Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tyra and Racism

Feeling sleepless a couple of nights ago, I happened to catch a rerun of the Tyra Banks Show. No, her beauty tips do not tickle my fancies.

The topic for this episode was racism. Tyra sat with five women of different ethnicities in her quest to determine which group "has it worse."

Each woman had a story to tell.

The Muslim woman spoke of being called a terrorist by random strangers every day and recounted her nightmares with airport security.

The African American woman's teacher whom she looked up to discouraged her from seeking a career as a medical doctor and encouraged the her to opt for nursing instead despite her strong academic record.

The Hispanic woman demonstrated with a hidden camera the humiliation of being watched and followed around the store.

The white woman's black neighbors in her college student apartment complex made her life miserable purely on the account of her race.

These are heart wrenching stories which go to show the strong undercurrents of racism which we have yet to move beyond. I can't really relate to their particular woes, but I do admit to sharing some of the prejudices which contribute to them.

Now it was the Asian woman's turn to speak. My ears perked up. Perhaps she would share something which I could relate to, I thought. And besides, she was kinda cute.

When she used to waitress at a Mongolian restaurant, a white customer and her kid asked her to share with them something about the Mongolian culture. She felt insulted and humiliated because she is Korean, not Mongolian. there more? No, that was it.

As I said before, back when I was growing up, there were only two Asian nationalities known to Americans: Japanese and Chinese. "Are you Japanese or Chinese?" was how people phrased the typical inquiry into my national origin since most of them had not heard of Korea.

But I saw a silver lining in this. When I acted like a dork, the Chinese or Japanese reputation took a hit, but not my people's. So I considered it my patriotic duty to transgress with reckless abandon in front of white people.


Back to this brain donor featured in the Tyra Banks Show.

Girlfriend, after finding Canada on the map, you might want to look up Mongolia. It is only two countries away from Korea, and most of our ancestors were Mongolian nomads who migrated south in search of warmer climate.

Besides, you were working at a Mongolian restaurant, and as an employee of an establishment whose mission is to sell the culinary aspects of Mongolian culture, shouldn't you know a thing or two?

And you had to inform the national audience of your Korean ancestry. Was that necessary? And this anecdote of yours was in response to the question, "who has it worse"?

I am boycotting all things Tyra Banks including her show and Internet photos. For the next two days hours.


At September 22, 2006 3:53 AM, Blogger Brian Buriff said...

Great post David. I love your humor. So...was that you who cut me off in traffic yesterday with reckless abandon? The guy was riding some sort of aluminum 3-point platform scooter thing with wheels being chased by a dog.

At September 22, 2006 8:02 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

First of all..let me just say I've had enough of Tyra Banks.
2nd, although it seems insignificant and perhaps trivial compared to the other stories shared...I don't think it's the story itself that represents the racism, but the feelings that are produced by it.

(And I would so love to see your dog chasing you down the street on that thing! WE WANT VIDEO FOOTAGE!)

At September 22, 2006 8:26 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

@Brian, I wish I could move that fast to cut people off. Actually, one guy trikked his way from Los Angeles all the way to the East Coast.

@sarah, wash your keyboard with soap. Nobody should ever be tired of Tyra.

At September 22, 2006 9:14 AM, Blogger Mike Y said...


Honestly, I have certainly gotten put off by this stuff for numerous years. As a child I can recall time when I'd be walking home from school and several kids would gang up on me because of my asian background. I got called everything in the book, except Korean.

But this isn't the end of it. It continued through high school and into the Navy as well. It completely went away in college and didn't resurface until I got married.

For years, my wife's family has seen fit to make racial and derogatory jokes at my expense. While they have felt justified in doing due to their asian mix, it hasn't been all that funny, even though I'm now 39.

Anyway, I suppose it's not a big deal. And for the most part I'm honored when different nationalities want to claim me as one of their own. But the slurs, stereotypes and so forth need to go. I have zero time or patience for such thoughts. People need to grow up. The sad part is that my wife's family members are in full-time ministry. Nice, huh?

