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Pet Sins June 1999

African American rejected in China, Europeans/Euro-Americans accepted

When I was a visiting student in a big industrial city in China, people just assumed I was from Africa. They had no concept of an American who is black. This was especially troublesome for me because there was a lot of anger at the University against African students dating Chinese women. The African students held protests against their hostile treatment by the Chinese. Chinese associated me with the protests even though I was not involved.

Shopkeepers would not sell me anything. They just ignored me. They did not seem to differ in their treatment of light and dark skinned Africans. I had to go to the store with somebody white in order to buy anything. I try to be very careful about what I do to give a good impression of black people.

African American male, 30s

Comment from 'ethnic European woman'
I studied in China just last year. I did notice that Chinese do pay a lot of attention to skin color. People praised my white skin. They would sometimes compare skin tone with each other. I think this preference goes back beyond Western imperialism because you can find references to a preference for white skin even in medieval Chinese texts.

Comment from 'African American woman'
I was in China some years back. People were very curious about my hair but I did not experience any hostility. Maybe it is because I am relatively light-skinned. Or perhaps it is because I was in a rural area instead of a city like the person who contributed the article. People in the rural areas do not have much exposure to American TV and its racial ideas.