Race and China: Touching a Nerve

[Generally, we attempt to avoid personal narrative on this site as we are not a personal blog. However, in this case, I’m breaking my own rule on the grounds that the discussion of our racism post has involved me personally in a way that might be interesting and relevant to some people.]

Last Sunday, I logged into our website with no greater intent than writing a post of some kind so as to keep to our unofficial one post per day quota. Finding an image I interpreted as racist on several Chinese blogs, I decided to write about the picture and the larger issue behind it. I didn’t intend for it to be a huge issue, nor was it meant for a Chinese audience per se. Our readership here is mostly foreigners, and the idea of lecturing Chinese people about what’s wrong with China doesn’t particularly appeal to me anyway, all I was attempting to do was offer an American perspective on the image and some potential ideas about what it means for China and what problems could arise going forward. I wrote it, and then I went to bed.

I woke up the next morning to a bit of a firestorm. Page views were way up, thanks to links from Danwei, The Peking Duck, Chinayouren, Bendilaowai, Africans in China, and more. What was more surprising was that the original blogs I pulled the images from, Hecaitou and 不许联想, had also both responded to the post, and less than favorably. Hecaitou’s second response, this time in Chinese, was particularly brutal:

Custer isn’t the only example, among Americans there are many that share this feverish urge to proselytize. They know racism is bad, but don’t know that other people already know. So, he’s like the “Hulking Sister” Wang Xiaobo wrote about, who finally learns how to stitch a button and then goes around roaring “Stitch a button!” whenever she meets someone. This kind of person is indeed a good person, but they’re [also] very biased, and can be counted among the ‘good people’ everyone hates […] What good will updating 100 times do? There will still be no racism in China.

Comments were also pouring in on our site, but the vast majority of them were deeply insightful. One comment, raised again and again on our site and some of the Chinese blogs, was that the translation and understanding of the word “racism” itself might be to blame for the firestorm. To Americans, racism covers a spectrum: at the one end, there are insensitive jokes like the image we posted, on the other, there are Klan members and burning crosses. What didn’t occur to me was that to Chinese people, the English word “racism” is sometimes translated as 种族歧视, and many people equate that term with racial violence and hatred. Given the opportunity to do things over, I would probably replace the word “racism” in the post with “racial insensitivity” or something to that effect.

Anyway, yesterday it struck me that I ought to get in touch with Hecaitou and Wang Xiaofeng (of 不许联想) personally to straighten some things out and to attempt to forge relationships that might facilitate more communication between the English-language and Chinese-language blogging communities in the future. So I sent an email, which both of them have posted on their respective sites. Below, I’ll translate an email exchange between Hecaitou and I, as well as Wang Xiaofeng’s comments on my original letter as posted on his site.

To: Hecaitou and Wang Xiaofeng
From: C. Custer
Subject: I am C. Custer

Although two days ago you had definitely never seen my name before, seeing it today probably gives you a bad feeling. That’s understandable. I’m writing this email to clarify a few things for the two of you:

First, the purpose of writing that post was not to say that you are racists, or to criticize the two of you. Actually, I like both of your blogs, and I understand the reason you posted that image was because of the China part, and perhaps you didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the image.

Second, I am not criticizing all Chinese people and saying all Chinese are racists or anything like that. I understand American standards for “racism” are different from Chinese standards; that post was just saying that as there are more and more foreigners living in China, if their standards are different from yours, is it possible this could lead to problems in the future? I never said that China needed to discuss racism according to Western standards, all I was saying was that according to American standards, that picture is racist, and then discussing the reasons for that, etc.

Third, although it seems you do not respect me at all (especially Hecaitou), I still feel there is an upside to this situation. English-language China blogs and Chinese-language blogs rarely interact, possibly because of the linguistic and cultural differences. But personally I feel mutual understanding is extremely important, and without interaction there can be no mutual understanding. I don’t know if the two of you care or not, perhaps you feel Chinese people don’t need to understand other countries…

For now, that’s it. I hope that no matter what, we can have a civilized and productive discussion.

