Just because there’s so much racism brought out to the public eye doesn’t mean Asian people can’t joke about Asian people, or gay people about gay people, or joking in general. The rules haven’t changed just because Paula Deen and SCOTUS happened, or because Big Brother 15 was destined to be such a dishearteningly disgusting season. The rules are still the same. It’s less about the words said, and more about the intention and premise.
I am affected by what’s going on in the Big Brother 15 house, but I refuse to add more insults to raw injury. I won’t act as if I’m more affected than Helen’s family and friends, and Helen herself when she leaves that house and watches the footage. I don’t speak for Helen or Koreans or Asian, because I can only speak for myself. I appreciate all the sentiments but I’m not the victim here, and neither are you. Everyone truly needs to stop and breathe and shut the fuck up for a minute.
We’re all so guilty about our own varying degrees of prejudices, that we’re going in a hundred different directions at once about all the recent and continuing hate commentary that now defines Big Brother 15. Outside the house it’s not any better with kindhearted people who mean well, but are doing more bad in many ways. Then there are those who support racial slurs and gender bashing, and feel it’s their freedom of speech right to add fuel to the fire which technically it is. Then there’s everyone in between, in a virtual Fifty Shades of Hate, where everyone is on their tippy toes-sensitive, and then there’s me.
I find it disheartening yet also enlightening in a sick way, because as an Asian-American female growing up in New York and now living in Belgium, I’ve endured worse than comments about my “slanted eyes” (which I now hear about my son Noah) or being “Ching-Chong Chinese!” although I was always and each and every time taught to defend myself and say “I’m not Chinese. I’m Korean.” One of the first things my parents ever taught me was to be sure to correct people and tell them I was Korean. I have never forgotten it even to this day, but in grade school my “I’m Korean!” response just triggered laughter or more anger in the bully facing me. It just made me stronger, and if you thinking I’m “condoning racism” then it’s because that’s what you want to see.
As an adult, I run into less and less people who laugh at me when I correct them with “I’m Korean.” I’d like to believe it’s because people are better educated as adults, but I know it’s also because adults hide their hateful ignorance better than grade school children can. Whether it’s racial or because you were a redhead or fat or disabled, most all of us have suffered stings of cruelty. I once went through a Cruel Intentions-like period in my life where I was Annette, and my Sebastian turned out to be an independently wealthy misogynist and racist “WASP” who’d put a wager on whether or not “the Korean bitch would fall in love-kinda” scenario. I was to be taught a racial social status lesson, and I learned my lesson.
Hate and bigotry comes in all forms. Sometimes they’re acts so subtle they’re even more degrading, and sometimes people mutter things under their breath to me about the color of my skin as they walk by me on the street. I don’t make shit up because I don’t have to, but I don’t fall victim to the power that is racism by letting it consume me. I am defined by my race in good ways and bad in everyday life, but my race does not define me.
So when I get asked, “Don’t you think you’re condoning racism by continuing to joke about it?” I wonder what planet the person asking the question is from.
If you have ever been a victim of rape or racism or hate crime, then you never want to have to explain yourself and the reality of it. It sucks when you have to. The way my mother speaks English, or the fact that I know Korean people who own nail salons and dry cleaners, and anything else Korean is my real life with real life Korean jokes in it. It’s not yours. Yours is different with different jokes.
If you can’t joke about your real life and your real people, then it’s the ignorant who win and win big. Comedy and satire ride a finer line when tensions are high but it shouldn’t disappear because of some fucked up people who got caught saying the same things, but backed it with hate. I’m neither going to all of a sudden stop quoting things my mother says because I think her broken English is racist fuel, nor am I going to take worthless bait like “go make some rice” and never joke about rice again. I’d rather carry on with my life and continue making jokes and changing diapers, and watch as Aaryn’s and GinaMarie’s and Spencer’s and Jeremy’s ignorance blinds them to a social stand-still.
I don’t often write about rape or racism or hate crimes, although I have been a victim of all three and all at once. But there’s a very fire spreading that needs to be squelched where it can be, before this becomes the visible trend it has become in recent weeks. What is it that we all really want out of this summer, and out of life after this summer? Is it to witch trial people on a reality show, or is it to walk away from it knowing you didn’t make things worse? Or maybe you don’t care and just love wreaking havoc.
That’s real life so don’t go making it worse with your self-righteousness.