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  • Sunday Tangent: China Daily on Chinese African-American girl facing racism in China

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 18th, 2009

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    Hi Blog.  It’s not only Japan that will have to deal with a multicultural, multiracial future.  Lou Jing, the daughter of a liaison with a Chinese woman and an African-American, is having to deal with small minds on the other side of our pond.  China has its share of internet bullies, it seems.  Read on and see if there are any lessons here.  One I can think of is:  At least the (English language) media in China is brave enough to call it racism.  Courtesy of the Japan Times October 16, 2009.  Arudou Debito in Kyoto

    ===================================

    Seeing red over black Angel
    (China Daily)
    Updated: 2009-09-18 09:56

    Seeing red over black Angel

    Luo Jing (middle; also pictured right) speaks on Dragon TV’s Go! Oriental Angel show. Bi Yueping

    Luo Jing (middle; also pictured right) speaks on Dragon TV’s Go! Oriental Angel show. Bi Yueping

    A half-Chinese, half-black young woman is making a lot of Chinese netizens mad. She didn’t do anything. She just looks different.

    One of the most popular comments is titled: “Wrong parents; wrong skin color; wrong to be in a television show”.

    Lou Jing, a student in the Shanghai Drama Academy, is participating in Go! Oriental Angel on Shanghai-based Dragon TV. It’s designed to discover potential stars. I cannot receive the channel in my home. After watching a few clips online, I could easily tell that Lou is not a good singer but she looks stunning. I’m not surprised she has been nicknamed “China’s Halle Berry”. But what really strikes me is her easy-going personality. She exudes a healthy dose of joie de vivre.

    I’m not in a position to judge whether she deserves to be among the top five Shanghai finalists. But she definitely does not deserve the cruel lashing by the huge online populace.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with her skin color. Yes, in terms of her skin tone, she probably looks more like her African-American father than her

    Shanghainese mother. So what?

    Of course, it’s a big deal in a homogenous country like China. But China has 56 ethnicities, some of whom look quite different from the majority Han. Even Han is an amalgam of many smaller clans, tribes and ethnicities, who over the millenniums inter-married and blended into one another.

    But this kind of historical knowledge obviously falls on deaf ears to those who harbor racial bigotry. There are two factors at work here: Lou Jing is not a pure-blood Chinese, and anyone who marries a foreigner is deemed a “traitor” of his or her race. More relevant, Lou’s father is black.

    Much of China’s simmering intolerance is color-based. It is not an exaggeration to say many of my countrymen have a subconscious adulation of races paler than us. The flip side: We tend to be biased against those darker skinned. It’s outright racism, but on closer examination it’s not totally race based. Many of us even look down on fellow Chinese who have darker skin, especially women. Beauty products that claim to whiten the skin always fetch a premium. And children are constantly praised for having fair skin.

    I see it as an offshoot of class discrimination. For thousands of years, those who worked outdoors were of the lower social status. Scorched by the sun, they invariably had darker skin while officials and scholars were sheltered from the sunlight by sedan chairs and fancy abodes. I don’t know whether this will change in the future as outdoor aficionados pioneer a new lifestyle with suntan as a badge of honor. It’s not going to change overnight, though.

    I got my fair skin from my mother and my daughters got it from me. During my college years, I hated it and desperately wanted a tan. My friends, who were spending a small fortune on whitening products, joked: “You are just like those rich kids who want to bring down all the landlords and establish a classless society. You don’t know how lucky you are!”

    Continues at

    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/showbiz/2009-09/18/content_8707573.htm

    More on the issue at

    http://www.chinasmack.com/stories/shanghai-black-girl-lou-jing-racist-chinese-netizens/

    ENDS

    11 Responses to “Sunday Tangent: China Daily on Chinese African-American girl facing racism in China”

    1. carl Says:

      The Chinese media often gets savaged in the West, but they have an absolute zero tolerance for racism. End of story. We get loudmouths like Ishihara bellowing about foreigners in Japan, but I have yet to see a Chinese official talking about how inferior foreigners or ethnic minorities are. Maybe they’re just keeping up appearances, I dunno. But at least I don’t have to hear it.

      The Internet, though, is where the Chinese racists hang out. This issue with Lou Jing has really saddened me. People on Chinese net forums were talking about how her father was probably either Obama or Michael Jordan, it was pretty sick. I doubt very much a Han Chinese would like it if someone said their father was Koizumi!

      Living in China after living in Japan, and following the issues on your blog as often as I do, I notice several parallels between many issues in the two places. I hate to say it, but they’re probably more alike than they are different.

    2. InJM Says:

      Racists and the internet are inseperable, no matter what country you go to.

