“Black brothers often travel in droves; they are out at night out on the streets, nightclubs, and remote areas. They engage in drug trafficking, harassment of women, and fighting, which seriously disturbs law and order in Guangzhou… Africans have a high rate of AIDS and the Ebola virus that can be transmitted via body fluids… If their population [keeps growing], China will change from a nation-state to an immigration country, from a yellow country to a black-and-yellow country.”
This is a partial translation of a letter politician Pan Qinglin a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of how to deal with the migration of blacks to China.
And you’d expect the response to be disgust but social media in China has largely been supportive seriously highlighting an irrational fear of a black invasion amongst Chinese people.
The advertisement of a Chinese woman stuffing a black man into a washing machine to turn him Asian (from last year, watch here) seems to be only the tip of the iceberg for a growing racism issue.
Quartz has written up extensively on this topic including the excerpt below but I seriously advise you to read the entire piece here.
I also advice you read the piece MARKETUS PRESSWOOD: ON BEING BLACK IN CHINA.
Racism or ignorance?
Such experiences speak to the duality of life for black people in China. They may be athletes, entrepreneurs, traders, designers, or graduate students. Some are married to locals and speak fluent Chinese. Yet despite positive experiences and economic opportunities, many are questioning why they live in a place where they often feel unwelcome.
They grapple with the question: Is it racism or ignorance? And how do you distinguish the two?
Paolo Cesar, an African-Brazilian who has worked as a musician in Shanghai for 18 years and has a Chinese wife, said music has been a great way for him to connect with audiences and make local friends. However, his mixed-race son often comes home unhappy because of bullying at school. Despite speaking fluent Mandarin, his classmates do not accept him as Chinese. They like to shout out, “He’s so dark!”
The global success of black public figures, such as politicians, actors, and athletes, appears to have a limited effect on Chinese attitudes.
“After people heard my accent, they would often yell out ‘Obama!,’ in recognition that I was black American,” said Jayne Jeje, a marketing consultant from Maryland who has worked all over mainland China and now lives in Hong Kong. “Their perception was that I was somehow better than a black person from Africa because of my Americanness. Part of this is rooted in… mistaken beliefs of American wealth and power versus stereotypes of African poverty and suffering.”
In response to international criticism of racism against blacks in China, some commentators have argued that the racism is not as serious as it is in other countries. Hong Kong columnist Alex Lo wrote in the South China Morning Post that criticism from Americans is “rich coming from a country that was founded on black slavery… China has racial problems. But murderous racism against blacks isn’t one of them.”
And of course racial tensions occur elsewhere, sometimes with ethnic Chinese as the victims. In France this week, Chinese protesters gathered in northeast Paris to protest the shooting of a Chinese man by police. Many complain of racism directed against them, and also of being targeted by gangs (video) of North African descent.
Looking deeper into history, evidence suggests a preference for slaves from East Africa in ancient China. African slavery in the country peaked during the Tang (618 to 907) and Song (960 to 1279) dynasties.
More recently, violence broke out after the Chinese government started providing scholarships allowing African students to study in the country in the 1960s. Many Chinese students resented the stipends Africans received, with tensions culminating in riots in Nanjing in the late 1980s. The riots began with angry Chinese students surrounding African students’ dormitories in Hehai University and pelting them with rocks and bottles for seven hours, with crowds later marching through the streets shouting anti-African slogans.
In the past few years, loathing among some Chinese toward foreign men who date local women has led to a recent rise in violent attacks against foreigners.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.