Misperceptions of Black Guys / Racism In Thailand
I enjoy your website and would like to offer my point of view which includes a comment on the question / answer in this week's "Ask Mrs. Stick" section in the last paragraph.
My background: First time in Thailand was 1999. Visited frequently and have lived here since 2002. Upper middle-class (by USA standards), highly educated, and very well travelled. Commute to USA frequently for work (taking the family along). Speak nearly fluent Thai. Married to a non-English speaking wonderful, honest, gorgeous Thai woman, and we have a 3 year old Thai daughter.
My personal Observations / Generalizations / Experiences with Thais. Applies to almost all I have come into contact with from all levels of society and who were not travelled. Please forgive the run-on format as I am jotting quips from memory at the moment:
Skin color is arguably one of THE most important issues in Thailand. My wife and I deal with it in some form daily. I may be a bit more sensitive / aware than the ordinary farang because the issue is transparent to most of them since they can't see it or don't have to deal with it like I do on daily basis. It plays a major role in everyday life either blatantly or covertly, and consciously or subconsciously. They believe their darker skin color makes them inferior to whites and each other (and often, quite mistakenly superior to me even when they are at the lowest levels). I can't count the number of "with white!" products advertised / sold here and how they all send the message that "white is better than whatever natural skin color you have". I cringe every time I see a commercial portraying a typical Thai family where the parents are leuk-kreung at best and the baby is lily white. They have no idea of what melanin is, why they have it, or why it is "better" to have it in such a tropical environment. They discriminate against each other. There is a hugely disproportionate number of fair-skinned Thais in office type jobs, management positions, government, and represented in all forms of media. This is a country where job applicants are required to include color photos. The photos are routinely retouched or overexposed to make the skin look lighter or they substitute a black and white photo so that it looks even whiter. The leuk kreungs in advertisements and popular TV shows are not nearly representative of Thai people in reality. The top 3 Miss Thailand 2005 finalists (all luek kreungs – none pure Thais) underscores this gross misrepresentation. If I had a baht for every dark-tan to dark Thai not working in a low-end job, I would be broke. They have flawed excuses (which are ridiculous under scrutiny) to explain most disparities to themselves. Such as "Office workers are bright white because they work indoors all day" (puh-lease).
I am raising our daughter to be fiercely proud of herself and Thai culture however, in a country with 63 million Thais, I can't find ONE (1) Thai (or non-white) doll baby in Lotus, Big C, or any other popular venue to buy for her. They see Whites as almost all positive and Blacks (and Indians, Arabs, etc.) as almost all negative. This despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary for both misperceptions. For example, the foreign paedophile, woman beater, stumbling fighting drunkard, foreign mafia, human-trafficker, etc. they read about everyday in the newspapers is invariably white – never black. It is amazing how as a race, the evil that farangs do in this country and to this country sticks like grease on Teflon. When I take my daughter shopping, we get sneers, stares, and people look at me like I am a paedophile. When my White friends take their Thai daughter (not leuk-kreung) shopping, they get smiles and pleasant comments. If the baby is a leuk-kreung, it's practically a mob-scene (and we did it as an experiment on different occasions). My wife's family actually believed I was going to sell my wife into slavery the first time she went with me to America! She actually had to call to assure them she was ok!
My wife was totally amazed and shocked at the number of poor White people and affluent black people in America explaining that Thais believe America is a country where White people come from and everyone else just visits. When I tell Thais I am 100% American, they think I am an African immigrant or that my parents were immigrants. They cannot accept that my family tree in America dates back hundreds of years and (in an arguable way) makes me "more American" than 20th century European immigrants. They think Africa is a country. They think Africa has only black people and everyone else just visits to "help the poor starving black people". Ever wonder why convertibles are not sold in Thailand? They are afraid sitting in the sun will make them dark! My wife threw a hissy-fit and told me, "Put the top up!", the first time she drove in my sport scar in the US explaining that she (tan-skinned already), did not want her skin to become black (being who I am, and knowing her like I do, I certainly did not take offence, but looked at it from her life-long learned point of view).
My wife, very well spoken and attired, went shopping for a condo alone recently and the office staff didn't want to help her in any way after she told them she did not have a farang (she responded correctly that "she didn't have a farang husband"). As if a Thai or non-farang is incapable of buying. Some outright shooed her away because she was "only" a Thai. When I went to those places with her afterwards, they were kissing her ass but still could not fathom that I / we could easily afford the (laughable) "expensive" (as they stressed) prices.
