Thursday, November 04, 2010

Oh Europe, you never let the Korean down.
Footy fans have been caught up in a race storm after "woofing" and chanting "Who ate all the dogs?" at Celtic's South Korean star Ki Sung-Yueng. St Johnstone fans directed the sick abuse at the midfielder during their side's televised SPL clash on Saturday.
Celtic defender Cha Du-Ri also accused the Saints fans of being racist, by making monkey noises at his 21-year-old Korean team-mate, [Ki Sung-Yeung]. He said: "When Ki had the ball, two supporters jumped up and started making monkey noises."
Fans give Celtic star dog's abuse [The Scottish Sun]

To be sure, the Korean actually thinks the dogs bit was fair game -- Koreans eat dogs, and there is nothing to be ashamed about that. But the monkey bit is crossing the line.

America will retain the crown as the least racist country in the world, thank you very much. And those people who claimed UK was less racist than America in that post (ha!) can apologize any time now.


  1. Are you comfortable tarring the whole of the UK simply because a few football fools from Scotland went over the line? And are you also comfortable tarring all of Europe ("Oh, Europe, you never let the Korean down") for something that happened in a northern British city?

  2. Football hooligans are by no means a representative sample of Europeans. Decent people tend to keep away from the games (at least in Hungary, where no one in his sane mind would take his children to watch a soccer game, but British fans are notorious as well).

    If it eases your mind, the fully Caucasian German gatekeeper Kahn was also called monkey and thrown bananas once. It is more asholery than racism.

  3. I find the Korean's occasional comments about 'Europe' very useful.

    They're a salutary reminder that (1) someone can be very knowledgeable in one context, but rather ignorant outside that field. (2) a large part of being wise is recognising the limits of what you know and what you have the knowledge to understand.

    It reminds us all that as readers we have to not only distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, but also recognise the areas in which individual writers are knowledgeable and ignorant.

    Somewhere there is probably an excellent blogger on Moroccan affairs who occasionally drops lines about Asians being racist because of something he read that two people did in Indonesia and how it proves he was right about Brazil being the least racist nation on earth...

  4. Colm,

    Are you comfortable tarring the whole of the UK simply because a few football fools from Scotland went over the line?

    "Tarring" is too strong and too vague at the same time. But "more racist than America"? Yes. Even the biggest idiots in America attending a sporting event would not have done what these fools did.

    And are you also comfortable tarring all of Europe ... for something that happened in a northern British city?

    Again, the Korean is not "tarring" anything. But when the Korean sees the same thing over and over again all across Europe, it becomes a pattern.


    The Korean understands that Football hooligans are not representative. But even the dreks of society attending a cheap baseball game in America would not do what these football watchers did. That's the point.

  5. Hm, there are supposed to four links in that earlier comment, and they were supposed to work... here are the missing ones:




  6. Black people have nothing to be ashamed of about the fact that they eat fried chicken. However, it would be exceedingly poor taste for people to chant "Who ate all the chickens?"

  7. I agree with the Korean. Based on my observations casual racism is much more socially acceptable in Europe than the United States. For example, for many Spaniards it was not only not apparent it would be considered offensive to make Asian eye caricatures during the 2008 Olympics, but it was difficult for them to see even afterwards. This article has a lot of relevant quotes about that issue.

    Obviously, it's difficult to paint all of Europe with a broad brush, as there are a lot of countries with a lot of cultures and a lot of people with different views. Many in Europe condemned this type of casual racism too. However, it's a little hard for me to imagine anywhere in America where this type of thing would be considered acceptable in public.

  8. The Korean,

    "But even the dreks of society attending a cheap baseball game in America would not do what these football watchers did. That's the point."

    The points I was trying to make are, first, not the same kind of people attend a football game in Europe and a basketball game in the USA (as far as I know). In the article your third link points to is the hint: football "ultras" and right-wing extremist groups share much of their membership. Imagine that the hard core of one American football (or whatever) team's fan base is basically the Ku Klux Klan, and it's mostly only them attending the games, to get the picture.

