Chinese talk about ...

Chinese talk about racism ahead of Obama trip  

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Chinese talk about racism ahead of Obama trip
President shatters stereotype of the West being run by whites

By Keith B. Richburg
updated 2 hours, 20 minutes ago

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As a mixed-race girl growing up in this most cosmopolitan of mainland Chinese cities, 20-year-old Lou Jing said she never experienced much discrimination — curiosity and questions, but never hostility.

So nothing prepared Lou, whose father is a black American, for the furor that erupted in late August when she beat out thousands of other young women on "Go! Oriental Angel," a televised talent show. Angry Internet posters called her a "black chimpanzee<!--> <!---->" and worse. One called for all blacks in China to be deported.

As the country gets ready to welcome the first African American<!--> <!----> U.S. president, whose first official visit here starts Sunday, the Chinese are confronting their attitudes toward race, including some deeply held prejudices about black people. Many appeared stunned that Americans had elected a black man, and President Obama's visit has underscored Chinese ambivalence about the increasing numbers of blacks living here.

"It's sad," Lou said, her eyes welling up as she recalled her experience. "If I had a face that was half-Chinese and half-white, I wouldn't have gotten that criticism. . . . Before the contest, I didn't realize these kinds of attitudes existed."

As China has expanded its economic ties to Africa — trade last year reached $107 billion — the number of Africans living here has exploded. Tens of thousands have flocked to the south, where they are putting down roots, establishing communities, marrying local Chinese women and having children.

In the process, they are making tiny pockets of urban China more racially diverse — and forcing the Chinese to deal with issues of racial discrimination. In the southern city of Guangzhou, where residents refer to one downtown neighborhood as Chocolate City, local newspapers have been filled in recent months with stories detailing discrimination and alleging police harassment against the African community.

"In Guangzhou, to be frank, they don't like Africans very much," said Diallo Abdual, 26, who came to China from Guinea a year and a half ago to buy cheap Chinese clothes to ship back to West Africa for sale.

With the recession, his business has dried up, his money is gone, and he has overstayed his visa. Now, like many Africans here, he spends most of his days at Guangzhou's Tangqi shopping mall avoiding the police.

"The security will beat you with irons like you are a goat," he said. "The way they treat the blacks is very, very bad." He and others pointed out the spot where in July several Africans jumped from an upper-floor window to escape an immigration raid. One migrant was reported critically injured in the fall, and a large number of Africans marched on the local police station in protest.

The Guangzhou Security Bureau said in a statement at the time that it had a duty to check that foreigners living in the city were there legally.

Long-held prejudice
In the 1960s, China began befriending African countries, supporting liberation movements in Africa and bringing African students to China in a show of Third World solidarity. Lately, China has further deepened its ties to the continent, with Premier Wen Jiabao<!--> <!---->
pledging $10 billion in new low-cost loans at a China-Africa summit in Egypt this month.

But that official policy of friendship has always been balanced against another reality -- the widely held view here that black people are inferior, while white people are admired as wealthy and successful.

"The kind of prejudice you see now really happened with the economic growth," said Hung Huang, a Beijing-based fashion magazine publisher and host of a nightly current affairs talk show, "Straight Talk." "The Chinese worshiped the West, and for Chinese people, 'the West' is white people."

Hung, 48, said her generation was "taught world history in a way that black people were oppressed, they were slaves, and we haven't seen any sign of success since. The African countries are still poor, and blacks still live in inner cities." Hung noted that Chinese racial prejudices extend to the country's own minority groups, including Tibetans and Uighurs — or anyone who is not ethnically Han Chinese.

The view of American blacks as poor and oppressed fits into the official government narrative of America as a place of glaring inequalities. China's most recent annual report<!--> on the United States' human rights record in 2008, released in February, made no mention of Obama's historic election. But it said, "In the United States, racial discrimination prevails in every aspect of social life."

"Black people and other minorities live at the bottom of the American society," the report said. "There is serious racial hostility in the United States<!--> <!---->"

Sherwood Hu, a Shanghai-based filmmaker, was one of the judges on "Go! Oriental Angel" who gave Lou high marks. "Before the Cultural Revolution, China considered black people our brothers and white people our enemies," Hu said. "But deep down, they're a little bit afraid of black people."

The racial animosity here taps into a prejudice dating to China's mainly agrarian past: Darker skin meant you worked the fields; lighter skin put you among the elite. The country is rapidly industrializing and urbanizing, but that historic prejudice remains. High-end skin-whitening products are a $100 million-a-year business in China, according to industry statistics.

'Are we racist?'
Chen Juan, 27, a secretary in an English training school in Beijing, regularly uses skin-whitening products and carries an umbrella on summer days. "For me, the whiter, the better. Being white means pretty," she said. "If someone looks too black, I feel they look countrified and like a farmer. . . . Being white is prettier than being black."

