Racism - the ugly side of 中国

November 12, 2009, 06:57 AM posted in General Discussion

Lou Jing was just an average Shanghai girl, and then she got the chance to appear on Oriental Angel, an American Idol style talent show. This meant that her appearance came under the spotlight, and the reality had to be faced. She is only half Chinese. Her father was an African American. Many Chinese people can't cope with this kind of concept though, and now Lou will say: "If you beat me to death, I wouldn't take part in that competition again".

See her on youtube here, (not viewable in China of course).

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November 12, 2009, 07:36 AM

Oh, there's also a great piece on the Time website here, and it contains a link to footage hosted on Youku, (which is viewable in China).

Fascinating article in the Guardian here.

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November 12, 2009, 02:46 PM


Thanks mate.

When talking about culture this is inevitable - the word is defined by an average tendency in thinking, feeling and acting

agreed.But I think there is an inherent danger in this.[People do tend to do this all the time and I'm not having a go at you mate...it's plain you have an admirable world view and are also very anti-racist].So sorry to belabour the point,but I think this lumping of everyone in the same boat is,along with ignorance,another factor that leads to prejudice.People decide the average so and so is like this and then certain assumptions are made about all people that fall in this group.And while I don't know enough about Chinese culture to debate with you on the points you make,talking about the world in general I would say that so often these cultural stereotypes and cultural observations or other observations are not true averages.Case in point...the Sudanese example you have given.People might read an article about Sudanese being killed in Australia and this great tragedy gets a lot of media attention and is thus magnified in peoples minds so that it gets greatly extrapolated as if it is some kind of average.To my knowledge this was a rare and isolated event [I concede I may not be completely up to speed here but I'm confident it is not approaching any sort of average].Then we all get tainted with the same brush.I'll none of it.I don't buy into people seeing racist Australians and then branding us all racist and same goes for other societies.I think there are bad elements in all societies as well as plenty of good.I believe in taking each person as they come.Presume the best in 'em and not brand them with the misdemeanours of others.Anyhow,sorry to ramble on,but I suppose it's something I feel strongly about.Love to all.wan an.

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November 12, 2009, 08:12 AM

Wow, I just read all three of the articles.  How sad.  What a bunch of a-holes some (most) of those commenters are.  I wish I could be more diplomatic, but actually the words I want to say are much stronger.

Yay HARMONIOUS society!

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November 12, 2009, 10:03 AM

In the Guardian, it's said that the black district of Guangzhou is called "Chocolate city" and according to Google the chinese word used for "Chocolate city" in Guangzhou is always 巧克力城.

But, the cantonese word for chocolate is 朱古力 not 巧克力 and 巧克力 only works in Putonghua as a transliteration of "chocolate".

Do Guangzhou people really use the word 巧克力城 or is it made-up by the press ?

.... Correction ...

In traditional characters, I also found an article about 廣州“朱姑力城”.

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November 12, 2009, 10:25 AM

I'm afraid I am not 'outraged' like you guys (as in 'God, they are so uncivilized'), perhaps because I come from a country where racism also runs deep, and I grew up in a country (not Australia) where racism was kind of extreme compared to this.   

We are being outraged about the opinions of people who watch Idol and get excited about celebrities? What do you expect?  This is no worse than you would get in Australia - we have had a surge in race crimes in multicultural Australia with black people beaten to death. Black people here in China, while a curiosity, do not have to put up with the treatment that they would have received just a couple of decades ago in either Australia or the United States.   People here are ignorant because they simply have limited life experience, in a very much mono-cultural society.  My daughter dies her hair pink - countless Chinese people ask her (seriously) if she was born with it that colour.  In Australia we do not even have the excuse of being mono-cultural.  

I had left high school before black people in my own country were counted in the National Census. I don't feel that I can throw stones at the Chinese.  Well I can, but only because 'they' probably also get Jerry Springer on DVD.  

So, please feel free to be outraged about white Australians too while you are at it?   


Did you see that Barrack Obama has a half brother who is married to a Chinese woman and lives in Shenzhen? Honestly, that guy has contacts everywhere!    

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November 12, 2009, 10:28 AM

This is interesting. I remember seeing this girl on TV last month. I didn't realize there was that much more to the story.

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November 12, 2009, 10:41 AM

I read the Guardian story - I don't know, I can't get excited by it because I find the tone so superior.  But I like the bit about Chinese history 'implausibly' going back 5,000 years.  I had a student recently recite the script to me as evidence that Chinese culture is superior to Australian culture (a familiar theme until I have a go at educating them).  '5,000 years, really?' I said.  'Australian culture goes back 40,000 years'.      

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November 12, 2009, 11:08 AM

As a matter of fact bodawei, I do consider the treatment that has been meted out to native Australians (ever since colonisation by Europeans began) to be unspeakably shameful.