    Second, a fan does not even have to be a right-wing racist himself to hurl racist insults at a black/Asian/whatever player of the opposing team. Demented fans will insult each other and the other team anyway, and if the player/fan belongs to another race, that's just provides another possible way to insult. That's not racism itself, that's being a jerk. You cited Chris Rock more than once, so let me do so too: "If I want to insult someone with one leg, I'm gonna talk about the leg." (Sorry, I couldn't find the link for that, it's somewhere in Kill the Messenger I recall.)

    (Somewhat OFF: I never knew "Uncle Tom" was considered a "racist slur" in America before I read the article under your second link. For Hungarians, he is a likeable hero from a book we read as children. I imagine pretty much the same is true for Germans (German readers, correct me if I'm wrong). Therefore I consider that article irrevelant as to the racism of Europeans, as it is probably not insulting on purpose.)

  9. As a Vacouverite and Asian-Canadian, I definitely felt that Europe tended to be more, er, politically incorrect when it came to ethnicity. But at the same time I spent about 7 months in England and never really encountered blatant racism. I've had a pleasure of meeting a lot of great Brits. So yeah. While the hooligans' behaviour is just awful, I wouldn't say it's a correct representation of the nation as whole.

  10. First, being European isn't a nationality and there is at least 27 countries (if you consider the UE and not the geographical Europe). Then even though it may shock you, "casual racism" isn't the appropriate word to describe this. I'm French and I have Chinese origins; yes there are stupid people who makes fun of my eyes or even my name but most of the time it's just to tease me. Yes, I said that it was to tease me! French people definitely have some sense of humor others can't understand and I can even add that they don't only like to joke about Asians but also about Marseillais, Parisians or any other pple from other regions of France... it's also a common thing between European pple to make fun of each other: Belgians vs French, English vs French...
    In the end, I'm not saying the situation you describe isn't wrong, it's just that you shouldn't make generalizations starting from this situation which definitely doesn't represent the state of mind of any European person.

  11. Like bulleusekatt said, we Europeans are generally biased/joking towards each other - especially Southern European countries like Spain or Italiy and now also France are considered horribly racist by us from Northern Europe. But the thing is, similar things are happening everywhere and I don't think this makes some kind of "proof" that the US should be a so much better place to live in.
    For example during a game I attended in Italy, about 1/5 of the fans present suddenly started doing "heil"-signs instead of cheering - but when players in Italy get the same kind of treatment like that Korean player, the fans' team is usually fined with thousands of dollars. A similar thing also happened in Sweden, which is considered a relatively homogeneus country - but there's a huge difference between European countries, please remember that.

  12. Hi Korean,
    Long time no see. I've actually been called to the rescue by a common reader of ours to defend Europe's honor on the topic.

    Where can I start? By the fact that you grossly bundle up all Europeans together because a few soccer fans are retarded idiots.
    We're talking about soccer fans here for god's sake!!!
    Ok, I have some insight for you. In the US, everybody, regardless of age, sex, social class, profession and whatnot go to stadiums. Football and Baseball stadiums are amazing in that way that they represent a somewhat accurate representation of a local population.
    It's very very different with soccer in Europe. See, the only people that tend to go watch the games in the stadiums are young, working class (and as such usually uneducated) men. There's nothing less representative of the population of a city in Europe than who goes to the stadium.
    Are there a bunch of racist idiots among them? Hell yes. But more than racist, the keyword here is idiot.

    Then, I couldn't help but choke with you "America the least racist country." Don't confuse multicultural and racist. The US is the country I've seen where racism is the most "institutionalized" maybe to the point that most Americans don't see it anymore. Black and Whites and Hispanics live in complete different and separate worlds. They don't live together, they rarely work together, they don't like the same things (except maybe football), they don't go to the same places, mixed couples are still a big issue, should I go on?

    Sure, there's less overt racism that one can find in Europe (or Korea btw, the only Asian country I've been to where I felt I was being disrespected for the sole reason I was white), but there's this underlying racism simply everywhere.
    I'm sure, you'll disagree, I don't have time for a debate these days, sorry.

