip.

Jinbahji : All that shit about white people coming to korea for women, or whatever.... ummmm... look at your boy Gary? what race is his hypersensitive girlfriend? Trust me, nobody needs to move to korea to get a korean girlfriend, how do i know u ask? I met my girl, who happens to be asian, 5 blocks from my apt here in NY. So shut the fuck up and dont hate people cuz they get laid. ALSO, Praise,...Don't tell me that cuz Im white i know what its like to be the majority or whatever the fuck that shit is you(whoever the fuck u r) was babbling about. Comes to Kingsbridge road in the Bronx, nyc, and tell me im a majority here. yea, ur retarded. Shut up.

Gary, I dont know who the fuck u think u are, "making an example of me" but in reality, your a spineless tit. Continue trying to reveal the "oppressive" and "racist" nature of white people. You're making urself look like a fucking clown.

If u had any fucking consideration for anyone, namely me, who did absolutely nothing wrong to anyone you would take this video down because its very demeaning, and very poisonous.

aite, morons, peace

James and Ross, im sorry i went off like this, but seriously, even tho i know im probably not the first to tell them. theyre fucking complete wankers.

Gary Norris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gary Norris said...

yikes. well, Ross I can only imagine what you've been dealing with. The video is down now. It's not like it's necessary for the discussion to continue.

Unless Brian has obsessively been looking at the blogpost, which is apparently a possibility, over 300 visits to the site since the post. I'm just going to assume all who wanted to see it have, and if anybody would like to they can contact me.

Anonymous said...

Here is my take watching the video before reading the blog or the comments. I'll also post a few thoughts after having read the blog and comments.

Before reading...

The video didn't strike me as particularly racist and still doesn't after watching it a few more times.

Without further context it's hard to tell. I'd imagine these kids to react and make fun of anyone who was doing this stateside, too.

Someone asked if older people exercising like this is common. I thought that's important to know. Also, I wonder if they would have gotten as much of a kick out of this if there were 50 people doing this exercise together or if the guy wasn't wearing a 3-piece suit.

Having recently confronted a kid who was making silly Asian noises
behind my back while walking with his mom and her not saying a thing (which was the most angering and disappointing part), this topic is fresh on my mind. That's easy to call out because it had nothing to do with what I was doing and only because I was Asian. This video is harder to tell without more context.

All in all, though, I think the extra step to demean the man with the sexual comments goes beyond just laughing at/with him based solely on the humor of his actions.

After reading...

It's sad that the discussion on racism has been so muddied by the personal attacks back and forth, but racism is a deeply personal issue and I would expect it difficult to separate oneself personally from the criticism if I were in the video being discussed.

That being said, I think it was helpful that someone clarified that this man was reenacting a sort of clown dance to illicit a laugh. That puts this video into context.

I do think it is valid, though, to discuss the presentation of the video (as Gary puts it) and the perspective of the video (as Amos put it). Just as this video paints a picture of Asian culture in a certain light (whether or not with malintent), it's also worthwhile to discuss the picture this video paints of White culture. And, again, while I don't think the video is particularly racist, I do think it paints an obnoxious and potentially White racist picture.

The way that the person in the video has dismissed this topic of racism because he lives as a minority in a local population in NY and has disregarded the fact that America is still a country of White power (look at the state of the union address, anything else governmental, and the media as a whole), or the fact that America's equalities regarding race are so young that we still have people who lived through those hard fought battles, or the fact that battles are still being fought regarding equality, or especially the way he dismisses the hurt and pain experienced because of direct racism indicates to me he hasn't thought much of how deep the issue of racism runs and how subtly it can rear its ugly head. That's a bit sad to me and tells me we still have a long way to go or maybe to resign that the end goal is not really achievable.

Believe me, the personal offense that you feel from this video going public and this discourse on racism has been felt many times over simply because the color of our skin and the shape of our eyes. Maybe you feel misunderstood and falsely accused for the way something you were a part of looked. Consider now that feeling for a lifetime and you get a clue to what millions of people go through. I think that's at least worth an acknowledgment.