oyceter: (racism)
[personal profile] oyceter
[livejournal.com profile] keilexandra's post reminded me of a rant I've had brewing. (On a side note, this post isn't meant to argue with hers, as I completely agree with her post. Like [livejournal.com profile] yeloson says, "Where you stand with intersectionality is really about what you're looking for—are you looking for social justice for all of us? Or are you just looking for someone to pull their foot off your neck, without worrying about whose necks you may be standing on yourself?")

I was in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai for the past two months this summer, and I cannot even count the number of times I heard anti-black comments, from "Oh, that place is so unsafe, so many black people!" to "OMG she's dating a black person and it will RUIN HER LIFE!" Before ranting about how racist Chinese society is (and oh, it is) and having people once more use that as an example of how bad Chinese people are, I would like to note: where do people think this prejudice is coming from?

Obviously, there are not cities and cities in China and Taiwan filled with black people for the media to make histrionic reports about. Most TV shows in Taiwan don't have sassy black sidekicks or Magical Negroes. But turn on the TV, and what do you see but bad HBO action flicks with the black guy getting killed, or all-white TV shows from the US (and sometimes the UK, but mostly the US), or news on the New Yorker cover of Obama. I'm also guessing that when the West began to trade with China, the ideas of the skience of race were probably brought over as well, complete with the placement of Asians above black people and Native Americans in the hierarchy (but all below white people, of course).

Six hundred years of white colonialism leaves its mark, even on areas that have suffered relatively little when compared to others.

... which is not to excuse anti-black sentiment, because choosing to side with the oppressors, no matter what the incentives? Still made of lose.


Date: 2008-08-05 05:01 am (UTC)
ext_6167: (mushroom)
From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com
I would like to note: where do people think this prejudice is coming from?

What you are talking about is exactly why i get so worked the fuck up over representations of Black folks in media. I'm tired of people-- here and in other countries-- wallowing in ignorance about people that look like me because stupid people in hollywood cant seem to get their heads out of their asses about what constitutes 'entertainment'.

Re: chuuuuuuuuurch!

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 09:49 am (UTC) - Expand

Re: chuuuuuuuuurch!

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Re: chuuuuuuuuurch!

Date: 2008-08-05 03:34 pm (UTC)
ext_8730: (atonement is not her game)
From: [identity profile] maerhys.livejournal.com
^^^ This. And yet when we deconstruct "pop culture" etc. we're not taking on the REAL issues. As if they're not all connected.

Re: chuuuuuuuuurch!

From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 06:32 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likethemodel.livejournal.com
My family is ethnically Somali but both my parents were raised in Kenya. The other day we were watching a documentary about Indians in East Africa and my mom told me that during colonial days the British set up a three tier tax system with the whites paying the most, the native peoples paying the least, and the Indian immigrants somewhere in the middle. According to my mom the Somalis in the area argued that they should pay as much as the Indians because their mixed ancestry (Bantu and Arab) made them more ... white.

To this day many Somalis believe there is a difference between them and 'black Africans'. Even in communities in the western world lighter skin, softer hair, and more Arab features (slimmer noses, lighter brown eyes, and weirdly, pale, hairy legs) are prized.

Date: 2008-08-05 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likethemodel.livejournal.com
Oh and! There is a ton of racism in the Somali communities here in the US against ... black people. It's kind of stunning how easily some people in my community can enjoy, even prefer music made by black artists, movies by and about black people, and clothing and fashions that began in black communities, but at the same time show complete disdain for the entire community.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 03:25 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 11:54 am (UTC)
ext_6385: (Default)
From: [identity profile] shewhohashope.livejournal.com
To this day many Somalis believe there is a difference between them and 'black Africans'.


I was going to explain it (or at least the part of it relating to greater identification with Arab culture) but it's too complicated. 'I don't really understand it at all' complicated. It's not even a case of being 'white', but not being 'black', but not really Arabs either. The sheer number of classifications and sub-classifications even between Somalis is unbelievable. Maybe we just don't like catch-all terms?

