On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two. On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies. On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.
This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier. The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities. At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students. She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.
And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?” I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it. He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people. I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level. I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language. If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t. I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists. Too light?
I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…