“If you haven’t been the minority before, welcome to the club.”
In Central Kentucky, I was almost always the majority. I was white and adhered to some form of the Christian religion (Though I am Protestant, Catholicism is the dominant stream of Christianity in Washington County, Kentucky). I really never think about my race frequently. People in rural Kentucky don’t often ponder the meanings of race relations. It’s not something that appears often, if even at all.
Now, in Korea, I’m the minority.
At the beginning of Orientation, a speaker representing a racial minority in the United States said that if we were never part of a minority, we were now. Welcome to the club.
At my school, I am the only non-Korean individual. This morning at a school assembly, I realized that I was the only non-Korean present. However, despite being welcomed to the “club” of minority status, I don’t really feel as if I’m a minority here in Korea. Sure, I catch people staring for a few seconds, but then they go about their merry way. A student informed me that I had really white skin, while others were blown away by the fact that my eyes were blue. This isn’t news to me or surprising. I was prepared for these kind of remarks during Orientation.
Perhaps the most alienating aspect of living in Korea is the language barrier. During teacher meetings, I sit at my desk and try to harvest words that I know. At church, it’s the same process, except for an hour. Despite my attempts to learn Korean during Orientation, it seems as if my language skills only scratch the surface of language learning and acquisition.
Regardless, I am a minority here in Korea. I am a different kind of person and I hope that my differences allow for cultural exchange.
Geon bae from a different kind of south,