Your subtext seems to be however that this is no surprise, and I do fully agree with you there. Our species seems to be by nature xenophobic, tribal, hostile to 'the other'. A hangover from our primate ancestors no doubt, from the days when such traits made the difference between life and death. Sadly I somehow feel that in the final end it will lead to our collective undoing.

Oh yes, Chinese racism though. Would you like to hear another of Tal's True Stories? Of course you would.

I came to China in 2004 to teach English to medical students in Guangdong. The great majority of the young people I teach come from Guangdong; places like Dongguan, Meizhou, Shantou, very few from Guangzhou and even fewer from other provinces. Many of them grew up in rural areas and I am the first foreigner they ever get the chance to see. I would guess they are a fair representation of what I call 'the real China', which is not glitzy cities like Shanghai, but the backward provinces where people grow up in fear of sickness and debt, in the shadow of poverty and with the ever-present cold realisation that the world is changing around them and they don't have much control over it.

Anyway in my first year I was given a textbook to use with them in which there was a chapter about Pocohontas and native Americans, and a poetic description (I thought) of how the first Americans would have been Asians who crossed the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska so many thousands of years ago. It made me wonder if Chinese people felt any sense of 'kinship' to native Americans, if they were stirred by any sense of their ancestors moving across the world in that ancient, unknowable time.

As so often though, they weren't.
"We've heard this before," they'd tell me with nonchalant, bored expressions. "It's nothing new to us."

Anyway I decided to give them a writing exercise based on the content. I compiled a short list of points they should/could respond to in what they wrote. A couple of the questions went something like: Would you like to make friends with native Americans? Are you interested in their culture?

Most of the answers were the usual ho-hum kind of thing, students saying what they think you want to hear. One boy stunned me though. He wrote something like: "I feel no interest in learning about primitive peoples' culture because I am only interested in our China. Chinese people are friendly though, and I am willing to make friends with any people, except black people."

I was appalled.

Next time I saw that class I spoke to him in front of all his friends.
"What do you mean by writing this in your essay?" I asked. "Why would you not want to make friends with black people?"

A hush fell on the group around him, eyes switching back and forth between him and me. Long moments passed before he answered.
"Well... I don't like black people," he said.
"Why? Have you ever met a black person?"
"So what possible reason can you have for saying such a thing?"
"Well... they look dirty to me. They look black and ugly."

I patiently tried to explain what of course he must already have known, that black people are black because of the pigment in their skin and not because of dirt, and that all humans everywhere are very closely related as revealed by studies of DNA and so on, but he and his friends simply listened with a bored look and were clearly relieved when I finally let it go. I doubt that one syllable I spoke made the slightest difference to his world view, one that any foreigner will encounter everywhere that Chinese people are to be found.

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November 12, 2009, 11:12 AM

Hi Bodawei,

It's more the "Aboriginal Australians culture" than the Australian culture that goes back 40,000 years.

For you, does "North American culture" goes back 60,000 years ? ;o)

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November 12, 2009, 11:25 AM

OMG ! 接特中心 !

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November 12, 2009, 08:07 AM

I'm afraid Mr.Obama might be "bullied" in the PRC next week, both politically and racially.

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November 12, 2009, 11:48 AM

巧克力城  接特中心


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November 12, 2009, 01:05 PM


your dogged pursuit in voicing the proverbial distasteful is admirable, and i always get a kick out of your pokings.

however, i have a sneaky(sic) suspicion that the present speed of the buggering (err, liberating)  of africa in the oil for arms and highways business will only be accelerated by such viewpoints. the progressive enlightened magnificents that propagate them should be very proud of themselves for doing an outstanding job of it.

bodawei, excuse? I would have thought the majority of australians recognise their past and have had the freedom of speech to allow them to face facts and try to move on from there to build a better society. i wouldn't have thought we need excuses because excuses are used as justification. 

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November 12, 2009, 01:51 PM


I agree with your point about ignorance often being a factor.

I also agree with:

I don't feel that I can throw stones at the Chinese.

...but I think for different reasons to you. Firstly I don't believe in throwing stones at anybody[after all somebody might get hurt..what's the saying now...sticks n stones will break my bones but names will put me in therapy for the next 20 years].I think it's better if people are enlightened.Secondly I don't believe that because a certain element of society has acted a certain way that one can presume all are that way [in other words why apply the comment to the whole Chinese race?].The same applies to your comments about Australia.How can one possibly be held accountable for sins of the ancestors? Agreed there is a shameful record,one that should be reflected on and learnt from.Same with the current situation.Just because there have been some very public displays of racism,[seemingly particularly prominent in Sydney in recent times] I don't think one can extrapolate and imply that Australians in general are racist because I think in fact the opposite is true,that most are appalled by such behaviour.I also don't believe in the argument that goes along the lines of...I can give you a much worse example,thus don't think too much of this lesser case.I think all forms of racism are unacceptable regardless of the degree.Giving a worse example doesn't make the lesser one more palatable.I really felt for the poor girl in this article.You can just imagine the state of her emotions on entering such a contest...her excitement,her dreams,her benevolence and most of all her innocence.She looks so young.I have watched Australian Idol with my kids and just cringed at the crass and disrespectful way some of the contestants are spoken to,particularly the young innocent girls.I find that quite distasteful and this was without racism being involved.So yeah,I can just imagine this poor girls world come crashing down around her.I think more sensitivity should be displayed to these kids.

