Monday, September 01, 2008

Let's Ecology! 9: The ugliest woman I met in Japan

While I was working at Ginza English Conversation School (GECS), any number of teachers passed through. One of them was a beautiful Australian woman named Stephanie. She was absolutely gorgeous, in a way that really stood out in Japan -- tall, with long blond hair, big blue eyes, a lovely friendly smile, a shapely athletic figure. She was the most beautiful white woman I ever saw in Japan (and I could count the better-looking Asian women I saw on one hand).

As soon as I saw Stephanie, I was pretty sure that she wouldn't last long at GECS. Her attractiveness premium was just too high. In fact, she was only there for about three weeks before she left for a better job. But while she was there, she made quite an impression on everyone.

Because somehow one of us teachers' five-minute in-between-class group conversations happened to get onto the subject of Australian Aborigines. And then Stephanie was off. They're lazy. They're ignorant. They don't want to work. They don't want to go to school. All they want to do is collect welfare. And on and on. But she didn't say "they." She said "the boongs." "The boongs are this. The boongs are that." And "boong," for those of you unfamiliar with Australian slang, is equivalent to "nigger," but used to refer to Aborigines.

One of the teachers got up and left the room. The rest of us just stared at her with our mouths agape. I don't think any of us had ever seen an open -- no, not just open -- a flaming racist like that before. I know I hadn't. Sure, I'd heard similar ideas before, but usually they were put a little more subtly. I'd never seen anyone in the middle of a group of college-educated people express them openly, almost proudly, as if they were common sense, and combine them with racial slurs. I never have since, either.

For a moment, I literally couldn't believe my ears. "Wait -- is she saying what I think she's saying? Oh. My. Freakin'. Gourd." But that moment was all it took for Stephanie to go from one of the most attractive people I'd ever met to one of the least. In fact, she was the ugliest woman I met in Japan.

More "Let's Ecology!" posts are here. "Let's Ecology!" is the story of my stint with a Japanese environmental group (or sort of an environmental group -- it's "complicated"). Look for new posts every Monday. The names have been changed to protect me from lawsuits. Everything else really happened.

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