Take care Bud!

At September 22, 2006 9:26 AM, Blogger rubyslipperlady said...

One thing that I do not miss about not having television is . . . Tyra.

However, I'm intrigued by the idea of the new Survivor and how that might be going.

At September 22, 2006 9:55 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

@Mike, I can certainly relate to what you are saying, and I agree slurs and stereotypes should go.

But at the same time, in the context of "who has it worse," I gotta believe it's not even close in comparison with blacks, Hispanics, and now Middle Easterners. The Korean girl's story was such a joke.

@ruby, my goodness - you and your sister both.

At September 22, 2006 10:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

She works at a Mongolian restaurant and got insulted?! Pffft. I'm like you - she should have listened to the real question instead of playing the racism card. I would have expected her to say something more along the lines of being called a "Dog eater" and "Karate master" like my friend "A" has put up with. (He has a Korean mother and an American father.

At September 22, 2006 11:11 AM, Blogger Sarah said...


It's not that I dislike Tyra or don't admire her good business since or believe she is a strong independent's just that I get annoyed with people that have to have their hand in the pot for EVERYTHING...acting, singing, talk show host, tv show producer..blah, blah, blah. Yeah for you..we get it already! ENOUGH! Isn't one Oprah enough?!

At September 22, 2006 11:12 AM, Blogger Sarah said...

Okay... I really did mean business "SENSE"! ha

See, I'm sure TYRA wouldn't have made such a mistake!

At September 22, 2006 11:19 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

I still love her...sniff..sniff.

At September 22, 2006 11:34 AM, Blogger J.OTIS MERSTER said...

Speaking of blatant racism and stereotyping, WHY IS DENZEL WASHINGTON AWAYS PLAYING THE ROLE OF A BLACK MAN?????

At September 22, 2006 1:39 PM, Blogger Mike Y said...

David: you're so right. We don't have it bad at ALL!

And JOtis: Have you ever watched Carbon Copy? I think it was Denzel's first movie and he played the son of a caucasian.

At September 22, 2006 3:11 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

One of my all time favorite actors Morgan Freeman seldom plays the role of a black man. And he is an outstanding actor.

At September 22, 2006 4:41 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Ooh..I love Morgan Freeman. One of my favorite movies is Shawshank Redemption. He's amazing in it!

At September 22, 2006 9:55 PM, Blogger Friar Tuck said...

I find Tyra is best watched with the sound off...because I cannot stand her once she opens her mouth.

I have always wanted to see her in the Vicoria's Secret webcast. O well. I missed my chance.

Oprah drives me nuts too, but not near as much as Tyra. At least Oprah had a lot of hard life experience and experience behind her.

Tyra sounds like a gal who just got out of college and thinks that she knows about everything, but has no real deep experience to draw from.

That is my take anyway.

At September 23, 2006 4:23 AM, Blogger Dave Taylor said...


Your observation about Japanese or Chinese (with no other option) is interesting. I grew up in a small upstate NY town where there were 2 African-Americans, 0 Asians and 0 Hispanics in my high school graduating class of 240. I knew one Jewish student in the class ahead of me (if you want to expand the boundaries of "minority" beyond ethnic origin).

That all changed drastically when I got to college. But I knew far more Koreans than Chinese, 1 Filipina and 0 Japanese. I dated a Chinese woman, and probably would have married her but for the Lord's constraint (for reasons other than ethnicity, obviously).

As for being Korean and being mistaken for Mongolian, I don't see how anyone can even begin to compare that with the more general anti-Asian discrimination once faced by immigrants to the US (and other Western nations). Seems more like confusing Canadian and American, though I suppose some are touchy about that, too.

At September 24, 2006 11:42 PM, Blogger ManNMotion said...

Great post, it's good to have a sense of humor to lighten the seriousness of the topic so that discussion is more rational than emotional. Now...about that passive aggressive road rage...