ps I loved your tale about your daughters pink hair.I think it's a delightful story but I'm not sure how you and your daughter took it. :)



your dogged pursuit

..hehe,nice choice of words mate. :)


I doubt that one syllable I spoke made the slightest difference to his world view

..maybe not now,but at least he has now heard an alternative viewpoint and hopefully you've planted a seed in his mind and his mates that may grow later.A beautiful anecdote exemplifying ignorance as a root cause here.Some long held beliefs and attitudes seem to take some time to shake but I think change can occur over time [heck,I'm starting to sound more n more like Chauncey...jeepers creepers]

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November 12, 2009, 01:57 PM

I'm sort of wondering wether she was accepted into the contest because of her mixed heritage, so that it could be exploited for publicity. It seems that talking about it on TV was well prepared by the announcers.

The reason I suspect ulterior motives by the show's producers is because the poor girl obviously can't sing worth crap.

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November 12, 2009, 02:07 PM


I did appreciate the next edition of Tal's True Stories - of course I did.  Look I have encountered this kind of thing myself, including the black must be dirty stuff. Sadly such views are still expressed by the relatively young.  Actually I thought your story was going to veer into expressed views of people in the next province.  That is the intolerance in China that I find most difficult to cope with - that is the one that actually impacts harshly on people's lives. I'm still learning about nation-building with Chinese characteristics.     


I've had the undoubted pleasure of living in a few places around Australia and nowhere is the populace more tolerant than in the shady avenues of Toorak and Mosman.  A better society is more challenging in Alice Springs where it is still difficult for black people to find housing in town.  Anyway, you are right, we are free to talk about it in Australia.  I don't think I am making excuses for Chinese racism, I am just not getting outraged.  Particularly about a cute young Shanghai girl who goes on Idol - I'll save my public passion for other outrages.  Deeply held values are not changed quickly.   


Hey, in Australia we're all brudders, right mate?  'Is aboriginal culture actually Australian culture?' you ask.  The aboriginal people might be offended as they probably have as much right of ownership to the term 'Australian culture' as anyone, don't you think?  Your question is loaded with a Western perspective, fine as long as we see where you are coming from.  A more appropriate question might be: To what extent have the aborigines taken on the symbols, heroes and values of more recent immigrants?  Or, to what extent have more recent immigrants appropriated Australian culture?  Or is 'national culture' a valid concept?  Is it measurable?       

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November 12, 2009, 02:25 PM


Sorry, it looks like I ignored your post but in fact I did not see it until after I posted!  I was actually referring in particular to the attacks suffered by black Africans (eg. Sudanese) in recent times in Australia.  I was not originally referring to the aborigines, so I agree that we cannot be held responsible for past generations.  We can however feel sorry.  :-)  

Your points about generalisations are well taken.  When talking about culture this is inevitable - the word is defined by an average tendency in thinking, feeling and acting.  If you start talking about individuals you are no longer talking about culture (it is a group or social concept.)  Sure, none of my friends are racists.  Well, actually since Facebook was invented I probably can't even say that.  Actually, as someone said above, racism is in our (inherited) humanity as much as learned behaviour - it is a defence mechanism.  We'll have it bred out of us in a millennium or so. I will agree that Australians as a group display remarkably few racist tendencies, and our anti-discrimination legislation is impressive. We still, to the present day, preside over a shocking systematic discrimination against aboriginal people. That is also learned behaviour that will take many many years to change.      

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November 12, 2009, 02:34 PM

I saw a Chinese TV drama series featuring international marriage between an African man and a Chinese woman several years ago. The heroine, a doctor of acupuncture, cures blindness in Africa, and local African people call her "神医" (a divine doctor). I WAS VERY MOVED !

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November 12, 2009, 02:39 PM

[offtopic] Changye: Maybe they meant "神经医" (nerve doctor).


I don't know why I said that. [/offtopic]

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November 12, 2009, 11:35 AM

Chinese prejudice toward Africans is not necessarily a bad thing. It can cause some trouble between African countries and China, and consequently slow the speed of "colonization" of Africa by the PRC, hehe.