To: C. Custer
From: Hecaitou
Subject: Re: I am C. Custer

1. I probably still know what “racism” means in English. Even though [we’re] in China, this is an extremely serious accusation. To most Chinese people, “racism” implies the Nazis massacring Jews, the KKK lynching black people, and the brutal suppression of blacks by the white South African government. No one is willing to be connected to this word in any way.

2. I think you’re too sensitive about so-called “racism”, which isn’t necessarily your fault. But in my opinion, the racial sensitivity of Americans has already become a kind of disease, and that this kind of taking great pains [not to be racist] actually protects some deep-rooted racism. When Americans can laugh about skin color, then America will not be a racist nation. Being aware of the existence of taboos only strengthens those things being made taboo. It’s like taking a stern approach to sex, actually it just makes such indulgence more degenerate and more common.

To speak specifically to the question of black people in China, I recall an English expression: “When in Rome, Do as the Romans [do].”

3. Your judgement of what’s “racist” comes from American standards, but the world is not just America. What makes me furious is that China has so many serious problems, and you mention such a fundamentally irrelevant one. Does China have racism? Of course it does, but not against foreigners. If your post had been criticizing the unfair treatment of Tibetans or Uyghurs, I would have nothing to say.

I personally don’t oppose communication, but that doesn’t mean I like being associated with racism, whether it’s intentional or not. Even more, I dislike Americans giving instructions on racism when it isn’t needed at all.

If you feel I haven’t been particularly respectful towards you, I’m very sorry.

Wang Xiaofeng’s comments on my letter (as posted on his site):
Actually, I hadn’t really looked at the content of Custer’s blog; although he said there is racism in China, I feel it’s common and in the previous post I said Chinese people do have a tendency towards racism. So it’s out of the question that I was disrespectful to Custer. I’ve always felt racism is everywhere, the twin of nationalist discrimination. Speaking from the heart, I don’t discriminate against any skin color, I discriminate against idiots.

Because Custer wrote to explain, I must let everyone know his meaning and thus I’ve posted his letter here, I hope there will be no further misunderstanding about this.

To: Hecaitou
From: C. Custer
Subject: Re: re: I am C. Custer

You saying you don’t want to be associated with “racism” is understandable. To tell the truth, I now think using “racially insensitive” would be better, as I wasn’t trying to say that this little joke [the image] is the same as things like the KKK.

In regards to the rest of your email, actually I often write posts about the major problems in China, as well as many about the prejudice of the Western media against China, etc. We have many posts, that [the one about racism] was just one of them…

Oh, I also want to ask: Suppose you knew a black person, and that after seeing that picture he felt hurt by it, how would you respond? Telling him he doesn’t understand Chinese culture is probably useless, if he’s hurt by it then he’s hurt by it, so how do you view this situation? (I’m not trying to argue with you, I’m genuinely curious and truly want to better understand your view).

To: C. Custer
From: Hecaitou
Subject: Re: re: re: I am C. Custer

Suppose there is such a black person, named White, for example.

White looks at the picture, is deeply upset, and is also my friend. I would tell him this:

About two centuries ago, the Christian Church educational system made children repent/confess every day. Even small children sometimes would confess, saying: “Lord, forgive me, for I have sinned.” He or she doesn’t even understand the meaning of “sinned”, but the Catholic priest or nun would, every day, instill in them the idea that sinning is evil.

In my opinion, this is a kind of pollution. This kind of education infects their pure original nature, making them associate sex with sinning and evil. When they get to the point where they really must strain to restrain these normal urges, that’s when the real sinning starts to happen.

In the same way, Chinese people are like those innocent children when it comes to the problem of racism. They don’t even really know what racism is, much less have experience putting it into practice. ‘This country is this kind of country, this people is this kind of people’; they really don’t have any bad intentions, nor is it directed against a race; in history they’ve not once enslaved people like you.