They think all blacks are, as Mrs. Stick proved in her reply to the reader <Please do not misquote, that is NOT what she said – Stick>, what they see on MTV and Will Smith or (worse) Martin Lawrence or the disproportionate number of black criminals shown on the imported American TV show "Cops". They have no clue how well educated and decent MOST American blacks are and how extremely well educated and globally / politically aware most black Africans are. They have a huge misperception of our true lifestyle / wealth in America. My wife routinely suffers muttered gossip about us being married which is laughable to her since we are far wealthier than all those gossipers and their "rich" farang husbands combined (most of whom are living on pension or eeking out a living here). Their husbands (ALL of them!) drink and have other vices such as whoremongering behind their backs while I have none of those vices and have always been quite happy with our monogamy and the sanctity of marriage (BTW, it is very common for American black guys to be fiercely loyal when we find a good woman). She is far above them with a much better quality husband, and they are too stupid to see how ridiculous they actually sound.
Most of Thais' shortsightedness and stereotypes can be traced back to their schooling. Thai schools are notoriously under-par and don't teach most of what they need to know about themselves or the world outside. For example, they think Thailand is a large country (bigger than the "country" of Africa) because the map of Thailand is always shown to be larger than it actually is on maps, or (more commonly) they show huge maps of ONLY Thailand and maybe its bordering countries. I will gladly pay a reward for each Thai who can perform grammar school math without using a calculator. Ask any average Thai: "How much is (8 x 6) + 10 – 10". They can't do it. It's not that they are stupid or anything, it's just that what they are taught is sub-standard. <You're starting to show ignorance now. I share an office with an American maths teacher and have students in and out of our office al day. they perform . Oh, I come from NZ, a country with a supposedly model education system, – and these kids kick my butt when it comes to maths! – Stick> The regrettable part is that they don't know that they were not taught properly leaving many of them ignorant (dictionary definition, not the colloquial sense of the word with its negative connotations). <Highly offensive comments about something you do NOT ever talk about removed here – Stick>
The masses get their information fed to them from the TV and believe all the images and stereotypes they see without challenge. The common Thai generally does not devote much time to reading and does not read English. Therefore, they are only exposed
to a very myopic and limited point of view of people, the world, and themselves – again contributing to ignorance about others. The news they do get is filtered through an editor who may also be just as ignorant.
The term "farang" is the equivalent of "gringo", "gaijin", "Anglo", or (in America) "white folk". A non-white person cannot be a farang (and does the term "Westerner" includes us Blacks or not? If not, what are we?). They have no clue that in most cases, certainly not all, that although a Thai woman gets kudos for having a farang husband and luek-kreung baby, but when she goes to [America], she will not be easily accepted on her own merits and the child will often be looked down upon as a half-breed their entire life (can be very negative if it's a boy, and positive if it's a girl). While in black American society, she is usually accepted at whatever societal level her husband is at because we are already so mixed that skin tone and original race is not important. I have met several adult half-breed blacks here in Thailand and they have been treated like shyt their entire lives. Truth be told, if Tiger Woods were to have grown up here in Thailand, his life would have been shyt, too. I would not doubt for a second that his mother suffered all sorts of societal abuses when she married his father. Now everyone in Thailand wants to claim him as Thai; and he accepts that to his and his parents' credit, but not even Mariah Carey (after her heritage was disclosed) or Beyonce Knowels could get a promotional contract here (not that she even wants one – and certainly does not need it), and nobody knows anything about Alicia Keys' Grammies or songs. Venus and Serena were not even approached for promotions and instead passed over for that other tennis "star" who rarely wins. I have yet to meet the Thai who can name any 3 of the many Blacks who lead sports (past or present) other than Tyson, Jordan, and Tiger.
When I was dating Thai women in Thailand, it was very much like my experience dating Asian women in America. In private, everything is wonderful, but in public, I was downplayed or outright avoided by the same woman who had her legs spread wide voluntarily and willingly (as in a non-whore) moments before. They were all timid at first because of their ignorance about what I have stated above, but once they got to know me and the TRUTH about Black guys, it was like "hmmmmm…ok". Including virgins. They were very conscious of what others would think / say if seen with me. When dating whores, there were several times when the woman had a paying customer / boyfriend(s), but I would get unsolicited knocks on my door…OFTEN…and not always for sex! One came so often that I just gave her a key. So to say that Thai women are NOT genuinely interested in Black guys and would have to be a wealthy MTV rapper or Will Smith as Mrs. Stick thinks, needs to be qualified with "to her limited knowledge".
Here is a question for Mrs. Stick: "What negative things have Black guys done in Thailand or to Thais?". I can't think of any. Here's the follow-up: "Why do you think Thai people think like you think about Blacks?". I am not really expecting an explanation. Nobody ever has a one…
Racism is never a good thing and as you point out, it exists here in Thailand. I don't see that changing in my lifetime, so I think one just has to deal with it. Don't think whites are not subject to it because they most definitely are.