Racism in China vs. America

I blogrolled these guys two weeks ago and have meant to call them out. This post on racism in China (if, of course, it exists at all) and how it compares with that elsewhere gives me special reason to do so. Note especially the delicious update and the excellent comments.

This is a consistently excellent blog that impressed me from day one.

Update: Interesting link from the comments thread. I’d mentioned on this site before an anecdote about my first coming to China in 2002 to take a course at Fudan Daxue. There, a California-born Chinese-American student who could barely speak a word of Chinese was in despair that no Chinese students would accept him as an ESL teacher because he “didn’t look like an American.” They couldn’t deal with the idea of being taught English by a Chinese person, even if what made him “Chinese” was purely superficial. Hearing him that day asking our Chinese teacher how to convince students he was a native English speaker, and hearing the teacher tell him there was nothing he could do — well, that’ll stay with me forever. Mandatory disclaimer: Americans have a long and ongoing history of racism, and often, as the China Geeks story and comments indicate, it manifests itself in uglier ways than it does here. Now that we’ve got that out of the way…


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 55 Comments

And by the way, in asia, the concept of race is different than that of the west. In the west, there are very firm beliefs about how each race is like. In the east, not so much because unlike western media, asian media aren’t plagued with the news about how “blacks are robbing and killing” everyone. And when you talk about China, the fluid concept of race is even more prominent. Americans (i only speak about americans because I am one) like to believe that american culture=qhite culture. And when we teach american history, it is mostly “white american history”. People don’t even realize asian americans have been in america a lot longer than just recent immigrants because all non-white narratives are excluded (of course schools DO make the obligatory comment about slavery and native americans).

Whereas China has always had multiple ethnic groups and after 5000+ years of history, they’ve all pretty much intermarried and now consider themselves to be of the Han ethnicity. But those of you who actually understand chinese history will know that Chinese history have ALWAYS included numerous ethnicities and many famous chinese people of history were not even “han” chinese. China was comfortable with interracial relationships long before america was even created. And by the time america created anti-miscegenation laws, China was already a melting pot.

April 5, 2010 @ 3:54 pm | Comment

And if China is such a racist place, why are Black americans, who historically have been discriminated against in the west, moving to China and marrying Chinese women?

Isn’t barack obama’s half brother one of them? Obviously China is more accomodating to him than the west is (in his opinion at least).

April 5, 2010 @ 3:56 pm | Comment

Oh, chinese people ARE classist though. Not so much racist. I don’t know if it’s exactly better to be classist. Then again, westerners are classist too. We all discriminate against the “white trash” except white people never associate themselves with the term “white trash”.

April 5, 2010 @ 3:58 pm | Comment

And every white expat in China who complain about being passed over, think about the countless qualified asian-americans who actually live in america FOR GOOD who are passed over in favor of whites.

Studies have shown that when two people of equal education and experience are presented to a white hirer, they will not have a 50/50 chance in getting hired. USUALLY, the hirer, if white, will unconsciously prefer the white applicant. It’s about having white privilege in america. maybe now it’s not so weird that it seems like chinese people have some sort of privilege over whites in china.

April 5, 2010 @ 4:18 pm | Comment

I think sga has made a very good point (even though he is slightly biased) about how Americans like to enter other countries without learning about foreign systems.

I also want to point out: I believe that there is certain racism among chinese people who live in America, not the native Chinese. I observed this in New York City. Basically, most Chinese families are reclusive and introverted while African Americans and Spanish people are extroverted. Thus, chinese families find Africans and Spanish people to be belligerent and inproper and tell their kids to avoid them. Many American Chinese families in nyc would also say that crimes are mostly committed by African Americans and to watch that you aren’t being followed in black communities (NYC has Asian parts, black parts, Jewish parts, etc.). However, this cannot be observed in mainland China where the population is extremely homogeneous.

@Michael, I don’t really understand your “fear, bitterness, and resentment” of Chinese people. This senario that you described might be true but it might not be indicative of how some Chinese people treat foreigners. Many Chinese people are simply rude and obnoxious, even to other Chinese people. I was a volunteer in the Shanghai world expo and many natives would be extremely rude (I am purely Chinese). On the other hand, the foreigners were pretty mild and rather polite.

July 4, 2010 @ 1:37 pm | Comment

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