Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chinese Racism Shocks Some Folks. Not Me.

The Guardian has a story that is shocking some people who didn't know how the Chinese roll on race, "China's black pop idol exposes her nation's racism."
She is attractive, effervescent and has an appealing voice. But these qualities alone would not have made Lou Jing the most famous television talent show contestant in China and the subject of national debate in the world's most populous country. The reason they are talking about Lou is because she is black.

The 20-year-old daughter of a Chinese mother and an African-American father who left the country before she was born, Lou was a highly unusual entrant to Shanghai-based Dragon TV's Go Oriental Angel. Her appearances – she became one of five finalists – have provoked a storm of abuse on the internet, a rare debate on racism in the media, and a bout of self-examination in a country where skin colour is a notoriously sensitive subject. (Guardian)
At LiveJournal, where one blogger, Colossusx, has lifted more of the story and bolded the sections that are perhaps most outrageous or poignant to her, the news clip has accumulated more than 1100 comments so far. Some of the comments reveal western stupidity in the extreme, and that's to be expected.(Photo of singer Lou Jing)

The story is also tossed around at Racialicious, where at least one person said he/she wasn't shocked. However, others seem to think it's a conspiracy by westerners to make the Chinese seem racist by shining a spotlight on "a few" that have issues with race. I think that last group may be the same group that assumes because they've not personally encountered a thing, it doesn't exist in great measure.

I'm not shocked at the reaction of many Chinese in China to this young woman nor am I shocked that some Americans didn't know a significant number of Chinese felt this way. While Chris Tucker may joke around Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour movies about sexing up Chinese women at a massage parlor or the Chinese women may get excited when he does his Michael Jackson imitation, neither has anything to do with how the Chinese actually feel about race, especially people of African descent. That was comedy--the women are hookers and Michael Jackson was a successful entertainer.

I've known about how the Chinese feel not just about romantically mixing with blacks but also other ethnic groups so long I don't know when I learned the information. I figured that's why Jet Li never kissed Aaliyah in Romeo Must Die. Just in case the movie was seen in China, he probably shouldn't be seen kissing a black woman. Nor could he develop a more obvious romance with Bridget Fonda, who is white, in Kiss of the Dragon.



The official story, however, on why Li didn't kiss Aaliyah is that the kiss didn't sit well with "urban" audiences. Supposedly in the original movie ending, they kissed. In the released version it became a light hug.

Chinese attitudes about miscegenation, as one expert discusses in the article about half-black/half-Chinese singer, are more complex than just racism.
Chip Tsao, one of Hong Kong's leading columnists and cultural commentators, believes that a child of a Chinese woman and a black person hits all the buttons that cause prejudice among Chinese. "It's an obnoxious novelty," he said, adding that Chinese prejudice against black people was part of "prejudice against people less well-off than themselves".

There was, he said, greater acceptance of Europeans because they were viewed as successful, but mixed Chinese/white European couples frequently attracted racist comment.
As for me, I'm not surprised that like most nations once "conquered" by Europeans, the Chinese have adopted and maintained a disdain for Africans. Westernized racist views of black people is an export of infamous legacy, but that doesn't keep Chinese people and African-Americans from sensing a natural affinity for one another sometimes. This affinity is more obvious through the spread of Hip Hop culture; however, I don't know how the Chinese view this trend when compared with other Asian groups such as the Koreans and Vietnamese.

During her high school and college years, my daughter often attracted the attention of Chinese males whose parents grew up in China. I never concerned myself with where those relations might go because I knew as soon as it hit a Chinese parent's doorstep more than likely that would be the end of that. Why she attracted them, I don't know, but I got some insight one day from one of males' mothers. She implied it was because my daughter was both smart and quiet. "She is a nice girl," the mother said.

I could have gone at this from the angle of what do you expect from a nation surrounded by a big wall, but that was too easy. It's a complex topic. We know people are attracted to whomever they are attracted, but facing cultural firestorms started by those attractions takes a strong heart and fierce love that most conformists don't have. What's more shocking than the racism in China is that apparently some Chinese people who happen to have blogs or access to the Internet blame this singer for the extramarital affair her parents had. Sounds like something from pre-60s America. So, she must suffer in their minds, not only as the product of miscegenation but also because her father cheated on his legal wife.

All that said, I know that there are younger Chinese who don't have these views.

Nevertheless, maybe that Louisiana Justice of the Peace should move to China where some Chinese live down to his expectations of humanity's race relations. He'll love it there and have lots of people unlike him that he may let use his bathroom.

1 comment:

Mom101 said...

I keep thinking how horrible it is for this young girl, and then I'm reminded of the (even younger) Chinese girl who was replaced from singing at the Olympics because she wasn't cute enough to represent the state.

The saddest part in fact may be that you're not shocked by this anymore. Sigh.

The next generation is always our best home, isn't it?