In case there’s anyone here who doesn’t already read ChinaSMACK, check out this post (although be warned, this is a good mood ruiner). The short version of the story is that a half-Chinese, half-African-American girl who was the product of an extramarital affair went on TV, and Chinese netizens went crazy. Some comments, of course, are supportive, but many of them are deeply, disturbingly racist.
We’ve discussed the question of racism before here, most memorably last spring, when we accidentally touched off a bit of controversy and earned the ire of famous Chinese blogger He Caitou. He told me repeatedly that there is “no racism in China.” If you’ve lived in China, it’s probably a phrase you’ve heard before.
There’s no point in even discussing the question further; to my mind, anyone with a functioning brain can see that there is racism in China (just as there is everywhere else). What concerns me is the steadfast denial that such thoughts and feelings exist, even when presented with pretty damning evidence.
For the record, I’m aware that the USA has serious racial issues and that we once had slaves. My intention here is not to foster a shouting match about who is more racist (any comments that even look like they’re headed down that road are going to get deleted). Nor do I wish to suggest that China needs to approach this issue the same way the US has. I do believe China needs to admit that there is an issue, though (something the US has emphatically done). In fact, I think China has a unique opportunity here to head off more serious problems by addressing this issue now; on the flipside, continued denial this issue exists are going to cause bigger and bigger problems assuming that the number of foreigners traveling and moving in to China continue to increase.
Is this denial going to lead to massive social instability? Probably not (for the moment let’s set aside tensions between the various “Chinese” ethnicities). Is it going to affect a lot of Chinese people? Again, probably not. So is it worth trying to deal with this issue? Obviously, I think so, but I suppose there is a case to be made on the other side, albeit a pretty harshly realist case.
I look forward to reading all of your thoughts in the comments, but before you comment, I also want to note that I do recall the issues brought up previously regarding differing perceptions of the word “racism” in China and the West. An insensitive joke isn’t associated with racism in China, hate crimes are. Lou Jing’s case is racism any way you skin it, though. There may be no physical violence, but she is still suffering psychological abuse as a direct result of her race. If that isn’t racism, then…well, nothing. It is racism, period.