Waegukin - living and teaching in Korea

My co-teacher tries to teach students to be less racist

rastafarian manHow would you feel if this man was the new native English teacher?
blue dot
Aug 15 2012

This is a short anecdote illustrative of how far Korea has to go in making racial progress.

A while back, I had a co-teacher who was very progressive. She was a member of the Korean liberal teachers’ organization JeonGyoJo, which among other things works to promote gender equality and to de-emphasize the “teaching for tests” approach so prevalent in Korean schools.

This co-teacher was disturbed because whenever we taught an English class, and the textbook character Peter, who was African-American, came on screen, the students would laugh and say things like “African” and “monkey”.

She was also the teacher of their Ethics (도덕) class, and so decided to give them a lesson on not being racist.

To do this, she found an internet picture very much like the one above – a dreadlocked and bearded Rastafarian. An image of otherness. She planned to show it to the class and ask them, in their groups, to talk about what they would do if this person was the new foreign English teacher.

Afterwards, I asked her how the class had gone.

She was very pleased. The students had done well. “They said it would be OK!” she said. “They would like it if he was the new English teacher. Because then they could make raps with him.”

I didn’t say anything. She was trying hard. Progress is slow.

Waegukin wrote these 225 words on August 15th, 2012 | Posted in Culture, Stories |


6 comments on “My co-teacher tries to teach students to be less racist”

  1. Shelley says:

    Wow! As an African American, I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

  2. kiki says:

    wow, the kids said that it would be okay??? I was expecting more of, “No! He’ll kill me!”

  3. Teresa says:

    I had students refer to two of my fellow foreign teachers (who are African-American) as being dirty: that’s why their skin is so dark. They also told me that I was lucky to be so pale and that I should make sure to avoid the sun over summer vacation in order to remain White because being White is more beautiful.

  4. Kpopingirl says:

    I am an black and love kpop and very ones dream is to go to South Korea know seeing this makes me think that i might get to angery and make me say something back to them if I EVER heard some one say that to my face or some one tell me that I was to black and ugly because if that. And the students that like kpop who are like that should see that most of kpop came from pop witch was from BLACK people and there style, like rapping, style in clothes, for example; g dragon, taeyang, BTS, BAP, 2ne1, ect. I think being black I’m Korea Can be hard to live with without thinking that ur ugly because your black or any shade of brown unless ur famous, and black. I also think that Korea should understand that different kinds if people are coming to Korea to learn new things not to spend money on going to a county they have dreaming of going to and being told that they are ugly for the way that hey were born like really Korea.

  5. Aragond says:

    I love this site. Please keep it up!
    What I love about it is that I am having those idealistic fantasies about how blissful teaching English in Korea would be educated the heck out of me! LOL. I am also learning that being a teacher is hard, under-resourced and under-appreciated in EVERY language and every culture and no country is exempt. Plato rolls in his grave daily.

  6. Aaisha says:

    This makes me feel incredibly unsure as to whether or not I should teach in Korea. I’m British, but am of Indian descent and am rather dark-skinned, as many Indians are. I fear racist treatment if I go ahead and make the move to Korea.

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