  13. And like my fellow European commenters, I have the feeling that many North Americans confuse racism with political incorrectness. Personally I always found political correctness extremely racist in its hypocrisy, like calling black people "African American" but not calling white people "European Americans"

  14. G'day Frenchman, always nice to see you around these parts!

    The Korean is noticing a few recurring themes, so here is his rejoinder to them.

    (1) "Hooligans do not represent Europe."

    Of course they do not. But even the comparable people in the U.S. -- the lowest dreks of the society -- would strongly condemn what these hooligans did. That is how America is less racist than Europe.

    Also, the decent people of America would have reacted much stronger to this than the way decent people of Europe reacted to this. Google results are particularly telling -- this very blog is the third result for "Korea Celtic Ki dog", the first being the Sun article. If this happened in America, it would have been national news. In Scotland, it is a small local news.

    Put it this way: In America, Ku Klux Klan holds its meetings in a remote location, away from civilization. Apparently in Europe, overt racists feel ok with being racist in public.

    (2) "It's not about racism, it's about being an idiot."

    Why not both? It is entirely possible to be an idiot without being racist. It is entirely possible to couch one's vile hatred in non-racial terms. Deliberate, quasi-rational racism is not the only kind of racism that injures. A suggestion that it has more to do with being an idiot than being racist downplays the real damage caused by the proliferation of such "casual" racism in society.


  15. (cont.)

    (3) "Europeans like to joke and no harm is intended."

    Again, it is completely possible to joke without invoking racial terms. A racial joke necessarily involves a put-down based on racial characteristics. It overwhelmingly involves racial minorities rather than the majority. Consequently, they make racial minorities feel alien and unwelcome in the society of which they are rightly a part. The fact that this did not enter the European consciousness is a big factor in why Europe is more racist than America.

    (4) "Europe is a diverse place and only pointing out Scottish soccer fans is misleading."

    When the overall trend is obvious, picking one example out of that trend is hardly misleading -- it is, in fact, illustrative.


  16. (cont.)

    Lastly, the remaining points of the Frenchman --

    Black and Whites and Hispanics live in complete different and separate worlds. They don't live together, they rarely work together, they don't like the same things (except maybe football), they don't go to the same places, mixed couples are still a big issue, should I go on?

    The Korean thinks you should go on, because your examples are getting weaker and weaker as they progress. You do have a point on "don't live together" part. But "don't like the same things"? Need the Korean remind you that it was white America that was the most enthusiastic consumer of black hip-hop and R&B to the extent that majority of white musical artists bought into black styles? And "mixed couples are still a big issue"? Seriously? When American television (shows as well as commercials) at this point is practically covered with mixed-race couples?

    Sure, there's less overt racism that one can find in Europe ... but there's this underlying racism simply everywhere.

    You just acquiesced into the Korean's point, because that is the truth. The Korean never, ever, ever said America was not racist at all. Is there underlying racism in many corners of America? Of course! And it might be difficult to compare the amount of America's underlying racism and the amount of Europe's underlying racism.

    But it is clear that America has less overt racism. Overt racism is the easiest kind of racism to eliminate, precisely because they are overt. And the reason why America was able to significantly reduce overt racism is because America is utterly committed to eradicating racism. When the Korean sees the overt racism in Europe -- not simply from the sports news, but from more serious news, anecdotes and his own personal experience -- he cannot help but wonder if Europe even perceives racism as a problem.

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  18. Hello there! I'm fresh and green here, but being a European, of course I'll try to jump in to defend the honour of our country! Oh ... well, our continent. The EU! Our cultural heritage? Anyway ... back to the topic.

    Dear Korean: Concerning Evidence 2 ‘Uncle Barack’s Cabin’:

    I think Iaopan is absolutely right. Virtually no one around here in Europe knows of Uncle Tom being a racial slur. I’m a German and never heard it. However Uncle Tom's Cabin is widely recognized as a highly respected novel condemning racism. Obama's election was viewed pretty positively by most Germans and other Europeans - at least as far as I know I - sometimes enthusiastically. Especially after this white guy named Bush.
    I find it a bit hard to believe that this headline was intended to insult Obama. My immediate reaction to it was that I considered it to be a pretty lame wordplay that tried very hard to be witty. Remember how bad things were in America back when this novel was written? Now they've actually elected a BLACK president! (The first coloured president, yes. But with a white mother – isn’t he as much of a white president as a black president?)

