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Banana and racial discrimination

Posted May. 01, 2014 06:55,   


When I was in elementary school, my friend`s mother told me, "My daughter can`t go to the picnic. Would you come to my house, play with her? We have plenty of bananas." She was telling me to chose between picnic and bananas and I soon realized that life is about choice. I rejected her offer and went on a picnic but soon regretted. After all, imported fruits were rare back then in Korea.

I had a chance to hear about a "Top Banana" program at one U.S. kindergarten. It selects a child who listens carefully to the teacher and is active in learning, and then decorates the photos and drawings of the child on the classroom wall for a week. The program serves as a motivation for children. Top banana is an expression‍ that refers to a hero/heroine or leader of an organization. On the other hand, when American people call Asian people, who much assimilated with the American society and lost identity as an Asian, banana, they use the word considering skin color. Yellow outside and white inside, the word refers to.

The word banana is often used to discriminate against non-white people. In Europe and Russia, spectators at a football stadium throw bananas to non-white people or mock them by making monkey noises. Korean football player Ki Sung-yong who plays in the U.K. had to suffer racial discrimination by the cheering squad in Scotland in November 2010. He also got himself talked about at a game with Japan football team at the Asian Cup when he did a monkey mimicry after making first goal.

On Monday, Daniel Alves, a Brazilian football player who plays for FC Barcelona of Spain, dealt with a racist abuse when he picked up the banana thrown in front of him, peeled it and took a bite before getting on with the game. He was then backed from all sides of the world. Fellow Brazilian player Neymar da Silva, politicians and fashion models posted on social network services that "We are all monkeys" as well as photos of eating bananas. The person who threw the banana was permanently banned from entering the stadium. That person had no idea of what he was doing ultimately embarrassing himself.

Editorial Writer Han Ki-heung (eligius@donga.com)