Thursday, July 19, 2007

From the horse's mouth: Ajummas don't hate blacks

So we're having a bit of trouble finding a replacement for my at my school, in large part because my boss has decided that complete inaction on her part is the kind of motivation that my wife and I need to do a job that isn't ours to begin with. I finally spoke to a good candidate this evening, who is an African American. You may recall that in December I was being asked to turn away applicants for a job at our school because of the color of their skin, on the belief of my boss that "Parents don't like black teachers, only white teachers." My wife was also sure that, while she didn't care, the parents would never accept a black teacher for their children. For my part, I was more concerned that we have a teacher from an English speaking country with a four-year degree.
Well times change and my boss still seems to be displeased about the prospects of an African-American teacher. I broached the topic with her today and she asked "How black? Like, really really black?" This seems to matter because in Korea it's not about race and culture, but literally about how black you are. People often refuse to believe, for example, that Beyonce is black. I've heard that this stems from the agrarian history of Korea, in which darkness of skin was directly related to the amount of manual labor you had to do.
Anyway, I just had a meeting with three of our most concerned mothers and my wife. I said that we had a potential teacher and my wife added sheepishly that she may be somewhat black. "Oh that doesn't matter at all." the three mothers all said in unison. "As long as she's American, that's the important thing."
I have never been prouder. I always suspected that this prejudice among English school owners against blacks was based on a misconception, and know I know it's true.
That said, last week I was in a taxi and the driver started asking me about America. "Are there a lot of niggers (in Korean ggeomdungi or 껌둥이) where you come from?" I said not many. He held out his arm and made a pained face, and explained with great flourish "I hate their black skin, it's black, like the night, it's dark, it's blacky black black." It had never occurred to me that some people would hate black people literally because they were black.

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