#KStreetSpeaks: On Asian Colorism, Racism, and the Degradation of Filipinos

An episode of Hello Counselor, a South Korean reality show that invites regular people to help them take down communication barriers by sharing their life stories, is going rounds on Twitter after a user posted screencaps of it.

These were taken from Episode 334 released a year ago. In that particular episode, one of the guests was a man in his 30s who has been constantly teased for his “exotic” look. His features and skin color resembled a stereotypical Southeast Asian than a Korean. If you are curious, you can watch the episode below (start at 55:21).

The tweet, which as of writing time has over 15,700 retweets and liked 34,700 times, garnered mixed reactions. Many have expressed their disappointment in Korea’s prejudice not only against darker-skinned people but to Southeast Asians—Filipinos in particular—as well.

As we read through the thread, we realized that there are a lot of things to point out in this huge, sensitive topic. The user who tweeted the screencaps expressed an argument that is quite agreeable. She said “[It’s] just a shame that Korean culture in general is so well received and well loved in the Philippines while Korea considers the concept of being Filipino as something degrading.” It is a sad, real statement that touches three issues at once: Asian colorism, discrimination, and racism. As we all know, these problems are not exclusive of each other. They are interconnected, and their roots can be traced back to the same institutions: media that has always kept pushing a “white” beauty standard, long histories of Western colonization, and ancient traditions of classism and peasantry discrimination.

From a slightly different but still related perspective, colorism, racism, and discrimination are fruits of one’s pride and prejudice (no pun intended), whether they are learned or institutionalized. This discussion can branch out to many other forms, but we would like to limit it to the episode and tweet thread above. Just like any other societal issues, these can be addressed by any individual who desires to change for the better. It can begin with loving the skin color that you are in. There is nothing wrong with wanting to enhance oneself, but to alter can be a different story. We are all uniquely and wonderfully made in our skin color.

Ideally, this acceptance of oneself can lead to the acceptance of others. The treatment we should give to someone with darker skin should be no different than the way we treat someone with fairer skin. We are all the same human beings after all.

At the end of the episode, one of the hosts said, “It’s [their] concern [as Koreans] for having that prejudice.” Indeed, it is true. It is something for Koreans themselves to resolve because it is an embedded problem with history that is and solutions that must be within the context of Korean society. But it does not mean that those who have been victimized by colorism, inside or outside Korea, should not speak up. In fact, it is important that we discuss colorism, racism, and discrimination more than we already do. However, in doing so, our goal should be about raising the discussion to educate both ourselves and others so that more people would understand why these issues pervade many societies.

Let us talk about where and how these problems began. Let us think of ways on how we can unlearn it, and how we can stop doing it to both our people and those outside our groups. Likewise, we should remember that combating racism with racism, colorism with colorism, and discrimination with discrimination would not in any way solve the problem.

Let us lovingly educate others on how to respond and treat other people who are different from ourselves. Social media has become a weapon of influence, but it remains to be in our control on how to wield its power. Let us choose our words and tone carefully. Respond with grace and do not provoke a heated argument.

It will take a long while for people to undo their attitudes toward colorism, racism, and discrimination. But if we take initiative and do the little things, the ripple effect will always be there.


Cheska De Ocampo contributed to this article.

Written by