oyceter: (racism)
Oyceter ([personal profile] oyceter) wrote2008-08-04 20:42

IBARW 3: International racism

[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.

[identity profile] jiawen.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 07:52 (UTC)(link)
Theories:

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.
jadelennox: Senora Sabasa Garcia, by Goya (Default)

[personal profile] jadelennox 2008-08-05 12:53 (UTC)(link)
(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.
ext_6167: (black rage)

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 15:24 (UTC)(link)
"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.
ext_6167: (Default)

you've witnessed enough of my rants on singing...

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 18:53 (UTC)(link)
to know how deeply unimpressed i am by that kind of bullshit.
ext_6167: (Default)

Re: you've witnessed enough of my rants on singing...

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 19:01 (UTC)(link)
i'm working on a FABULOUS rant about this for later...

[identity profile] jiawen.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 18:35 (UTC)(link)
Yes, I agree that any kind of bias like that is negative. What I meant was, not all attitudes of Taiwanese people towards African and black people are based in stereotype, and not all are negative.
ext_6167: (Default)

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 18:41 (UTC)(link)
OK, gotcha.

[identity profile] jiawen.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 18:32 (UTC)(link)
I hadn't heard US-style anti-black racism that much in Taiwan, but once I came back to the US, I suddenly heard a lot more. If US-style racism is spreading in Taiwan, that's both very interesting and very unfortunate.

I'd really like to know more about China's presence in the African countries its trading with, and Chinese attitudes towards the people there. I suspect there's a lot of cultural imperialism going on, but I haven't seen any reporting specifically on that. (And it'd be especially hard to get any objective reporting on that, anyway.)

You're right, a lot of it is cultural appropriation. So much of it doesn't pass the "But would you let one of those folks marry your daughter?" test.
ext_6167: (Default)

[identity profile] delux-vivens.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 18:41 (UTC)(link)
"black people are good at physical things, but not anything mental!" "Black people are good at basketball (implied: but not at anything else)!"

I want to walk around with you while wearing my sweater from Hoity Toity School and see how many people eye me with obvious shock and amazement.

[identity profile] jennifergearing.livejournal.com 2008-08-06 10:45 (UTC)(link)
Sadly, I can't help but wonder how many of them will think you stole it from some nice white person.
ext_2721: original art by james jean (jamesjean.com) (Default)

[identity profile] skywardprodigal.livejournal.com 2008-08-05 20:33 (UTC)(link)
I'm guessing that the way Africa-China trade is structured (natural resources out of Africa to China, finished goods from China to Africa), the rhetoric may not be the same as it is with China and other, more "desirable" trade partners (read: the West).

I believe this have a similar impact as the transfer of raw goods and finished materials did with European colonies and European powers. The places that are the origins of 'raw materials' are disparaged and denigrated as a matter of course, and the trade is structured in such a way as to devalue those who are purchasing/consuming the finished goods/providing the raw materials.