"In my impression, black people, especially Africans, are not clean enough," Chen continued. "To be frank, I just feel black people are too black. Definitely, I wouldn't consider having a black guy as my boyfriend even if he were rich."

P.C. Chike, a Nigerian businessman in Guangzhou who has been in China for five years, exports wigs and extensions made from Chinese hair to his home country. He married a Chinese woman from Beijing, and they have a son, with another on the way.

"Chinese don't like Africans. They don't like black skin," Chike said. "China trying to embrace Africa is a political statement. The question is, how do they treat black people?"

Li Wenjuan, Chike's wife, said she thinks racial attitudes are less coarse in Beijing than in Guangzhou, where the commonly used Cantonese term for blacks translates as "black ghosts."

Some here say Obama's presidency is causing a major shift in attitudes. Others, however, say many Chinese rationalize his election as a fluke of the American system or suggest that Obama, whose mother was white, isn't "really" black.

"It will be really interesting to see what happens when he comes to visit, because I really think the Chinese have a hard time with it," said Hung. "Nobody has dealt with this question of what this means to our sense of race. It's a kind of self-examination that Chinese — including myself — need to go through. Are we racist?"

Lou sees similarities between her life and Obama's -- she also grew up without her father, whom she never knew. She read Obama's autobiography and watched his campaign speeches on television. She learned how to chant "Yes, we can!" in English and calls Obama "my idol."

Reading the withering online criticisms of her talent-show appearance, she recalled, she came across one poster who asked: "Now that Obama is president, does that mean a new day for black people has arrived?"

"I think the answer is yes," she said. "Some Chinese people's perceptions of black people here have been transformed."

Researchers Wang Juan and Zhang Jie contributed to this report from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Posted : 11/15/2009 12:29 am
BlackStonishing Afrikan Registered
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meda ase for this post Ajamu. it made a lot of important points.

you know i think once Afrikan people stop their "other" worship and kill their "aid" mentality, once we recognize, as Dr. Clarke said, that we have never made good alliances with other people and we owe no other people on this earth alliance nor friendship, once we recognize that we number a billion people (or more) worldwide we'll take back OUR continent cleanse it of the presence and influence of "others", partner with OURSELVES and return ourselves to the proud, productive, super power we once were.

"Hung, 48, said her generation was "taught world history in a way that black people were oppressed, they were slaves, and we haven't seen any sign of success since. The African countries are still poor, and blacks still live in inner cities."

"Do not misuse your time while following your heart, for it is offensive to the soul to waste one's time." ~ Ptahhotep
"A man's mind is elevated to the status of the women he associates with." ~ Alexandre Dumas
"If another people rest on your ignorance--and they do--they will educate you into ignorance."- Dr. Amos Wilson

Posted : 11/15/2009 6:42 am
BlackTacular Afrikan Registered
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Ase sis Aisha. Lest we forget what they have done to us...

The Magical Kunlun and "Devil Slaves": Chinese Perceptions of Dark-skinned People and Africa before 1500
by Julie Wilensky