    3. GiantPanda Says:

      The Chinese attitude towards black people is absolutely dispicable. I have heard them use the most horrible epithets and racist terms quite openly. They really need a lot more education in this area. Yet, on the other hand, Chinese can be very welcoming towards foreigners and a lot more open to including them in the in-group than Japanese are.

      By the way, I think the above article is wrong about being a “traitor” if a Chinese marries a foreigner. There is a sexist component to this as well because only Chinese women are considered traitors for marrying foreigners. If a Chinese man marries one (particularly a caucasian), its considered almost a status symbol. This could be related to the chinese cultural view that the woman leaves her family and joins her husbands family upon marriage.

    4. carl Says:

      “There is a sexist component to this as well because only Chinese women are considered traitors for marrying foreigners.”

      Panda had a great and accurate comment, but I’m not quite sure if this “traitor” business is totally true. My Chinese wife and I have had some experiences with some rude people, but they were usually drunks who would probably harrass anyone. The vast, vast majority of my experiences as the white husband of a Chinese woman have been positive. Other people might have worse things happen, but I can only relate my own experiences on the matter.

    5. Daryl Says:

      I bit hesitated on the comments from the beginning but what I try to express is the feeling Carl has.
      Being a Chinese Canadian, I admit majority Chinese are very friendly toward westerners, white or black, regardless of nations. In Chinese, foreigners are called “foreign freinds”, instead of in japanese “gaijin”, which is outsiders. Female who marry to westerners being treated as “traitors” is kind of history, due to less knowledge about the other countries in the past.

      I understand few people on internet could generate noise from time to time, just neglect it. Even if they bring Obama and Michael Jordan, (note that they are very popular and respected by Chinese people), that is not an offensive examples at all. It just implies that Luo Jing would be very lucky to be their daughters. I m not joking at all.

      – I’ve also heard about some pretty offensive terms for foreigners in Chinese too, so let’s not get too Pollyanna about all this.

    6. carl Says:

      “I’ve also heard about some pretty offensive terms for foreigners in Chinese too, so let’s not get too Pollyanna about all this.”

      The one you hear the most is “laowai” 老外, which is fairly close to “gaijin,” though I don’t find it so offensive as just plain annoying. “Waiguoren” 外国人 abounds, though official papers and whatnot usually use “waijiren” 外籍人. “Foreign friends/ waiguo pengyou” 外国朋友 is used as Daryl said, but very sparingly and usually when someone is trying to flatter a foreigner; it sounds like a term from the 70’s or 80’s. I have noticed a post-Olympics rise in the use of “guoji youren” 国际友人 to the point where I once said, “Wow, people don’t call me ‘laowai’ anymore, now it’s ‘guoji youren.'”

      Then there are the out-and-out offensive terms: “American Devil/meiguo guizi” 美国鬼子 “Japanese devil/riben guizi” 日本鬼子 “black devil/ heigui” 黑鬼 “foreign devil/ yangguizi” 洋鬼子 “big nose/da bizi” 大鼻子, “yellow hair/jinmao” 金毛 and, my personal favorite, the anti-Russian slur “old hairy one/laomaozi” 老毛子. None of those are very nice, as you’d expect.

      “Even if they bring Obama and Michael Jordan, (note that they are very popular and respected by Chinese people), that is not an offensive examples at all. It just implies that Luo Jing would be very lucky to be their daughters. I m not joking at all.”

      Call me naive if you want, but I’m almost 100% percent sure that’s NOT what that they were implying. I’m pretty sure it was, “She’s black, she doesn’t know who her dad is, so it must be one of the two most famous black guys in China, HAW HAW.”

    7. GiantPanda Says:

      Carl I am glad you have had good experiences. My own (as a white wife of a Chinese husband) have also been overwhelmingly positive, except for a few drunk hecklers (usually because they assume I am a Russian prositute, but anyway…). However Chinese in general just seem totally clueless and unaware that it is not acceptable to say the most horribly racist things. Aware that I speak Japanese, they would casually spout terrible racist garbage about Japanese in front of me, and ask me how could I possibly live in Japan. I suppose some would argue that at least they are up front about it, rather than just thinking it inwardly and denying it outwardly, as in Japan.

    8. carl Says:

      “My own (as a white wife of a Chinese husband) have also been overwhelmingly positive, except for a few drunk hecklers (usually because they assume I am a Russian prositute, but anyway…)”

      Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that! Of course, I wouldn’t want you or your husband to feel discriminated against since I’m in the same boat as you are (though the “foreign wife/Chinese husband” situation is much less common than the “Chinese wife/foreign husband” one). Best wishes to you and your family. As for the drunk morons: to hell with them!

