Fair warning, it’s going to be one of those posts.
I managed to come across this article by a person named Viola Rothschild (I think her parents might have had some issues) about how Chinese people were reacting to the Baltimore Riots. As happens with people of a dogmatic insistence on “Respecting cultural diversity” there is a supreme lack of understanding of cultural diversity in the article. So much so that I kinda just had to do a running joke on it.
JINHUA – Several days ago, a Chinese friend and I were discussing the protests in Baltimore that erupted in response to the death of resident Freddie Gray in connection with his April 12 arrest by city police officers, who have since been charged with crimes including manslaughter and murder. My friend said he was first surprised that such a level of civil unrest could occur in the United States. But “when I saw that all the people protesting and getting arrested were black people,” he added, “it made more sense. That would never happen with white people.” (I was unable to convince him otherwise.)
I’m guessing the author tried to convince their Chinese friend that white people too would riot and burn down their “people’s” homes and business if a white person died in police custody. Given that I have been seeing multiple accounts that cops kill whites vs blacks at a 2:1 ratio and I’ve yet to see white riots…I can sorta see where the Chinese guy is coming from.
More interesting in this statement is that the author seems shocked that a Chinese person (native in their homeland) does not share the author’s views on black people and their behavior. Given Viola’s apparent siding with the black
rioters protestors, and the fact that she is from a “Western” country, we can guess which side she takes on this issue. Ultimately, she is looking at the situation from “Western” eyes, while her friend is looking at it with “Eastern” eyes, as we shall see.
My friend is well educated and is, in most respects, a reasonable person. But like many other Chinese, he has a facile preconceived set of notions about black people that stem from a historical lack of contact. There’s little or no effort here to distinguish between Africans, African-Americans, African-Europeans, Afro-Carribbeans, or recent African migrants to China. They all fall under a homogenous umbrella – hei ren, or “black person” – attended by a variety of sweeping stereotypes, including a proclivity for violence and crime.
I like how she has this “historical lack of contact” thing here, and then goes on to talk about how many different “types” of black people there are. (I doubt that she’s ever considered how many “types” of white people there are).
But I do find it interesting that China, which apparently has a “lack of contact” with black people (and presumably a lack of contact with western stereotypes of black people) has come to have essentially the same stereotypes that many Western countries have historically had about black people. That’s not to say these stereotypes are right, but from a historian or anthropological view it is interesting that two radically different cultures (west and east) with such widely different societal norms, come to an exact same conclusion about a third group.
Not that one can blame them, world media’s reporting on Africa does tend to focus on the fact that they are apparently all trying to wipe each other out in an endless round of genocidal warfare and ethnic cleansing. While Top Gear has shown me that the entire continent isn’t quite as bad as we’re often led to believe, even they mentioned that while filming in some areas, there were places/countries they couldn’t go because the violence was so horrific. And with the riots from Ferguson to Baltimore and from New York to Atlanta, black people in the USA haven’t exactly helped break the stereotype of “violent criminal intent on doing harm.”
Chinese media has not ignored recent events in Baltimore, an exception to its usual practice of playing down or ignoring reports involving social unrest. It was something altogether different from the U.S. media’s coverage of grief, rage, and frustration about Freddie Gray’s death, the protests and riots in response to it, and the responses to those responses. Consistently criticized by the United States for its human rights abuses, China seems to be taking pleasure in pointing out American hypocrisy. On April 30, the Communist Party’s major news organ, the People’s Daily, published a scathing commentary. “Each time, when the hatreds old and new of U.S. racial contradictions boil over,” the article read, “it clearly tells the world that the declaration ‘all are born equal’ in this so-called ‘field of dreams’ still has yet to take root.” Naturally, there is no mention of China’s own issues with ethnic tensions and cultural discrimination, from cracking down on the Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang to persecuting Buddhist monks in Tibet.
Here we have a perfect example of an “east vs west” mentality conflict. The media in the US has typically held a very Social Justice (far left) view on the matter and been highly sympathetic to the plight of the “underprivileged” in these events. Chinese media, however, has had a much more Authoritarian view on things. Civil disturbances are crushed in China. And of course China isn’t going to mention it’s issues with discrimination…because China and its people do not hold to the idea that “all men are created equal.” That’s a Western concept, one not found anywhere else in the world historically. Historically, the attitude has been “my people are the superior people” and the Chinese government and media still hold to that idea.
On a side note, China has apparently brought back crossbows for their police because they can kill suicide bombers without setting of the bomb, and this has been a serious issue in Uighur if I remember correctly. So yeah, not sure point out that China is cracking down on terrorism as a bad thing is really helping your “you need to treat black rioters with equality” argument here.
What I saw online was broadly consistent with my findings in the field. The majority of netizen comments focused on the race of the protestors, not the underlying reasons for the protests, or the fact that they occurred Stateside. And they were nasty. More than one user chalked the behavior up to “black people being black people,” while posts referring to “black devils” were not hard to find. One user complained that black people “lack self-discipline and family values,” adding, “this group is pouring into China. I hope the government will take steps to prevent this.”
You have no idea how hilarious it is to hear all the stereotypical “redneck racist” lines coming from Chinese people. Seriously, I was laughing a full five minutes the first time I read that. It is awesome.
Viola seems to take umbrage that Chinese people feel blacks “lack self-discipline and family values,” which I found especially funny. I’m pretty sure they feel that way about everyone who isn’t Chinese, but it’s especially hilarious here for some reason. And I really can’t fault Chinese people for believing it, even if Viola is scandalized by such a racist attitude.
Africans are routinely characterized as illegal workers responsible for a rise in robbery, drug dealing, gang activity, and general disturbances of the peace, and are subject to random visa inspections by local police. The African community has taken to the streets to demonstrate against unfair treatment — in 2009 following the death of a Nigerian man who jumped from a window trying to escape a police raid, then again in 2012 when an African man died mysteriously in police custody.
Seriously, I never new China and the US were so similar here. In case you’re wondering, yeah, that’s talking about how Native Chinese view China’s black community. In fact, Chinese people were linking their “demonstrations” with the ones in the USA (which makes me wonder if they were dealing with riots as well, given how the author views the Baltimore Riots as a “Demonstration against inequality.”
Anyways, I think the author’s bewilderment is more hilarious than anything. She just sit there, wondering how Chinese people can be so racist. And it kinda shows her own racism as well. She keeps expecting Chinese people to have the same mindset about equality and the plight of black people, but even as she points out how “diverse” black people are…she’s doing the same things. She’s equating the treatment of Blacks by the Chinese to the situation of blacks in Africa, and how black protestors are acting and being treated in the USA, despite the fact that any of these black people in those areas have wildly different histories. Ultimately, she comes away with a negative view of the Chinese as some how “lesser” for their views on black people. They aren’t as civilized, as open minded and understanding of the suffering of black people as she is, and so she is better than them, and they need to work to reach the same views and understanding she does.
Ultimately, this is what happens when you start dealing with racism and looking at it. All to often, in trying to show the racism of others different from you, you end up showing your racism as well. In trying to judge other cultures by the virtues of your culture, you hold your culture as superior to theirs when it falls short. For a Social Justice person likely to be screaming about oppression and imperialism…she’s doing a very good job of filling out all the “racist” check boxes social justice people have made for judging those that disagree with them.