Historians have not yet established the precise date of the first contacts between the Chinese and African peoples Moreover, the available sources make it impossible to calculate exactly how many Chinese people traveled to Africa or how many Africans went to China in premodern times. What Chinese sources do reveal, however, is how Chinese people viewed those with dark skin and how these perceptions changed over time, reflecting first what Chinese people imagined, and later, what they knew about African countries and their inhabitants. Perceptions changed as knowledge and exploration of the countries and peoples of Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and East Africa increased. This essay examines a combination of nonfiction accounts, fictional literature, geographical sources, and travel diaries from the Tang (618-907) to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to analyze the shifts in Chinese perceptions of people with dark skin and Chinese knowledge of Africa and Africans.
Beginning in the Tang dynasty, Arab traders brought a number of East African slaves to China. Although historians have studied the African slave trade extensively, particularly the export of West African slaves to the Americas after 1500, a much smaller body of research focuses on the premodern East African slave trade, and fewer sources still mention black slaves in China. From the eighth to the fourteenth centuries; the Arabs controlled this vast slave trade, which stretched not only along the entire coast of East Africa and throughout the Arab world but as far east as China. Black slaves were just one of many commodities in the Arabs' large-scale maritime trade with China, which peaked during the Tang and Song dynasty (960-1275). The Jiu Tang shu 舊唐書 (Former Tang history) mentions that the Arabs sent delegates to the Chinese court in 651, marking the first recorded official contact between the Chinese government and the Arab caliphate. By the ninth century, a sizable community of Arabs lived in Guangzhou, and the local residents could have seen African slaves on trading ships and in Arab homes. Some wealthy Chinese people even owned African slaves, whom they used as doorkeepers.
The first chapter of this paper seeks to explain how Chinese people perceived these black slaves by analyzing representations of people with dark skin in fictional and nonfiction sources from the fifth century through the Song dynasty, tracing the evolution of the meanings and connotations of the term kunlun 崑崙.This mysterious and poorly understood word first applied to dark-skinned Chinese and then expanded over time to encompass multiple meanings, all connoting dark skin. This chapter examines the meaning of the term kunlun in nonfiction before and during the Tang; fictional tales about magical, superhuman kunlun slaves from the Tang fiction compendium Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Extensive Gleanings of the Reign of Great Tranquility); and finally, representations of the kunlun from a nonfiction writer from the Song, Zhu Yu.
Although fictional portrayals do not necessarily provide information about what actual African slaves experienced in China, fiction is a valuable source because its popularity reveals widespread cultural perceptions of people with dark skin. Histories and other nonfiction accounts, on the other hand, indicate how some Chinese viewed these people with dark skin, but it can be difficult to determine the readership and popularity of these sources because the information they contain does not seem to have reached a wider audience.
Were these Tang and Song images of the kunlun based on direct contact between Chinese and African peoples? When did the Chinese make a conceptual link between the kunlun slaves in China and the countries and peoples of East Africa? The second chapter addresses these questions by examining Chinese histories and geographies from the Tang and Song that describe African countries and their inhabitants. The answer to the first question is straightforward: a few Chinese may have visited Africa during this time, but most, if not all, Chinese knowledge about Africa and Africans came from the Arabs, who brought specific geographic knowledge of the countries along the maritime trade route between East Africa and China. Most of the Chinese descriptions of Africa were compiled by authors who never left China and gleaned their information about foreign countries and peoples from Arab traders living in China. Regardless of whether these accounts indicate direct contact between Chinese and African people in the Tang and Song, however, they reveal Chinese historians and geographers' increasing knowledge of Africa and Africans. This new knowledge allowed the Chinese to make a connection between the kunlun slaves in China and the East African slave trade.
Once the Chinese made this connection between the kunlun and the African slave trade, did the meaning of the word kunlun shift again? And how did China's maritime exploration of the East African coast in the early fifteenth century affect Chinese perceptions of African countries and their inhabitants? The third chapter; will examine two travel accounts from the Yuan and Ming dynasties that describe the authors' travels to Africa. We do not know how many Chinese read Song and Yuan accounts of Africa and Africans, but educated Chinese people most likely knew of China's maritime exploration in the early fifteenth century. The voyages of the Muslim admiral Zheng He and his fleet provide the first documented evidence of large groups of Chinese traveling to Africa. Firsthand accounts of these trips were reprinted several times in the fifteenth century, suggesting that they were widely read. Examining these accounts -- and one play written in the late sixteenth century -- will reveal whether Chinese perceptions of Africa and Africans changed significantly once the Chinese began large-scale maritime exploration of the East African coast.
Chinese knowledge of African countries and their inhabitants was not always consistent throughout a given time period, however. Information about foreign countries and their inhabitants did not always reach the same audiences at the same time, and Chinese knowledge of Africa did not just increase consistently over time. Contemporary sources sometimes report conflicting information, revealing a complex picture of Chinese perceptions of people with dark skin and Africa before 1500.

premodern Chinese perceptions of Africans

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Posted : 11/17/2009 2:45 am
BlackCellent Afrikan Registered
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very true sis. aisha i believe if africans began to organize what they have and depend on each other growth will happen much faster, perhaps faster than chinas growth. i believe also that is the reason why china and many other countries fear us as a country/people; if we were to do what china has done in the past 15 years we would surpass thier wealth 3 fold, which would be unheard of in the global community. the chinese are in the billions and still dont have a unified state, just like africa, but they are centralized by a common goal of imperialism and wealth. the quote you mentioned is a product of western mindcontrol and lack of knowledge of cultural history which the chinese have and make mandatory among thier schools, a majority of africans (globally) do not do this.
i could be wrong but i think china's political 'olive branch' of trade and low-interest loans to africa are really another control measure like the ones that are already destroying african governments by creating foreign political parties/armies to funnel out the countries assets and/or change laws to allow maximum profit. By keeping a business hand in africa as it grows china may be trying to controls africas growth through diversion so that it doesnt overtake thiers or stays within (u.s./u.n./e.u.) boundaries, just as the U.S. has done with the congo and nigerian oil.

medasi bro. ahku for the research article i was not aware of chinas african past except for the ancient influences imperial africa has instilled in thier religion and daily practices (just like cuba, south/north america). I wasnt aware that arabs were instrumental in the industrializing the slave trade along with 'yt' (berlin conference/ nicean conference) which might explain the slave trades 'explosive' growth and profit.

Posted : 11/17/2009 1:06 pm

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