Saturday, November 15, 2008

Politically Incorrect (Doesn't Cover It)

Before you start reading this, you need some background:

1) I used to be a much bigger jerk than I am today. (I will give you a moment to collect yourself after such a shocking statement.)

2) When I joined the US Air Force in 1994, they tried to teach me Korean. My immune system rejected it. No one was pleased with the result.

3) What you are about to read should be interpreted as an "attack" and a "slur" ONLY on the specific people mentioned by pseudonym in this post - Do NOT presume that I harbor any racist grudges or hatred against any group of people.

In other words, if you are Korean, or of Asian origin, this is not meant to offend you; it is meant to illustrate how a twenty-something jerk dealt with self-absorbed teachers in an oppressive and stressful environment.

Okay, enough background.

I think the statute of limitations for having a bad attitude has run out by now; I hope so, because I have found evidence of my bad attitude. If I recall correctly, our teacher, Donny Kim, found us a video on Korean culture one day (in Korean, of course, so I understood none of it) and asked us to take notes as we watched it.

Here are my notes.

Report on Korean Culture
While it may seem that Koreans borrowed art and customs from China and Japan, and borrowed their music from an African tribe which communicates solely through farts and tap dancing, Koreans do have some practices which are solely their own.

For example, on some holidays they try to coax dead relatives out of their burial mounds with plates of rotten cabbage. They have also been known to dress like fags and dance around graveyards, or climb to the tops of mountains to wave.

When they want to celebrate, they get drunk and tie streamers to their heads and dash about the town beating pots and pans. Sometimes people are accidentally killed by the streamers, which gives those who were annoyed by the celebration cause to celebrate in a like manner, which sometimes leads to a month-long stretch of perpetual noise and accidental streamer-decapitation.

Koreans have a world-wide reputation for their dog-training technique; if only those damned dogs would learn!

So, while it would seem at first that Korea has nothing to offer to world culture, this turns out to be a severe understatement.

I share this insightful glimpse into my psyche for one reason, and one reason alone: so that you will understand how innocuous the next part of the story is, by comparison. You see, as horrible as that little essay might be, I had the decency to keep it mostly to myself (though I probably made my classmate/neighbor read it). When it came time to put together a little three-sentence assignment for Mr. Kim, however, I did indulge in a bit of offensiveness.

The assignment was to write 3 sentences in Korean about our hometown. My hometown is Phoenix, so I tried to come up with 3 quick sentences made up of words that I knew. There weren't a lot. "Phoenix is big." One down. "Phoenix is hot." On a roll! Now what? I thought for a long time, but nothing really came to mind. Then, a flash of genius: "I love Phoenix because there are no Koreans there. (Just kidding.)" Yes, I looked up "Just kidding", and put that in there, too.

In retrospect, it wasn't a really good move.

Donny Kim dragged me into his "office", which was separated from the classroom by a thin, fabric wall, and proceeded to rip me a new one. "This is racist stuff, you know? You could be prosecuted for this! I don't know if you're trying to be funny, but you gotta be a level 2 at least before you try humor! Like me, I gotta level 2 in English, and that's why I write a pilot for a sitcom. (Have I let you read it? It's funny... about a used car lot, 'cause, you know, they get different people in every day, and some of them are probably crazy.) But if I see this kind of racist stuff go on, you will get in big trouble. Now go back to class!"

Chastised, chagrined, I crept meekly back to my seat. I felt two inches tall, and sat staring intently at the tip of my pencil until Mr. Kim came back into the room to continue our lesson.

"Today, I write a Korean sentence on the board, and you try to figure it out from context." He scribbled something up there, and we puzzled over it, feverishly flipping through our dictionaries. The only word I could make out looked like "hug-in", which the dictionary defined as "a Negro; a darkie; a coon..." I sat back, put down my pencil, and waited silently for one of our three "hug-in" students to notice.

When they did, the class had a very calm, rational discussion about how the word was really a technical term, on a par with "African-American" or "person of color". Once the tensions were allayed, someone thought to ask what the rest of the sentence meant.

"Oh, it say, 'Black people are lousy tippers.'" The temperature dropped 10 degrees. "What, that not racist! That true! You go into restaurant, they eat and eat, but don't leave anything on table. It just observation!"

Needless to say, I was never written up. But I saved those notes in my memento's box.

1 comment:

Jenny Weems said...

Reading this story, I remember the "HOLY SHIT" thought at your third sentence. I vaguely remember that lousy tippers part... but I remember the rest. HYSTERICAL! Thank you, again, for sharing!
Smiling at the memory, Booper