I only fear that you being upset like this will misguide them. When they’re carefully avoiding bumping into the problem of your race, then there is no doubt that in their hearts they’ve already separated you out as a different group, and knowledge of race consequently will take root in their hearts. If one day there comes a conflict, then these feelings which have been carefully constrained will explode outwards. There is no doubt that then you will be face with true racial prejudice.

So the wise way is to ignore these things, think that you are living in a completely different country, [Chinese people] are completely different from white people, it’s best to live according to the social customs and habits here. If this still cannot satisfy you, you can return the complement: ‘You yellow-haired monkeys.’ I would guess their response would be to laugh rather than to feel hurt. Then, at that time you will understand, they really don’t see you as an outsider.

I think Hecaitou does have a point in some ways, but I reject the idea that letting racial insensitivity out into the open completely disarms its power, and in many of the Chinese comments (including his) I see opinions that are based on a markedly flawed understanding of race relations in the United States. As I mentioned in the last post, that’s probably not their fault (I blame Hollywood), but seeing American P.C. culture as advocating “ignoring” race or attempting to be “colorblind” is a serious misunderstanding, and a dangerous foundation for any opinion.

I never advocated the kind of deep repression that Hecaitou and others refer to in discussing racial issues. In fact, I think that frank discussion and acknowledgement of differences is an extremely important part of interracial communication. Jokes can play a role too; stereotypes can be disarmed through the mockery comedians clever enough to turn them on their heads and expose the ignorance and fear they represent. Yet I maintain that there is a line, that not any joke is a productive joke, and that while ignorance might be a legitimate reason, it’s not going to be an acceptable excuse to anyone who ends up on the wrong end of a racist joke.

The fact is, the image we’re all discussing is racially insensitive. As one commenter on our site pointed out, its presence on a Chinese website offended one African enough to comment there, and plenty of Chinese people in the comments and elsewhere would agree the image isn’t particularly funny or productive.

Laughing about race can lighten the tension and even make connections between peoples, but only when it’s both groups that are laughing. If only one group is laughing while the other sits in uncomfortable silence, all that’s really being constructed is alienation and resentment. Living in China and according with the Chinese way on this may be simply unacceptable for many, and returning the favor doesn’t solve anything as Hecaitou suggests it might. Africans can call Chinese people monkeys, but it has none of the historical connotations that are carried in the image we’re all discussing. Of course Chinese people would laugh, the insult “yellow-haired monkeys” is comparatively meaningless and would sound ridiculous to them. It’s comparing apples and oranges, really.

I understand that the cultural baggage that comes along with the African/ape comparison isn’t something Chinese people created, and that historically, America, Europe, and white people generally are responsible for a legacy of discrimination and brutality against Africans. Many Chinese people may not recognize that image as racially insensitive, and that’s OK. They’re welcome to do as they please, just as Africans are welcome to be deeply offended by the image.

My intention was not, is not, and will never to be to tell anyone what to do. It doesn’t matter whether I’m Chinese, American, African, or whatever, trying to tell a country what to do is a fool’s errand. But I do live here (China), and many of the people who frequent this site do, too. Foreigners, and by extension foreign standards for judging things like racism, exist in China and aren’t about to go away. Chinese people can decide on their own whether or not to care, but they can’t wish away feelings of racial alienation by telling people that they “just don’t understand China.” In fact, such expressions only increase feelings of alienation.

To conclude: let’s take Hecaitou’s theoretical story about his black friend “White” one step further: White calls Hecaitou a yellow monkey for posting the image, Hecaitou laughs, and the two continue to be friends. No major damage is done, but White’s feelings are still hurt. If he saw a similar image somewhere else, his feelings would probably be hurt again, but he’s unlikely to bring it up because he doesn’t need to hear another lecture about how his being offended by something insensitive is actually just a reflection of how he doesn’t understand the place he lives. So, the next time he hears a racist joke or gets told he can’t have that English teaching job because the parents want white faces, he keeps those feelings bottled up instead of talking about them with his Chinese friends. And, as Hecaitou himself said, “If one day there comes a conflict, then these feelings which have been carefully constrained will explode outwards.”