      “However Chinese in general just seem totally clueless and unaware that it is not acceptable to say the most horribly racist things”

      True, though I am willing to argue that most of the time that is more ignorance than racism. The Chinese have certainly had less exposure to foreigners, especially non-whites, than the Japanese have had. And when I hear things like (as said about one of my friends), “Wow, he’s so black!” or “He’s black, shouldn’t he be good at basketball?” I just chalk that up to ignorance and lack of exposure to other cultures. OTOH, things like, “I wont deal with black customers” or the thing I read about a Chinese hospital refusing Japanese patients are just absolutely intolerable, ridiculous, and not something we should see in any modern country.

      “Aware that I speak Japanese, they would casually spout terrible racist garbage about Japanese in front of me, and ask me how could I possibly live in Japan.”

      Well, that’s a whole other can of worms, right there. More political than racist, I think.

      Wouldn’t you say, though, that the Chinese media (which Debito-san is referring to here) seems to be less willing to resort to racist reporting than some other places? During last year’s Tibetan riots and this year’s Xinjiang unrest I never heard any media outlet say anything bad about those ethnic groups. Rather, they seemed to stress ethnic harmony very deeply. As I said above, maybe that’s just keeping up appearances, but at least it isn’t as blatant as in some other places.

    9. GiantPanda Says:

      I think in China you are starting from a whole different place, because from the very beginning there has been a whole bunch of ethnic minorities, and most people accept (and are educated to accept) that they are all Chinese, regardless of differences in looks, accent and language / dialect. This is really drummed into them in school, and whenever there is a national celebration there are representatives from the minority groups dancing and singing in their local costume / dialect etc. So from that point of view, Chinese don’t grow up thinking that anyone who doesn’t look Han, or speaks a different dialect is not “real” Chinese. (Contrast attitudes to Okinawans / Ainu in Japan, and the recurring statements from clueless politicians about Japan’s ethnic homogenity.) Chinese government really has enough on its plate trying to hold things together without ethnic unrest, so for the media to start spouting racist sentiment about Chinese ethnic groups would be foolish in the extreme. However other non-Chinese races seem to be totally fair game, and in my experience black people cop it worst (including Indians). Japanese not far behind. I too would like to believe that this is just ignorance which can be resolved through contact and education. Still working on my husband though. Western educated, internationally married and 10 years + living in Japan and he still says some pretty outrageous things.

    10. debito Says:

      Racial rethinking as Obama visits
      Increasing diversity, born out of boom, forces Chinese to confront old prejudices
      By Keith B. Richburg
      Washington Post Foreign Service
      Sunday, November 15, 2009
      Courtesy MS and MD
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/14/AR2009111401147.html?hpid=artslot

      SHANGHAI — As a mixed-race girl growing up in this most cosmopolitan of mainland Chinese cities, 20-year-old Lou Jing said she never experienced much discrimination — curiosity and questions, but never hostility.

      So nothing prepared Lou, whose father is a black American, for the furor that erupted in late August when she beat out thousands of other young women on “Go! Oriental Angel,” a televised talent show. Angry Internet posters called her a “black chimpanzee” and worse. One called for all blacks in China to be deported.

      As the country gets ready to welcome the first African American U.S. president, whose first official visit here starts Sunday, the Chinese are confronting their attitudes toward race, including some deeply held prejudices about black people. Many appeared stunned that Americans had elected a black man, and President Obama’s visit has underscored Chinese ambivalence about the growing numbers of blacks living here.

      “It’s sad,” Lou said, her eyes welling up as she recalled her experience. “If I had a face that was half-Chinese and half-white, I wouldn’t have gotten that criticism. . . . Before the contest, I didn’t realize these kinds of attitudes existed.”

      As China has expanded its economic ties with Africa — trade between them reached $107 billion last year — the number of Africans living here has exploded. Tens of thousands have flocked to the south, where they are putting down roots, establishing communities, marrying Chinese women and having children.

      In the process, they are making tiny pockets of urban China more racially diverse — and forcing the Chinese to deal with issues of racial discrimination. In the southern city of Guangzhou, where residents refer to one downtown neighborhood as Chocolate City, local newspapers have been filled in recent months with stories detailing discrimination and alleging police harassment against the African community.

      “In Guangzhou, to be frank, they don’t like Africans very much,” said Diallo Abdual, 26, who came to China from Guinea 1 1/2 years ago to buy cheap Chinese clothes to ship back to West Africa for sale.

