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Pet Sins March 2000

Chinese men's views on Afro-Americans

Short of stereotyping all Chinese as racist against blacks (which certainly isn't the case), I am nevertheless saddened by some prejudiced remarks I've overheard on various occasions. Unfortunately, my experiences have led me to believe that Chinese people who hold biases like that are the norm, not the exception (or at least they are the majority). I truly hope I am wrong though.

Here are some of the things I've overheard from from conversations held by acquaintances.

Chinese born and raised in Hong Kong

This young man first started living in the US for college:

"When I met my first roommate, I was so shocked. I thought, 'Oh no! A black roommate!' Actually he is Chinese from Taiwan. He was very dark because he played basketball a lot in the sun. He also shaved his head bald. His friends were all blacks. His friend would come to look for him. I would open the door and this black guy just stuck his head in the door, and ask, 'Is so-and-so in?' He face was so close to me, and I was so scared."

Once, another Chinese was talking about a baseball player whom she said was "handsome." This young man asked if he was black, and when she said "yes", he asked, "What, can he be black and handsome?" Another time he commented on the biracial actress Halle Berry, "not bad looking for a black woman."

Chinese born and raised in China, PRC

This man had done college in the US and worked for a number of years in the US after college. During a discussion on race, his white friend attributed problems between blacks and whites in the US to the existence of large, racially distinct communities. The white man said, "If there were very few blacks, and they were interspersed among whites, there would be no problems of discrimination because whites would not see them as a threat."

The Chinese man said, "I don't think so. In China, there are very few blacks. Just students from Africa. But people still don't like them. They are afraid of them. I think it is instinctive."

Chinese who migrated from Taiwan to the US in adulthood

At a social gathering of Chinese and European Americans, a Taiwanese American man said, "I couldn't stand the food in my dorm dining hall. I can't understand how those black people pig out in there. Each of them has a bigger butt than the next." This was received with peals of laughter from a Chinese woman and remonstration from a white man. The Chinese woman said, "I really don't like them (the blacks), I really don't."

Another Chinese got really pissed off and pointed out the hypocrisy of how they adore European culture and scorn non-Europeans. It got ugly. As far as I know, the woman and the person who confronted her are no longer on speaking terms. But I also know that the woman who laughed at the racist joke went to an older male Chinese friend and told him about the quarrel. He was able to address her prejudices in a less confrontational way. The way he did it was going back into the recent history of China, how they were invaded by Europeans, forced to make concessions of land, and as a result, developed a cringing, deferential 'slave mentality' that manifests itself in fawning over the 'superior' European and in turn learning to look down on non-Europeans. She seemed to be able to accept what he was saying, and has since toned down her racist reactions (at least in public).


Comment from 'Asian American'
My Chinese American friend used to expressed views similar to these. It bothered me, but I did not confront him straight on. (If you do, this is a good way to get a culturally East Asian person to stop talking to you for good. So if your aim is to change someone's mind, try something non-confrontational) Instead, I would express an alternative opinion, and also occasionally bring up in casual conversation prejudicial remarks other people made about African Americans. In a year or so, my friend seemed to have changed his mind, and even started speaking out against those who pass bigoted remarks against African Americans.