I think everyone can at least agree that nobody wants that.

[Note: For the record, although I don’t agree with everything Hecaitou says, I don’t consider him or Wang Xiaofeng to be racist. I’m not accusing China as a nation of being racist, nor am I trying to impose my Western values on China, I’m just posting my opinion of the issue on my blog. If you read this post and feel it’s an attack on China, Chinese culture, or any of the aforementioned bloggers and commenters, then you’ve mistaken my meaning.]

0 thoughts on “Race and China: Touching a Nerve”

  1. @ Barny Chan

    Thank you for your response (I didn’t read your conversation with other bloggers though).

    I think you’re right to a great extent. HKers’ discrimination against mainlanders are like some (or a lot) Chinese looking down upon people from Henan. So I think that’s what some Chinese bloggers are trying to suggest that discrimination based on regions is the most severe in China, so severe that people think racism against other races (still an invisible presence in most parts of China) is not a problem at all. They should start paying attention because more and more foreigners are coming here.

    The other day I had a talk with the wife of one of my colleagues. He’s a Chinese Australian and she was born in Beijing and then emigrated. She had nothing good to say about HK with all her charges that HKers were extremely contemptuous of mainlanders, but her husband didn’t think so (or he was more outspoken than his wife). Of course she got that impression from a decade ago and I think it’s getting better these days, with mainland shoppers flooding the city with their money (I maxed out one of my credit cards and I’m a thrift shopper) and HKers are learning how to treat them as equals.


  2. 1) helpers and employer/ee — i wanted to say its more job-related rather race-related
    2) well i guess geographically it takes quite a long journey and more difficult access for a white person to illegaly coming to hk as we are not surrounded by any white country… i mean there isnt any convenient way like by road right?
    also their english are not as good as they should
    3) well i think you can keep pointing out incidences and i may be able to suggest a different story underneath some of them, but as i’ve said i’ve no intention to deny the existence of racism but i think there’s considerable argument at the extent of it as i myself is the first time to involve in this kind of discussion, so i partially agrees with heicaitou’s church kid example

    i got some questions also:
    A) is being conservative racism? like my mom doesnt want me to marry a westerner
    B) if i doesnt like the habbit of a certain “race” is that racism?
    C) once i’ve talked to sai kung taxi driver and he told me if i were to call the police in sai kung i’d better talk in english becoz they’ll come faster. i asked him why and he said usually the “gweilos” will complain if the police arrive late and if they call usually it’s really serious case. is there racism?

    i’m not challenging you or forcing you to believe my side of story but i really like to know what other people thinks
    also if you dont mind i want to know how’d you develop this perception? you live in hk?


  3. also i browsed through some other sites and one of the definition i’ve found is:
    Racism, by definition on Merriam-Webster, is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

    in hk, we have discrimination, but not racism
    afterall, we hongkees are no “race” at all 😦


  4. @Chris Hearne

    It is a common phenomenon in the US, another example is Halle Berry. I think by law if you have 1/16 of minority blood then you are considered a minority, my old boss who is part native American once told me.


    Come on, we all know we are talking about state-sponsored institutionalized slavery of a particular race here, which never existed in Chinese history. And based on his post, that’s what Hecaitou meant.

    Picking on impreciseness in one’s wording and ignoring the main message is disingenuous.


  5. Oh Chris, I guess I wasn’t very precise when I mentioned biracial acceptance, sorry. Of course I was referring to acceptance of mainstream culture and politics.


  6. @asdfdsf

    You are changing your tune, are you not?

    Previously you stated quite baldly that “we got rid of it (slavery) at least 2000 years ago”.