I get so annoyed when I have to tell various relatives and acquaintances that I am black, even if they don't want to be.

Date: 2008-08-05 07:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dichroic.livejournal.com
Interesting. I haven't heard that yet here in Taiwan, but it may only be that it hasn't come up yet. (I don't speak Chinese much yet, so you may well have more general conversations in a short visit than I do living here.) Most of my in-depth discussions are with colleagues, so the most common topics are 1) work 2) my and their own personal experiences. Also, most of my colleagues have gone to school or worked in Europe or the US or both. I do see young Taiwanese picking up styles that are not only hiphop but specifically black, like crimped hair to make it look more like African texture, but then again the influence of styles and music that came from African-Americans in the US has never been any guarantor of lack of prejudice there.

I'll have to push the topic some and see what comes up.

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From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 07:34 am (UTC)
ext_6283: Brush the wandering hedgehog by the fire (International Blog Against Racism Week)
From: [identity profile] oursin.livejournal.com
Not to deny your point, because, certainly, internalisation of the standards of the colonisers, and even when resisted in any particular case, not always with radical challenges to basic concepts of the racialised hierarchy. But I also wonder if this also somehow bonded onto existing class/caste distinctions of paler (because spending more time indoors)/darker (peasants working in the fields) in colonised societies. Because those kinds of distinctions were certainly already in operation in e.g. the caste system in India when the Brits arrived.

Date: 2008-08-05 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hari-mirchi.livejournal.com
Of course, the preference for lighter skin in India isn't entirely free of foreign influence. Before the British arrived, India was colonized by Persian invaders, who were much lighter-skinned than the existing population. (And no, I'm not talking about the myth of the Aryan invasion of 100 BCE -- I'm speaking of the Mughal empire beginning roughly 1500 CE) And the persian invaders, of course, had a history of warfare both with Greeks many many centuries before and with the Crusaders.

Date: 2008-08-05 07:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jiawen.livejournal.com

1) Skin color. In imperial/Confucian society, lighter skin color = literati. This carries on, I think, into 美白 "beautiful whiteness" and all.

2) Relative isolation. Not so much contact since the time of Zheng He. Not many foreigners who are black. (And thus a self-reinforcing vicious circle: black people don't feel welcome; lack of exposure continues; incorrect impressions grow; cycle restarts.)

3) Possibly Taiwan-specific. China has a lot more interest in Africa these days, and is building infrastructure like mad. Taiwan has lost a lot of diplomatic standing with a lot of African countries -- witness the "cash diplomacy" that went on with South Africa. I feel like I see less racism against African people from mainland Chinese people than from Taiwanese people, but that's especially subjective.

4) What you said. It seems like a lot of people's ideas are formed on the basis of movies and TV from the US. I had to tell my students, quite often, "Not everyone in the US has a gun. Not everyone drives fast. Not everyone dies in a shoot-out."

5) What [livejournal.com profile] dichroic said. There's a lot of idolizing of black people to go along with the racism. The idolizing can also be problematic: "I wish I could play basketball or do hip-hop dancing as well as black people!" But the attitudes aren't only negative.

Just my theories.

Date: 2008-08-05 12:53 pm (UTC)
jadelennox: Senora Sabasa Garcia, by Goya (Default)
From: [personal profile] jadelennox
(disclaimer: I'm a white Jew who has never been to China, so this is all secondhand, my reporting of one friend's experiences in one small part of China.) A friend of mine who is a black man who has been living in mainland China for years has encountered a lot of racism, of a different sort from what he encountered in United States. And my understanding from him is that it is a mix of pre-existing valuation of pale skin combined with stereotypes about black men from American movies.

Date: 2008-08-05 03:24 pm (UTC)
ext_6167: (black rage)
From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com
"I wish I could play basketball or do hip-hop dancing as well as black people!" But the attitudes aren't only negative.

But I cant help but feel that the idolization is extremely negative because it depends on stereotypes.

