Something happened tonight that really upset me. I wanted my momma like all little girls do when something upsets them. Racism (in general) is quite common in China. I don’t think I’m putting myself out on a limb by saying that either. I know that this topic is also a little faux pas but maybe it should be discussed… I would say that generally Chinese people love Americans. They find them fascinating. They love the white skin, the movie star-like features, and the American Dream. On the other hand, Chinese people also tend to be more …. hesitant… toward people of a “similar” race as themselves (by that I mean Asian). For a while now, it has been a well known fact that the Chinese are quite racist towards Japanese people and after talking with a friend, I found that Chinese people are actually quite racist towards people they call lao wai = foreigner (This word is actually not derogatory to the Chinese but many foreigners tend to think otherwise) and any foreigner at that. As many of you know, I am not easy to “place” into the race category. It’s really difficult for people to “figure me out”. This leaves me feeling a little more cautious about my “situation” in China. They don’t see me as an American… as many do with my beautiful Southern accent… but rather, foreign.
It is quite common for a foreigner to be stared at, looked up and down, be given double takes, or in some cases have people take pictures of them on their camera phone. It gets annoying but after a while, you also get used to it.
Tonight, was different however. I went for a bike ride because our internet was down (a common occurrence) and decided to drop in a shop that I had seen some advertisements for. I parked my bike, went inside, and started looking around. China is never short on people — even in smaller stores– and one of the girls working came up to me. I said hello, thinking she would go away or awkwardly follow me around as they sometimes do. But no, instead she came to about 2 inches away from me, did a good 10 second up-down look, and aggressively asked me where I was from. In chinese first, and then in broken english. I kept telling her that I was from The States, I’m from A.MER.I.CA. She kept laughing and looking back at her friend. Her friend was embarrassed by the way she was treating me. But the girls first intended question was, what are you? It kinda felt like middle school when the popular girls pick on the nerdy kids and call them ugly names. That little girl made me feel beneath her in some way as if she were looking down on me. It was hateful and it was hurtful. I left immediately and said many choice words as I walked out the door.
Maybe it was racism or maybe it was aggressive curiosity. Whatever it was, it was rude. And I didn’t like how uncomfortable she made me feel.
I don’t expect everyone to understand and maybe I am blowing this out of proportion. But what is hurtful here… Is that in the States I’d like to believe that I am colorblind. I don’t care what color your skin is. We are all American despite our melting pot backgrounds. But not here. It’s not the same. It’s a race game people like to play, trying to figure out where people are from — as if that can somehow decipher whether you are good, bad, ugly, or beautiful. I was not raised as an American child, or Chinese child, … I was raised as a child. I don’t see others around me as white, black, yellow or purple… or as straight or gay or as anything else, because people are people.
Whatever. The past is the past. And thankfully tomorrow is a new day. Luckily, mine begins in 5 minutes.
Remember that I spread a simple message: Peace and LOVE throughout the World.
share it. spread it. live it.
Note: These thoughts are my own and do not express the feelings of others. These generalizations are in no way meant to harm any ethnic group but reflect my opinions and findings.