    Well, that just isn’t true, so now we find that you actually meant “state-sponsored institutionalized slavery of a particular race” (while bemoaning the disingenuous arguments of others, which I found amusing).

    Well, history is full of examples of subjugated races being bound into slavery, and yes, China is no exception.

    In addition, it is possible that you are not aware of Chinese traders participating in the slave trade in Somalia as far back as the Ninth Century. I presume that they were not selling Han Chinese into slavery in East Africa, though again, I could be wrong, and look forward to your correction.

    Now, it is true that China never practised institutionalised slavery based SOLELY on A particular race, but then again, very few societies have. In fact, the only one I can think of is the US (and let’s not forget Dr. Johnson: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”).

    Not quite as black and white an issue as one may have thought. Perhaps the best we can say is “China never took part in the Atlantic slave trade”, but it doesn’t have quite the same sheen, does it?


  7. @ asdfdsf

    You mentioned that “white” and “Irish” people have failed to accept Obama as one of their own, although if you had read or watched anything regarding the recent St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington you would have seen Obama be presented with Birth Certificates proving his Irish ancestry from the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) as well as an open invitation to visit Ireland. Irish people have great support for Obama and are excited that he has a genealogical connection with the country.It seems therefore, unusual for you to single out the Irish race as a perceived barrier to racial equality. If you are referring however to “white” Americans as generally not accepting Obama you would be wise to remember that “white” denotes many different ethnicities and in a country as diverse as the United States it is less than helpful to use such terms.

    To weigh in on the discussion, having lived in China for several years I have found the Chinese to be overwhelmingly welcoming and friendly but subject to a tendency to stereotype and generalise those from abroad which is offensive at times. I think however these tendencies come from a lack of awareness of other cultures and is improving with advancements in education. China is growing and evolving at such a fast pace that undoubtedly these issues surrounding racial sensitivity will be addressed and positive changes made.


  8. @Macanluadoir

    Sorry I wasn’t being precise, my fault. I should have known that some people would pick on it and try to sidetrack the discussion into whether there is slavery in China while this post is about “Chinese racism.”

    I didn’t know that some Chinese traders traded slaves in Somalia in the 9th century and an ambassador from Java gave the Chinese emperor two slaves as gifts qualify Chinese slavery. That’s a bit of a stretch I think.

    “Now, it is true that China never practised institutionalised slavery based SOLELY on A particular race, but then again, very few societies have. In fact, the only one I can think of is the US (and let’s not forget Dr. Johnson: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”).”

    That’s exactly Hecaitou’s point, Americans are the least qualified people to give moral lectures on racism.


  9. @Sha

    Thanks for the tip, and I agree with you by and large. And no, I wasn’t aware of fact that Obama was presented with Birth Certificates by the Irish prime minister.

    Of course I know the American society is diverse and that a lot of progress have been made as far as racial relations in the US since the dark days. I just don’t understand why Obama is considered “African” American by the mainstream society in America and I was hoping somebody can educate me on this.


  10. @asdfdsf

    I’m not American or a race relations expert but my assumption is that Obama’s African ethnicity is promoted more than his “white” ethnicity as a great many ethnic groups in America, particularly the African American community have never felt represented fully by their political leaders and are now feeling a renewed connection to their country and government. You’ll notice Obama played down the race issue during his presidential campaign preferring to focus on the political issues at hand but the joy that was expressed by so many in America on his election was based on a feeling of a new era of representation and opportunity for all, which is something Obama embodies for them.

    The fact that Obama is considered African-American is more representative of the African-American communities pride in him and desire to celebrate that part of his ethnicity rather than a “white” attempt to denigrate him.


  11. Custer,

    Check out the replies on 和菜头’s website by 北京棋迷 and Wallerstein – very thoughtful and balanced. These are 我辈中人 (my kind of people).

    Unfortunately I just don’t think 和菜头 gets it at all.