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Date: 2008-08-05 11:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] veejane.livejournal.com
Apropos of formerly-colonized nations picking up the habits and tactics of their former colonizers, have you been listening to the NPR series about Chinese (PRC) investment in Africa? I think it finished up last week, so should be in their audio archives. One of the segments that bugged me most was about a Chinese company investing in a mine in Congo at a huge advantage (Congo not getting a lot of development cash from anywhere else, or so I understand), so that yet again, an African country is considered useful only for its natural resources to be exploited and exported abroad.

Date: 2008-08-05 11:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nojojojo.livejournal.com
Interesting -- a well-traveled (black) friend sent this to me by email this morning, because we had been talking about my desire to visit mainland China someday:

A few weeks ago I was chatting with you about this and I just
wanted to forward you to the source for the materials:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanjing_Anti-African_protests (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanjing_Anti-African_protests)

As China has grown in world prominence, one of the things they have
been doing is working very closely and generously with a number of
African countries. This has caused a very unique form of racial
tension within China that few people know about that I have been
chatting with some people who are in the Asian continent about since
there are some issues related to racial profiling for African
Americans traveling to China for the olympics that I had heard about.
I hadn't been able to confirm the stories yes, but there is a lot of
evidence to suggest that they are true:

http://shanghaiist.com/2008/07/18/the_racist_games.php (http://shanghaiist.com/2008/07/18/the_racist_games.php)
http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080726122856AAhhvXD (http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080726122856AAhhvXD)

There is a lot that most people don't hear about because the US news
is so bad about reporting a lot of things that happen outside of the
United States, but this is something that has specific applicability
to black folks so I wanted to make sure I passed this on before I
forgot about it.

I don't believe that bars in Beijing have been ordered not to serve black people. But this is how prejudices get started.

I still want to visit China. Frankly, as an African-American traveler, I encounter this kind of crap everywhere, because the US has exported its racism everywhere, and at the same time there are new pressures in various countries -- immigration from Africa as European and former-Soviet countries' native populations decline, etc. I got some ugly looks when I walked into businesses in Sicily until I opened my mouth and revealed my horrific American-accented Italian; then they got friendly (once they verified I wasn't from Africa [more directly =P]). But I had a long sit-down with a fellow from Sierra Leone, who told me his reception is rarely as good.

And it doesn't help that the animosity goes both ways. I had a fight with my dad a few months ago because he was declaring that all Asians are thieves and low-class (on the strength of one incident with one woman). Pointing out that his thinking fit right into certain peoples' divide-and-conquer strategy was the only thing that shut him up; up to that point he was utterly convinced. And he's usually quick to understand the systemic nature of racism -- but his anger just shut down all logic. (He's pretty mad at the Cherokee right now, too. -_-)

::sigh:: I don't know what to do about it, other than fighting these media stereotypes whenever we find them. I think it might help to fight historical revisionism, too -- there's a lot of evidence of centuries of trade between East Africa and China in pre-colonial times, and a lot of shared culture you can still see remnants of now. I wonder how many modern Chinese or Africans -- even east Africans -- are aware of this? And I think we do need to travel more to China. Personal contact can destroy stereotypes too... though I'm not sure how "fun" of a trip that'll be for the people who choose to do it. Or safe.

Date: 2008-08-05 06:39 pm (UTC)
ext_6167: (Default)
From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com
It was reported in the bbc that bar owners were told not to serve Blacks and Mongolians, from what I recall.

I can't say that I dont think it's entirely unbelievable.

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From: [identity profile] jiawen.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-06 12:08 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 11:58 am (UTC)
ext_6385: (Default)
From: [identity profile] shewhohashope.livejournal.com
And what is up with white people who keep bringing up the racism of (mostly Asian) POC and saying that they're 'even worse' than white people? It just makes me want to question why they are so very invested in having someone to be 'better' than/to be 'worse' than them.

Date: 2008-08-05 03:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] troubleinchina.livejournal.com
As though these are things that can be compared.

