Xenopobia Abroad: Four Months Later

Once again, another city is calling for all foreigners to be tested after a foreign English teacher went to school knowing they had tested positive for covid. Now, there is much debate on whether or not the school made them come in before the teacher received the test results and are covering themselves or the teacher did it out of fear of getting fired because they caught it. In the end, it doesn’t matter. The testing mandates are not only wrong but discriminatory practices.

I think I can now empathize a little more with the people who wanted to leave Korea over the testing mandates.

I’m exhausted, some days more than others. Having to be constantly conscious about my decisions to eat and travel places than Koreans is difficult. I realize that I represent a community of others, and my actions reflect on the community of foreigners, not on me as an individual. Personally, I’m not worried about how I’m treated; I am more concerned about how something I do could impact migrant farm and factory workers, who bear the actual burdens of the testing mandates.

The initial shock and need to comply have worn off. The reality of living in Korea has set in. I am furious at the growing discrimination.

I hear stories of discrimination consistently from my fellow foreigners, and I experience discrimination through micro-aggressions. All of this is disheartening and wrong.

Yet, when I hear about the growing hate crime against Asians back home. When I hear about a white terrorist who murdered 8 women, and 6 of these women were Asian. I am reminded that choosing to go back home to where I am the majority would be the easier path. The easy choice would be to live in a bubble blinding myself to people’s experiences in my community and the world.

That’s not the life I want to lead.

I want to live a life of compassion and empathy; in order to live that life, I have to open myself up to how others experience the world. I want to leave a life where I can raise people’s voices and be an ally for racial justice and freedom.

Living in Korea has made me feel in every part of my body that the world shares this toxic idea that Foreigners are what ruin your country. I can see that this profoundly racist belief justifies hate, repression, and murder in the United States, Korea, and the world.

This experience, For a white person who has lived their life in privilege, the rare experience of being in the minority is humbling. It is allowing me to find my voice to speak up for injustice when I would stumble before. I still may not know how to impact racial injustice and discrimination or where my place is in this fight, but I do know that living in Korea will forever influence the conversations I have on these subjects.

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