    You might be correct in your assessment of America being the least racist country in the world. I'd really, reaally love to believe that they've learned to live with each other at least a tiny bit better with all the practice they've gotten there. But I think your judgement of Europe is too superficial.
    At least some of the points you field belong to the more murky realm of political correctness instead of overt racism.

    You once wrote about political correctness - stating that even innocent usage of political incorrect terms should be attacked as long as the danger of racism roams the world. There might be some truth in that, however I'm not such a great fan of political correctness. Political correctness has its place - but there's a reason why this term has become almost an insult.
    What harm can political correctness do? For one thing, it can look pretty silly. Now I know that our languages are full of unsightly old relics from the dark ages. Not only racism, but also discrimination against women.

    Stamping out all of this would lead to a very stilted use of language. Where to start? Where to stop? Certainly some expressions should be dropped, but this is no easy case of black and white (by the way ... isn't that expression racist, too?)
    Here's a nice little statement by Mr. Cleese on the subject:

    Political correctness can also lead to problematic taboos although this is another complicated subject.

    Considering Europe is still doubtless VERY conscious of the horrors of World War II and Nazism I think it is a bit silly to wonder if Europe perceives overt racism as a problem. It's one of THE major subjects in European politics. Look at the whole Immigration problem, the Multiculturalism debate. America is hardly free from it either.
    How do you deal with Islamism – and your Islamic citizens?
    How do you deal with Mexican immigrants 'stealing your jobs'?

    It's a very complicated subject - and tidy, simple solutions are scarce. Sorry for the huge post. :)

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  21. Mmmh ... I'm no great sports expert. From what I've read there have indeed been pretty despisable cases of overt racism.

    I don't think anyone here has been trying to deny that. Denying that overt racism exists in Europe would be mindboggingly naive or willfully blind in any case.

    It's rather the question of just how representative this sort of behaviour is. Also, racism isn't always as easy to detect as in hordes of hooligans shouting idiotic racist slogans.

    And sometimes there is the question just where racism begins. For example there was a story featured on this blog about - I think - a Spanish olympic team excited about travelling to the games in Asia. They made a silly group photo of them squinting with their eyes trying to look chinese.

    Is this racism? Perhaps ... on a subconscious or even a cultural level. It was likely not malicious but could be seen as resulting from old racial stereotyping. In my opinion this would belong to shaky territory. It is certainly politically incorrect.
    But how much of it should be considered wrong? How would one feel about a Nigerian football team going to a tour in Europe - and celebrating this by painting their faces white and wearing Lederhosen or waving baguettes?

    Part of the uncomfortable feeling this photo creates rests in the imperialistic history of Europe ... not in the actual matter at hand.

    Just to be clear, I'm certainly not trying to defend or deny or racism or belittle its dangers.

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  24. Hi Korean!

    I've been reading your blog for a while, as I'm interested in Korea and learning korean.
    I'm french, and I don't think you can say : "Apparently in Europe, overt racists feel ok with being racist in public."
    Recently, the offspring of a perfume company founder used an expression with the word nigger during an interview, demonstrations occured and several associations lodged a complaint against him.

    As for the US, I've never gone there so I won't say a word about it.

    But for Europe (or at least France) , mimicking asians is sadly quite common (between friends). Well it just depends on the people and where they have grown up, I have the same number of good and bad examples. It has decreased recently with the bigger presence of China in the international stage. I think it's more due to ignorance, like koreans towards Westerners in Korea. I must say it doesn't feel good when people stare at you like you're a freak and call you yankee or 미국사람(no offense for american people).

    Also,I'd be really interested to know the Korean's "own personal experience". Had a really bad trip in Europe ? Because most of the time you've mentionned it, it hasn't been in a good way.

    Anyway I really like your blog. Keep it up!



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