    Here’s my perspective:

    -1 portion of post-colonial complex/insecurity
    -1 portion of “apology-is-for-the-weak” mentality
    -1 portion of “see-no-evil-hear-no-evil” mentality
    -1 portion of resentment for the US that originates from US government’s hypocritical/holier-than-thou ways
    -mix with

    and you quickly find yourself in a unilateral shouting match with a highly defensive (yet oblivious) person who’s no longer discussing the issue at hand but dragging in a full host of completely unrelated issues/subjects.


  12. @asdfdsf
    In addition to what Sha said (which is 100% correct), there’s also the simple fact that Obama has dark skin and nappy hair. Nappy hair especially is one of the defining differences between white and black in America. I’ve seen many, many instances of extremely light skinned people with nappy hair and all parties agree to define that person as black just because of his hair.


  13. @asdfdsf
    Also, forgot to mention before that although America has a dark history of racism, the fact is that America has done quite a bit to repent for that. Years of government efforts to recover from such a past has done quite a bit in that regard. My mother, for example, was 6 years old when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Given that for most of American youth, it was only their grandparents who took part in and possibly endorsed government sponsored racism, I believe the modern American youth shouldn’t be thought of as being the same people that their grandparents were or having the same ideas. Not to mention that, for me anyway (and I suspect the rest of the foreigners here), none of this was ever about lecturing China but rather about warning China not to make the same mistakes. Unfortunately, hecaitou seems to be too obtuse/insecure to understand that.


  14. @ asdfdsf

    Actually, you were very precise. You just happened to be wrong.

    You were wrong when you said China ended slavery 2000 years ago. But we’ll let it slip: all friends here, boss.
    You were wrong when you said China never slaved based on race. But we’ll let that one by too: all friends here.

    But you continue to tread this broad path of error if you attempt to characterise my comments as an effort to sidetrack this thread. “We never slaved Africans” is one of the defences made against allegations of Chinese racism, and is certainly worthy of investigation and discussion. As it happens, it’s wrong too, as the Chinese did take part in the slave trade in Somalia and East Africa, as part of Chinese trading up to the Middle Ages.

    And in response to your final point: racism is, paradoxically, non-racist insofar as it can propagate in any individual or group, regardless of colour, creed, borders or history. None are immune to it, all can be affected by it, and Americans have as much right to discuss, debate and moralise on this issue as anybody else.

    And no, before you ask, I am not American.


  15. This is not meant to generalize or offend anyone, and if anyone is offended, please note that this is posted just as an attempt to add to the discussion and not necessarily to say that I agree with everything being said in the posting below (see, I’m starting off with a disclaimer AND an apology), but in my humble opinion, the outlook of C. Custer’s two posts on race is a wonderful example of the phenomenon documented at stuffwhitepeoplelike.com #101 “Being Offended”. It’s short so (with apologies) I will excerpt it here in full:

    *********BEGIN QUOTE**********
    “#101 Being Offended
    May 28, 2008 by clander

    To be offended is usually a rather unpleasant experience, one that can expose a person to intolerance, cultural misunderstandings, and even evoke the scars of the past. This is such an unpleasant experience that many people develop a thick skin and try to only be offended in the most egregious and awful situations. In many circumstances, they can allow smaller offenses to slip by as fighting them is a waste of time and energy. But white people, blessed with both time and energy, are not these kind of people. In fact there are few things white people love more than being offended.

    Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

    It is also valuable to know that white people spend a significant portion of their time preparing for the moment when they will be offended. They read magazines, books, and watch documentaries all in hopes that one day they will encounter a person who will say something offensive. When this happens, they can leap into action with quotes, statistics, and historical examples. Once they have finished lecturing another white person about how it’s wrong to use the term “black” instead of “African-American,” they can sit back and relax in the knowledge that they have made a difference.

    White people also get excited at the opportunity to be offended at things that are sexist and/or homophobic. Both cases offering ample opportunities for lectures, complaints, graduate classes, lengthy discussions and workshops. All of which do an excellent job of raising awareness among white people who hope to change their status from “not racist” to “super not racist.”