PS I hope Tyra finds your blog and the two of you live happily ever after. Do me a favor and find out if she knows Jessica Alba?

At September 26, 2006 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's this Tyra person? Until last week I could not have told you who she was. I'd heard the name, but I don't watch much tv. But the other night my wife had some show called, America's Top Model. I sat down and watched for half an hour, purely for the educational experience of learning about a different slice of pop culture. The fact that there were lots of extremely attractive women cavorting about had little or nothing to do with it.

I learned that it is very difficult to be a model. One must be aware at all times of the image she is projecting. One of the women was chastised for looking like a mom at the mall. Life is tough.

Then this week I saw a video clip of Tyra dispensing brilliant advice when asked this question: "What should a person do when they have a really bad experience with their hair dresser?" Tyra responded, as if she were giving forth the wisdom of the ages, "Well, don't go back." I am so glad that I caught that sage advice.

Oh well, whatever else one can say about Tyra, she's making the most of her moment in the spotlight. Reminds me a bit of Madonna. I remember the cover story about her in Forbes magazine talking about her business saavy. I may not respect certain aspects of the lives of these products of our pop culture, but I give them credit for striking while the iron is hot.

Boscoe Lemmon

At September 26, 2006 12:30 PM, Blogger God's Child said...

@ Mike Y
you bring up an important point. Being a member of a group doesn't entitle us to make remarks. That's something I'll keep in mind.

I always get offended when short people make fun of others for being short. They think it's okay as long as it's not a tall person doing it. Even if I'm not short, I'm offended though. I'm offended on your behalf.

At September 26, 2006 8:38 PM, Blogger Brotha Buck said...

I had a situation a few years back. For a book cover I was painting, I needed to paint a Japanese child. I always use models, so I hired an Asian child, and painted her. Everyone liked it except this woman I worked with. Turns out, the character in the story was supposed to be Korean. She had adopted two Korean children(I think Korean). Anyway, she said I had it all wrong, and I honestly didn't know there were facial differences between Koreans and Japanese. Ignorant on my part, but I thought Asian was Asian like African is African. But that's wrong, too since there are so many...ehthnicities? among African.Anyway, I learned something that day, and have been more careful.

At September 27, 2006 10:54 AM, Blogger Oricon Ailin said...

I remember when I worked at Pizza Hut when I was in college. I live in El Paso, a predominantly Hispanic city. I may not speak Spanish very well, but I do understand it okay.

I had an older Hispanic couple come in and say very loudly..."We don't want this white girl serving us. Get one of OUR kind to help us."

It hurt. I was always friendly to my customers, and it felt terrible to be treated like that. Here in El Paso, I get looked poorly upon. People assume that I am snobbish and selfish. The other thing they think is that I am rich. Just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm rich. I work very hard everyday to earn a living...and it is a very modest one at that. I certainly don't have money to throw around. I'm just as poor or well off as the next person...white, black, hispanic, etc.

At September 27, 2006 11:26 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

@sarah, you mentioned Shawshank Redemption? I bought the 10th anniversary special edition DVD. A post about that coming up soon hopefully.

@clint, Oprah should have stayed with acting. She would have been one of very few female actresses who could act without showing lots of skin. But money talks, I guess.

@Dave, yes Japanese American internment is among the examples of past discrimination which made the girl's story so lame.

At September 27, 2006 11:31 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

@manNmotion, thanks for stopping by. Jessica's alright. A bit overrated, maybe.

@Boscoe, yes you are right about making the most of it. But for super models, can you imagine how rought aging must be? All your life, you have been defined by your looks, and the very core of your being is whittling away. I suppose that goes for athletes too.

@god_child, I still think it's okay to make light hearted jokes, but it depends on the person's level of sensitivity.

@brothabuck, that is just plain dumb (the woman, that is). There are facial differences, but very subtle. Cannot imagine being able to represent that in cartoon drawings. Was this woman a Korean too?

@Heather, agreed. I hear that kind of stuff being said by Koreans too. It is just sad


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