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Hello Sad, Sad Reality!

October 6, 2009

Two problems.

The first one, I was coming up the stairs of the metro and made the dire mistake of looking up because descending were some ladies in mini skirts. I don’t think I have to describe exactly what I saw – let’s just say they were mini skirts far too mini for doing really anything more than standing in. I noticed that all three ladies were dolled up, dressed to the nines with jewelry, make-up, accessories and everything…but it’s only 3 in the afternoon, I think, where could they possibly be going? I’m used to seeing the young adults of Seoul getting dressed up for a serious night out on the town but the time was weird…there was far too much daylight for that amount of eyeliner. Just as I was conjuring up what daytime nightclubs Seoul might have, the girls shouted at me “Kristin! Kristin! Teacher!”

That’s right, they were my middle school students. I asked what they were up to…”Just visiting the park” I’m sure they said something else but I was too busy wondering why 14 years olds with flawless skin would wear oh so much foundation. They smiled and struck a brief pose when I said they looked dressed up then we exchanged goodbyes and they skipped off. I don’t think I can handle seeing students outside of school anymore…it makes me a little sad.

The second issue is with District 9. I saw this movie in theaters before I left for Korea and pretty much loved it…I even read the reviews about how racist it was for portraying the Nigerians as the evil, superstitious low-life scumbags and brushed it off. I pretty much thought the movie justified the stereotypes through the apartheid focus which was almost necessary for some viewers (too much subtlety would not have broken through the exciting, CGI-heavy, sci-fi monster movie exterior). However, when I saw the advertisements for the movie being shown at COEX, I shuddered a little.

So, you look through many textbooks here and see things such as this:

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There aren’t many black people represented in the texts but when they are, it’s usually black face or some strange stereotype. It’s not meant to be offensive, it just seems like the editors didn’t know enough black people to realize what the offense might be. I was quick to correct the students and teachers here that assumed right off the bat that I liked rap and Hip Hop fashions…saying that some people do but I don’t.

So, it seems for now that the entire black population, to my students anyway, is represented by myself, Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Will.i.am (the lead singer from The Black Eyed Peas) and now…the crazy Nigerians from District 9. Clearly, we could do without the last in that line up but, unfortunately, without a positive black role model in the movie I worry what kind of information my students will come away with at the end.

Sure, I could give them the benefit of the doubt and think they’re far too worldly to make anything of those Nigerians but I know that the history lessons here (and unfortunately most places) tend to abridge the apartheid chapter. Really, with all the allusions and what not, I wonder what my students would get out of the movie at all…at their age I can only hope it’s a thriller sci-fi movie and not much else.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Angel Cartagena permalink
    October 6, 2009 10:01 pm

    Welcome to adulthood Sweetheart. Imagine what parents go through when those little dressed up girls are our daughters! :-0

    As far as the racial stereotypes, the rest of the world is always slow to catch up with how things shale out here in the U.S. Those images you see are the very ones we imported only five decades ago.

    Love to see that you’re being challenged with some deep life issues. I’m praying for you. Be encouraged.

    Love,

    Angel

    • aukissed permalink*
      October 9, 2009 3:33 pm

      Yes…perspective: I am gaining it. I guess I just have to get used to it and never have daughters. And I suppose the only cure for stereotypes is exposure and education really and I’m here to do a bit of both.

      Korea is definitely a challenge, I find that I’m absolute worn out at the end of every day contemplating everything from the absurd number of mirrors here, the corporeal punishment, the miniskirts and what my mom might call “stripper heels” against a conservative, Confucian background. It’s all so incredible.

      I could do without seeing my dolled up students outside of class again tho.

  2. October 7, 2009 5:12 am

    Oh man, that story about your students is scarring. More so for you, I’m sure. *shudder*

    I agree with Angel about the stereotypes — but that doesn’t make them fun now. I haven’t encountered it myself yet, but I’ve heard tales from other elementary teachers of clumsily handled black characters in the curriculum dialogs. I’m curious to see how students react to it when it comes up… the sentiments that we take for granted so much in the States, well, can’t be taken for granted here.

    Best of luck! 🙂

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