    Another thing worth noting is that the threshold for being offended is a very important tool for judging and ranking white people. Missing an opportunity to be outraged is like missing a reference to Derrida-it’s social death.

    If you ever need to make a white person feel indebted to you, wait for them to mention a book, film, or television show that features a character who is the same race as you, then say “the representation of was offensive and if you can’t see that, well, you need to do some soul searching.” After they return from their hastily booked trip to land of your ancestors, they will be desperate to make it up to you. At this point, it is acceptable to ask them to help you paint your house.”
    *********END QUOTE***********

    The website stuffwhitepeoplelike.com is actually quite funny to me, but it’s likely that that many Chinese in China will find it difficult to understand the humor because “white people” (as depicted on the site) is such a wacky and impenetrable culture with its own bizarre logic. It may be useful for Hecaitou to take a look, as it helps to understand a lot about the characteristics of the english China blogs.

    Now, just to make it clear to everyone, this posting is not intended to be offensive to actual white people. In fact, the “White People” referred to in this posting do not have to actually be racially white (whatever that category means), and could be of any race. The characteristics depicted at stuffwhitepeoplelike.com is more of a character type, people of any race or ethnicity who happen to have been educated and socialized in the U.S. among lots of actual white people in elite or aspiring to be elite educational institutions and who have aspirations of being part of “the better half of America”. In time, they (or we) hope and assume that everyone in the world of every race or color, will think like us, once they learn to see things the way we do. And then the world will be a happier, more enlightened place.

    C. Custer no doubt comes out of that culture. I haven’t studied his other posts, but I suspect reading them one would be able to figure out how that he would probably score high on the List of Stuff White People Like, such as:

    #72 Study Abroad
    #71 Being the Only White Person Around
    #55 Apologies
    #20 Being an expert on YOUR culture
    #18 Awareness
    And…at the risk of being presumptuous and no doubt provocative….
    …..#11 Asian Girls

    The full list is here:

    Unfortunately, he committed a cross-cultural goof. He was trying to enlighten English speakers (and perhaps warn English-speaking Chinese? As he said, this is an English blog about China) about the perils of Chinese racism towards Africans, but he miscalculated.

    Chinese in China like Hecaitou (in general) who read this are not like “white people” (as per stuffwhitepeoplelike.com) when it comes to being enlightened in this manner, because they are not “white people who hope to change their status from “not racist” to “super not racist.””

    What C. Custer wants to do only works with people who may be racially Chinese but have spent enough time being educated and socialized in the manner of the people depicted on “stuffwhitepeoplelike.com” (like on American university campuses or studying English) who will listen and say, “oh yeah, that’s so racist…China can be so racist, it really needs to change. Oh, you Americans so sensitive and aware. That’s what’s so incredible, you Americans really care about other people. It’s sad China cannot be more like that.”

    To which C. Custer would blush modestly with a quick laugh and say, “well, we Americans went through this too, and it took a civil war and the civil rights protests to change our way of thinking, so we’ve learned from the experience. That’s the beauty of our democracy. China will get there someday.” And he would feel good inside, knowing he had helped to advance social progress by spreading understanding.

    Hecaitou and other Chinese got riled up when they read C. Custer’s post because it sounded to them like an accusation that Chinese have a problem with a latent tendency to string up Africans.

    And when C. Custer gets their reaction, he apologizes (see stuffwhitepeoplelike #55 Apologies), but for the life of him, he cannot comprehend why Hecaitou and other Chinese do not want to think like he does.

    C. Custer’s reaction can be explained by stuffwhitepeoplelike.com #18 Awareness:
    *******BEGIN QUOTE*********
    #18 Awareness
    January 23, 2008 by clander

    An interesting fact about white people is that they firmly believe that all of the world’s problems can be solved through “awareness.” Meaning the process of making other people aware of problems, and then magically someone else like the government will fix it.

