Being a foreigner anywhere brings its own set of trials, and living in China (historically cut off from the rest of world and with limited immigration) can take things to a different level.
Can’t find good hair extensions, no decent dark foundation on offer… sound familiar? Well these are the least of problems for black girls in China. Let’s be honest, although China has more than 50 ethnic groups besides Hanzu, Chinese people often act like foreigners are, well, kind of like aliens.
There has been much talk about racism in China, and experiences for black people can be difficult. It is often pointed out that while Chinese people are often very friendly towards white foreigners, it’s a slightly different experience if you are black.
A black friend of mine often asks: ” Why do all the words with the character 黑 have negative connotations? For example, 黑幫 (gang), 黑仔 (unlucky), and even 黑车 (illegal taxi) are all bad words?” She would often get wildly really angry when people stared at her, and would say that Chinese people are really racist.
However, Jennifer Bonne, from the Seychelles, tells a very different story. She is, quite proudly, the only black girl studying at Beijing Sports University.
Black female basketball players, 170 cm tall are pretty rare in China, but Jennifer doesn’t feel the pressure when Chinese people say: oh 看看，老外 (look, look a foreigner). Jennifer makes it clear she is not fazed: “I wouldn’t call it pressure, I don’t know maybe it is because I am self confident, but I feel proud; I feel here like I am one in a million. I feel special and there is a typical spotlight, but, let’s say, it is something positive rather than negative”
A former basketball player for the Seychelles national team, she now represents the basketball team at the Beijing Sports University. “My teammates are all Chinese. I am in China surrounded by Chinese, most of my friends are Chinese, but you know what, I don’t really think the Chinese are racist at all. For example in the beginning, sure, they were touching my hair and asking me if they could touch my skin, but none of them tried to offend me or say something racist on purpose; it was more funny that anything else, for instance, when we are choosing teams in basketball, the team I’m on is always called ‘黑黄 team’ (black & yellow),” she says.
Most “racist” things that happen to me in China are actually accidental. She says she once thought somebody was trying to offend her, as she could not speak Chinese, and on hearing people shout ne ga (that) she thought: “Who called me a nigger?”
Jennifer explains how many of the Chinese friends in her school have never seen black people before, “I am practically their first time’”, she jokes…
good for her but i still had people coming right up to my ear calling me 黑鬼 and a little kid coming up to me pretending to be a monkey whilst his parents laughed and clapped until I said 你在干嘛 and he scurried away and then less than 5 minutes later when i went to the bin another little boy came up to me with a toy gun and shouted 敌人来了！敌人来了！luckily that time the security guard told his family off. I still had some builder at the same place of the parade of 黑鬼 people, where he shouted 哇啊啊啊啊啊啊她的屁股这儿么大！！ （Other things I didnt listen to) whilst his coworkers said what if she speaks Chinese and he was so confident 不会吧 and I just said 我能听懂。。 and his coworkers laughed in his face. I still in the UK was un-invitied to an activity because one of their friends doesnt like Black people. Instead of telling him to fuck off, they chose him over me. So… yeah. Just a little preview.
I also met many lovely people who some still couldn’t stop talking about how tragic and ugly it would be to 晒黑 in front of my face, perhaps the cab drivers were the best people.
Good for her though. But you dont need to be like that to like or love a place or people or culture or anything. If you personally haven’t had to face anything bad, just speak of your personally, dont tell fallacies. If nothing discriminatory happened to her, use the article to talk about something else. mmmchew
So sorry to hear that. The first kid sounds very uneducated, and his parents doesn’t seem to be good at parenting either. Some Chinese, especially in less developed areas, could be ignorant and judgmental.
The Chinese who discussed 晒黑 in front of you probably didn’t mean anything bad though. Usually when people discuss how much they don’t want to be tanned, it is the same as discussing cosmetics and makeup. Most likely, they didn’t think that it would offend you…
If you’d like though, you could write an article on your experience of being black in China, and offer our readers a different perspective. Let us know if you are interested!
No, because I told them I don’t like it when they are standing around talking to me about how ugly getting tanned and being dark is - it some twisted shadeism that they need to sort out in their country (just recently I heard from a new friend how she felt so alienated and cried but luckily her mother encouraged her she was just unique and still beautiful), and I will look at how Black people are destroying their skin to look like ghosts and address that rather than just excusing it as solely a cosmetic and beauty choice…
How can we explain the Master’s student who came to the UK and then asked for me to be un-invited? And other exchange/students who have clearly treated me with ire and the typical hand to ear whisper side eye non sense some ladies do. They are usually from big-mid size cities and are educated, some rich or most well-to-do.
In the end, there is anti-black attitudes all across the world. Instead of writing articles like “look how nice some people are to this one Black girl - the other things don’t seem so big now!” (and the staring thing is a foreigner thing anyway, not a Black thing - except what they say afterwards), perhaps we could have heard about how she came to get used to everyday life and even decided to go to China, her favourite foods, hangout spots, more about her basketball career, how her language learning is going, her favourite place travelled in China??
This article is just repetition about something that paints a false picture about an unfortunate truth of living in China. And even if you just want to lay down what they do to ignorance, don’t write an article at all about it because I am looooooooooooooong bored of that excuse. You don’t even know how many times I heard it. For anything. Business people, service people, uneducated, educated, children, adults. Ain’t matter! “ohh it’s the ignorance”
I was generally around less ignorant people in Chengdu when I was with people who weren’t “educated”. Actually I had great experiences and most did the “HEY, first time seeing you, so this is what it looks like in real life” chuckle and that was it. Some spoke to me. One cab driver and I bonded so well, he wanted to invite me for dinner with his family but that was when I was leaving the country and couldn’t - he even had me prank call his son during the cab ride. Most of the people who deem themselves educated would say/do the stupidest things to me.
I had more amicable times than bad in Chengdu and the people that pissed me off the most except one shop owner who insisted on denying my identity and calling me a leftover and just a immigrant from slavery, was the white people who felt comfortable to say racist things to me there. Because I listed some of the bad things all in one post (only to refute the myth I felt was being perpetuated in the article), it seemed like a daily theme in my life there when it wasn’t. I received way more micro aggressions from the white school mates there.
I can still love my Chinese friends, the people I have met, the places I have been, the food I have eaten, the stories and personal accounts I have heard, and the language, but I do not need to pretend. If you wanted to write an article about being Black in China, perhaps getting some accounts from several people would have been better. Or at least acknowledging beyond the minor issues (淘宝 anyone?) that there is still an issue of anti-blackness. And lastly, why on earth is the n-word not censored? I highly doubt a Black person wrote this article? It is only a quote.
Hello there, I am the writer of the blog and i just wanted to say that I am sorry you have had bad experience in China, but I was recording one persons experience, it does not mean we are ignoring the issue.