      With the recession, his business has dried up, his money is gone, and he has overstayed his visa. Now, like many Africans here, he spends most of his days at Guangzhou’s Tangqi shopping mall avoiding the police.

      “The security will beat you with irons like you are a goat,” he said. “The way they treat the blacks is very, very bad.” He and others pointed out the spot where in July several Africans jumped from an upper-floor window to escape an immigration raid. One migrant was reported critically injured in the fall, and a large number of Africans marched on the local police station in protest.

      The Guangzhou Security Bureau said in a statement at the time that it had a duty to check that foreigners living in the city were there legally.

      Long-held prejudice
      In the 1960s, China began befriending African countries, supporting liberation movements in Africa and bringing African students to China in a show of Third World solidarity. Lately, China has further deepened its ties to the continent, with Premier Wen Jiabao pledging $10 billion in new low-cost loans at a China-Africa summit in Egypt last week.

      But that official policy of friendship has always been balanced against another reality — the widely held view here that black people are inferior, that white people are wealthy and successful.

      “The kind of prejudice you see now really happened with the economic growth,” said Hung Huang, a Beijing-based fashion magazine publisher and host of “Straight Talk,” a nightly current affairs talk show. “The Chinese worshiped the West, and for Chinese people, ‘the West’ is white people.”

      Hung, 48, said her generation was “taught world history in a way that black people were oppressed, they were slaves, and we haven’t seen any sign of success since. The African countries are still poor, and blacks [in America] still live in inner cities.” Hung noted that Chinese racial prejudices extend to the country’s own minority groups, including Tibetans and Uighurs — or anyone who is not ethnically Han Chinese.

      The view of African Americans as poor and oppressed fits into the official narrative of the United States as a place of glaring inequalities. China’s most recent annual report on the United States’ human rights record in 2008, released in February, made no mention of Obama’s historic election. But it said, “In the United States, racial discrimination prevails in every aspect of social life.”

      “Black people and other minorities live at the bottom of the American society,” the report said. “There is serious racial hostility in the United States.”

      Sherwood Hu, a Shanghai-based filmmaker, was one of the judges on “Go! Oriental Angel” who gave Lou high marks. “Before the Cultural Revolution, China considered black people our brothers and white people our enemies,” Hu said. “But deep down, they’re a little bit afraid of black people.”

      The racial animosity here reflects a prejudice dating to China’s mainly agrarian past: Darker skin meant you worked the fields; lighter skin put you among the elite. The country is rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, but that historical prejudice remains. High-end skin-whitening products are a $100 million-a-year business in China, according to industry statistics.

      ‘Are we racist?’
      Chen Juan, 27, a secretary in an English-language training school in Beijing, regularly uses skin-whitening products and carries an umbrella on summer days. “For me, the whiter, the better. Being white means pretty,” she said. “If someone looks too black, I feel they look countrified and like a farmer. . . . Being white is prettier than being black.”

      “In my impression, black people, especially Africans, are not clean enough,” Chen continued. “To be frank, I just feel black people are too black. Definitely, I wouldn’t consider having a black guy as my boyfriend even if he were rich.”

      P.C. Chike, a Nigerian businessman in Guangzhou who has been in China for five years, exports wigs and extensions made from Chinese hair to his home country. He married a Chinese woman from Beijing, and they have a son, with another on the way.

      “Chinese don’t like Africans. They don’t like black skin,” Chike said. “China trying to embrace Africa is a political statement. The question is, how do they treat black people?”

      Li Wenjuan, Chike’s wife, said she thinks racial attitudes are less coarse in Beijing than in Guangzhou, where the commonly used Cantonese term for blacks translates as “black ghosts.”

      Some here say Obama’s presidency is causing a major shift in attitudes. Others, however, say many Chinese rationalize his election as a fluke of the American system or suggest that Obama, whose mother was white, isn’t “really” black.

      “It will be really interesting to see what happens when he comes to visit, because I really think the Chinese have a hard time with it,” Hung said. “Nobody has dealt with this question of what this means to our sense of race. It’s a kind of self-examination that Chinese — including myself — need to go through: Are we racist?”

      Lou sees similarities between her life and Obama’s: She also grew up without her father, whom she never knew. She read Obama’s autobiography and watched his campaign speeches on television. She learned how to chant “Yes, we can!” in English and calls Obama “my idol.”

      Reading the withering online criticisms of her talent-show appearance, she recalled, she came across one post that asked: “Now that Obama is president, does that mean a new day for black people has arrived?”

      “I think the answer is yes,” she said. “Some Chinese people’s perceptions of black people here have been transformed.”

      Researchers Wang Juan and Zhang Jie contributed to this report from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
      ENDS

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