    This belief allows them to feel that sweet self-satisfaction without actually having to solve anything or face any difficult challenges. Because, the only challenge of raising awareness is people not being aware. In a worst case scenario, if you fail someone doesn’t know about the problem. End of story.

    What makes this even more appealing for white people is that you can raise “awareness” through expensive dinners, parties, marathons, selling t-shirts, fashion shows, concerts, eating at restaurants and bracelets. In other words, white people just have to keep doing stuff they like, EXCEPT now they can feel better about making a difference.

    Raising awareness is also awesome because once you raise awareness to an acceptable, aribtrary level, you can just back off and say “Bam! did my part. Now it’s your turn. Fix it.”

    So to summarize – you get all the benefits of helping (self satisfaction, telling other people) but no need for difficult decisions or the ensuing criticism (how do you criticize awareness?). Once again, white people find a way to score that sweet double victory.

    Popular things to be aware of: The Environment, Diseases like Cancer and AIDS, Africa, Poverty, Anorexia, Homophobia, Midde School Field Hockey/Lacrosse teams, Drug Rehab, and political prisoners.”
    *********END QUOTE**********

    (Note Africa on the list of Popular Things to be aware of)

    Clearly a cross-cultural minefield for misunderstanding.

    A last disclosure note: I’m guilty of many of the very traits documented on stuffwhitepeoplelike….but I’m aware of it.


  16. @ perspectivehere: Well, I can see that after reading a full two posts–or, should I say, skimming them–you’ve got me all figured out. A few notes to consider, though, before you finalize the advertisement and send it to SWPL for approval:

    1) I never apologized for anything, nor will I. I did attempt to clarify my point and my purpose for writing the posts, but there is no apology anywhere in there because I have nothing to apologize for.

    2) Regarding the matter of whether or not I’m into “asian girls”, I have but this to say: Go fuck yourself. That violates our comment policy here at ChinaGeeks, but luckily, I’m the only person who polices the site, and it needed to be said.

    You don’t know me, you clearly don’t understand how I think on this issue, and you couldn’t even be bothered to read the post closely enough to notice there’s no apology there. You presume to know how I respond to things even though you admittedly haven’t read any other posts here. The idea that I’d ever utter the sentence “That’s the beauty of our democracy” (for example) is completely laughable, but obviously you didn’t bother to look into it at all (if you did, you’d see that I’ve been accused of being a CCP hack by commenters on this site on more than one occasion).

    I have no issue with people disagreeing with me, nor would I deny that I like lots of things on Stuff White People Like, but if you’re going to presume to speak for me or explain why I think the things I do, please read the posts more carefully, and maybe even go check out a few others just to be sure.

    Thanks for playing, though.


  17. f anyone can tell me ‘why am i idiot 脑残? 洗耳恭听
    to pffefer 大 and Wu大,can you tear down,pls? Don’t afraid to lost face in foreign country where you are live, no one know u in internet.


  18. I have a certain amount of sympathy for Hecaitou’s point of view (I also feel many of the observations in Stuff White People Like are spot-on). But he is inconsistent. On the one hand his advice to a hypothetical black person who takes offence is to ignore it or laugh it off, realise that people don’t necessarily mean what you think they mean etc. But having taken offence himself at being linked with racism, he doesn’t want to follow his own advice. Anyway, it certainly won’t be the last time the topic of racism in China comes up. Saying “when in Rome” is irrelevant, what is said today in China is heard and commented on around the world. That goes with being a global power.


  19. Peter, I liked your comment in regards to “when in Rome”, as the Romans definitely didn’t have blogs that could be read from computers all around the world.


  20. THis is a poor apoligy for chinas racism towards western media and racism towards nigerians, japanese ,tibetians and the urgars.
    china still has a screw up government that attacks religous
    groups, workers rights and wants global markets.
    however europeans should apoligiese for any racist comments/jokes and should should thier governments.


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