Marketus Presswood: On Being Black in ChinaRoundup: Historians' Take
tags: China, The Atlantic, African American, Marketus Presswood
Marketus Presswood is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Modern Chinese History with an emphasis on both the Republican Era (1912-1949) and the post-1949 era.
In the 1996 China edition of the Lonely Planet's Guidebook, a text box aside comment from a street interview provided some interesting conversation fodder, "... there is no racism in China because there are no black people," a Chinese woman was reported to have said. This became a little running joke in my small study abroad circle, since I was the only black student in my program of fifty students. It was 1997, and I was in Beijing studying Chinese. "There is no way you could be experiencing any racism in China," one classmate sardonically told me, "because you are the only black person here." We all laughed.
While China is officially home to 55 ethnic minority groups, the Middle Kingdom is far more ethnically homogeneous than the United States. Han Chinese make up 91.59 percent of the population, and the majority of the remaining 8.41 percent are visually indistinguishable from their Han counterparts. In part due to this difference, race and nationality are often conflated in China. A white foreigner is likely to be called laowai, or "old foreigner," while a black foreigner is more likely to be described as heiren, or "black person."
White Americans face no barriers to claiming their nationality, but blacks are often assumed to hail from Africa, a place thought to be more backwards and poorer than China, and one more than likely receiving Chinese government economic aid in the form of loans and infrastructure projects. This leads to either resentment or denigration on the part of some Chinese. The Chinese media tends to focus on the generosity of the Chinese government toward Africa -- a sore point among Chinese who feel their government is not doing enough for the Chinese themselves -- and not on the valuable natural resources gained or access to lucrative growth markets for cheap Chinese goods....
comments powered by Disqus
- A girl named Greta and the seriously sexist history of Time’s Person of the Year
- Poll: Majority of Democrats think Obama was better president than Washington
- Civil War Soldiers Used Hair Dye to Make Themselves Look Better in Pictures, Archaeologists Discover
- Monumental statue of black man defies Confederate monuments
- From Consensus To Deadlock: Is Impeachment Still A Check On Presidents?
- Black Scholars Respond to Dr. Lorgia García Peña Tenure Denial at Harvard
- Historians Kirsten Weld and Erik Baker Interviewed About Harvard Graduate Worker Strike in Chronicle of Higher Education
- Kate Shaw: Andrew Johnson Was Impeached for Being a Racist Demagogue
- Bullets That Killed John F. Kennedy Immortalized as Digital Replicas by Smithsonian
- 37 books for history lovers: 11 Historians Select Their Favorite Books of 2019