White Man's Venom | Letters | Chicago Reader

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White Man's Venom

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Dear editor:

Your story "Pay Phone" by Michael Glab [January 7] was repulsive in its obvious anti-Asian, antiminority racism. I'm offended that your holier-than-thou, PC publication would even print it.

I can't understand why Glab had to unleash his white man's venom (and that of his neighbors) on this unsuspecting Korean merchant. Not only did he basically call her cheap and filthy, he implied those traits were because of her ethnic background. As well, while Glab never bothered to describe his looks or those of his white neighbors, he described the Korean merchant with "her face was grim, and her eyes narrowed whenever . . ." With his obvious dislike for Koreans, I'm surprised Glab didn't add that her eyes narrowed "more than they already did" because of her race.

As well, this almost inhuman lady didn't talk on the phone to friends--she "argued, spitting words." How did he know she was arguing--does Glab speak Korean? I know I don't spit when I speak Korean and for him to use that verb only shows how he feels this lady's natural language is somehow uncivilized and repulsive.

As well, if Glab would vow never even to buy a newspaper from a minority whose only crime was throwing water in the street or speaking her natural language (probably the only language she knew), I'm surprised he could find anyone to buy a newspaper from.

Then, to top it off, Glab felt himself a hero for vandalizing the merchant's telephone and blaming it on kids. What a cock! As if he felt that merchant was somehow getting so rich off a lousy pay phone (she probably made $200 a month off it, tops) that he could vandalize it at will and she wouldn't suffer because of it.

Later, Glab goes on to describe another Asian as chubby (even though none of the callers were ever physically described) and speculated that the chubby man was the merchant's spouse. Yeah, Glab--if you see two Asian people in the same area, they must be married. How racist! Maybe he was simply an unrelated business-person. Not all Asians are related, just as all whites are not related.

Finally, Glab pats himself on the back for being a good neighbor--I guess because he vandalized an innocent person to aid his "mostly white, mostly comfortable" neighbors.

Yeah, you're a good neighbor, Michael, as long as you're in someone else's neighborhood.

Brenda You
Chicago

Michael Glab replies:

I knew while writing the story that I ran the risk of offending some people who might interpret my characterization of the woman as racist. But the key to understanding the story was the acknowledgment that we, as white and comfortable people, the overwhelming majority in this little neighborhood, could convince ourselves we were victimized by this single person--a ludicrous conclusion. If I offended anybody who loathes even the appearance of racist implications, I'm sorry. Now, about your use of sexist slurs . . .

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