"Yes, I will treat you badly, but hey - it's better than those people! over there! in some other country! Respect how NICE I AM TO YOU!"


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From: [personal profile] rydra_wong - Date: 2008-08-06 08:07 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 03:41 pm (UTC)
ext_2721: original art by james jean (jamesjean.com) (Default)
From: [identity profile] skywardprodigal.livejournal.com
Ignorance and disparagement of Africans and black Africans accompanied and accompanies European and Arabian colonization.

I'm very tired of it.

And yes, American pop-culture, with it's global domination of cinema and tv, and all its racist anti black/black-African storylines and tropes plays a big role in it. If we are the stories we tell ourselves, are audiences of, and many of these stories assume that blacks are 'rough' it's a belief that goes unchallenged and is absorbed wholesale. It's repeated often enough that people act as if it's true. :(

Date: 2008-08-05 06:38 pm (UTC)
ext_6167: (afro)
From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com
It's repeated often enough that people act as if it's true. :(


Don't get me started on the 'benefits' of desegregation.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] skywardprodigal.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 07:11 pm (UTC) - Expand


From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand

Re: well...

From: [identity profile] skywardprodigal.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2008-08-05 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seajules.livejournal.com
You've reminded me of watching some behind the scenes footage of Dong Bang Shin Ki filming a music video. There's a Black woman in the video, and the band members were discussing how she was the first Black person they'd ever met, and they were a bit surprised at how quiet and refined she was (I believe there was mention she was a model). That made me blink, then sit back and think. I know the U.S. has Black military stationed in South Korea, and I realized I'd been assuming there were more in the general population, and that the military would mingle freely. Except really, I know better. U.S. military bases can be very insular, even in the U.S. Also, young Korean entertainers tend to live in rather closed-off systems of their own, so while the members of DBSK may have seen Black people on the street, it's not unreasonable that they never actually met or talked to a Black person.

At any rate, my own experiences would indicate it's pretty easy to fall into the trap of believing stereotypes when you don't have living examples that break the stereotypes around you. I was also considering how exported U.S. media, with its negative portrayal of Black people, might interact with anti-U.S. military sentiment, thanks to our imperialist activities in Asia. Certainly, that seems to be a big issue in South Korea. I'm not sure how it feeds into pre-existing racism and systems of white skin=better than dark, since I've never really looked into that aspect, but I have no doubt none of it helps.

Date: 2008-08-05 04:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hari-mirchi.livejournal.com
This post reminds me of the Taiwanese guy I worked with in Japan who was convinced, convinced I tell you, that black people's skin gets lighter as they get older, based solely on, I shit you not, the recasting of the Vivian Banks character in Fresh Prince of Bel Air. *headdesk* (He didn't realize they had recast the character. He really thought that because your skin "stretches" as you get older, the color gets lighter. Seriously, where do people come up with this shit?)

As you said, it's not as if fucked up ideas about black folk springs up out of the ether.

Date: 2008-08-05 06:37 pm (UTC)
ext_6167: (afro)
From: [identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com
black people's skin gets lighter as they get older, based solely on, I shit you not, the recasting of the Vivian Banks character in Fresh Prince of Bel Air.


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From: [identity profile] hari-mirchi.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 06:49 pm (UTC) - Expand

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From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com - Date: 2008-08-05 07:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
From: [identity profile] bellatrys.livejournal.com
a lot of US citizens don't realize that we censored Japanese media ferociously during the occupation, even antiwar memoirs by Japanese veterans, but also imported US pop culture there, too.

And racial depcitions in "wholesome" US media 1945-1952 weren't any too wholesome, of course.

Date: 2008-08-07 12:39 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)

Date: 2008-08-10 01:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beteio.livejournal.com
A sidenote: when I was visiting relatives in China, they would constantly remark about how tan I was, and not at all in a good way (though they'd try to hide it, of course, but never that well). An interesting contrast to the Western (or maybe just American?) obsession with tanning and being "bronze" or whatever.


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