When someone starts his or her sentence with, “I’m not racist, but…” you know what follows won’t be good.
Ever since I disclosed to the world my once-secret K-Pop love, I’ve been hearing this phrase with unfortunate regularity. What saddens me is that this phrase comes from family and friends I believed were more enlightened than that.
“I’m not racist, but how could you like that stuff?”
“I’m not racist, but what do you see in those guys?”
“I’m not racist, but I don’t get the Asian love.”
It could be worse though. When you hear “I’m not racist, but” you know the person is somewhat self-aware, at least enough to know that what he or she will say next may not sound kosher.
It’s worse when you don’t hear the phrase. Not hearing it means the person uttering the offensiveness thinks you may believe the same things, and that it’s okay for those words to be said to you. Or, worse, the person may not even think what he or she is saying is wrong.
“Eww. I’ve never been attracted to Asians.”
“Those boys all look the same.”
“I would never be caught dead dating an Asian!”
I am not Asian. But I love Asian cultures, and this has culminated in my love of K-Pop. People who know me well are aware of this about me. It’s not a surprise that I have an affinity for Asian cultures.
I also love beautiful men. Celebrities, singers, actors, models. All kinds of men. I always have. And some of them have been Asian. My family and friends are aware of this too.
So, why is it a surprise that I like Korean idols? They are beautiful men last time I checked.
Why does it even matter to anyone that I find Korean idols attractive anyway? Who is it hurting? My family and friends can find whomever they like attractive and it won’t bother me. To each his (or her) own.
Yet my loved ones feel the constant need to tell me how “girly” or “ugly” my idols look. Their words ooze venom when they tell me I’m crazy for liking Asian men, because “they aren’t hot.” They have such sinister glee in their voices as they tell me how “unattractive” Yongguk is or how much Hongbin “looks like a little girl.” They laugh when they say something racist like, “You can’t even see their eyes when they smile!”
The ignorance is overwhelming.
Does it feel good to hurt me like that? Do they even realize or care that they are indeed hurting me?
Also, I love all kinds of music. My family knows this about me too. But I still hear the judgement in their voices.
“How could you like that stuff?”
“You can’t even understand it?”
“That’s crap music. Just listen to American stuff!”
I get it all the time. It’s like my family and friends think I’m abandoning my race or my country by listening to music not made in America.
It’s like they feel threatened by it. Like it’s an affront to them that I can’t be happy and just accept what American artists give me–what America gives me.
They would never question it if I liked a white group or a black group, and I’m Mexican-American! By their judgement, shouldn’t I only like Latin or Hispanic music? Is it okay to like a different race, as long as they’re American and sing in English?
So what if I don’t understand Korean but I listen to the music? Half the time I can’t understand the words American artists mumble in English songs either. Should I not listen to that?
Even worse, I also have an affinity for all things British, and my family and friends are fine with that. Why, when they aren’t American? Because they speak English? Because the singers are white?
And the worst thing? My loved ones think I’m being “sensitive” if I call them on it.
“Wow. You can’t take a joke.”
“You don’t even know them. Who cares what I say?”
“You’re not even Asian. Don’t be so dramatic!”
It’s so frustrating! It’s frustrating that these people I love can be so ignorant. It’s frustrating that they can spew such hatred and think it’s okay!
Dear family and friends:
Why do you claim it’s wrong to be racist, in theory, but Koreans are fair game? Racism is racism, no matter the race, color, or ethnicity. And if you don’t think the word “racism” is accurate to describe your vitriol, then you can use “discrimination,” “prejudice,” or “bigotry.” It’s all the same and it’s all just as ugly.
But yes, I believe you are a racist. If you preface a sentence with “I’m not a racist, but” then you are a racist. It doesn’t matter if it’s directed at a black person, a white person, or a purple person. It’s racist. Directed at a Korean is no different.
And I don’t care if you “would never be caught dead dating an Asian.” Just don’t tell me about it. Because I don’t feel the same way and your ignorance is not going to change my mind. In fact, it will only change my mind about you.