"Because [he/she/you] are a foreigner" I’m getting real tired of hearing that, especially at work.
Sensei pulled out this chestnut TWICE today and it pissed me off both times.
First time it happened, I was doing gestures for the class so the kids would guess which sport I was playing. She showed me the “sumo” card and instantly started giggling.
"Here’s something you should all know," she told the class in Japanese. "Feit-sensei…well, he’s a foreigner so I don’t know…"
RAGE POINT ONE: I guarantee I know more about sumo than every kid in that classroom. I’ve been watching sumo since before these kids were even born. Baseball and soccer are Japan’s favorite sports now, sumo doesn’t even scratch the top 10.
RAGE POINT TWO: the best sumo wrestlers are all foreigners. There hasn’t been a Japanese yokozuna (the top rank of wrestlers) in over a decade. Which, frankly, proves I know more about sumo than the lady who’s belittling my sumo knowledge.
In the very next period, we were doing quizzes. I drew a map of Japan on the chalkboard and highlighted the northeast area. I said “North, east” to punctuate each direction in the hope of communicating my meaning.
Sensei, ever the enthusiastic helper, said (in Japanese) “Oh, he’s referring to the Tokyo area.” Which isn’t the case at all. When I explained that, drawing a dot where Tokyo would be on my map, she said to herself (yet loud enough for me to hear) “nevermind, you’re a foreigner” before moving on.
I am not an expert artist, but I can draw Japan. I know where fucking Tokyo is. But her mistake turned into an opportunity to make me look like an idiot.
I know these are little things. Microaggressions. It’s not like I’m being pelted with racial slurs and sent to sit in the back of the bus. But it’s still racist and bullshit and most of all, it’s rude.
What are my options here? Can I possibly explain to her how insulting this is? Because the whole point of having me in the classroom, in my opinion, is to encourage the kids to learn from and interact with a non-Japanese person. These kids live in the sticks, I’m probably the first foreign face they’ve ever seen outside of television. And I’ve been working in this town for seven years, which means I’ve been going to their school longer than they have.
Can I please be afforded a micron of respect? Is it too much to ask that teachers avoid making broad assumptions about me so as not to “other” me in front of the kids? Because these kids are already getting a steady diet of that on television every night, to say nothing of any biases their parents or grandparents might have.
I can’t fight the children’s prejudice and adults’ prejudices at the same time. You want to help me teach the kids, teach them I’m not a stranger. We can talk about differences in culture, just don’t insult my intelligence. Don’t ask me questions and hold my answers aloft as proof that everyone is different from Japanese people. If you can’t manage that, I’d rather teach classes alone and deal with the headaches later.