East vs West
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Cultural Differences: Dealing With Racism In Eastern And Western Societies

Chinese Racism Towards Foreigners

Racism is an issue in China that seems to pervade all of society, and yet, Chinese people do not think they are being racist.

From English teacher advertisements whose job description specifies “no people from African countries”, to female Chinese friends who cringed at the thought of dating a black foreigner, to the basic fact that almost every single Chinese person in China does not have one single foreign person to call a friend.

In mainland China, I have personally experienced racism innumerable times.

The Black Prostitute Example

On one occasion, while discussing prostitutes with a Hong Kong and Liaoning male, the conversation turned to black prostitutes.

I listened on as the Liaoning male sounded disgusted and looked visibly sick when I mentioned sex with a black woman.  He was adamant he would never have sex with a black woman, which is when I began to feel the inherent Chinese racism towards black people surface.

When I heard his objections to one race of people, I probed, “But, if you ever travel to Africa (非洲) to study, or to work, and every woman is a black, African woman, you are going to have to try to date one of them eventually, otherwise you will be masturbating your whole time while in Africa.”

The mere mention of sex with a black woman elicited a racist response.

Even to that reality, he said, “Oh no!  I can’t see myself having sex with a black woman,” as if it were disgusting.

Defining Racism In Mainland China

Racism is when a person chooses to preference their race over all other races, or when a person openly discriminates against another race.

For example, if there were one hundred people in a square, 99 being white, and 1 being Asian, if an Asian person introduced into that square seeks out the only other Asian person, then that shows an obvious inclination to racism.

When I travel to a mono-ethnic country like China, on the surface, discrimination is everywhere.  Mainland Chinese are suspicious of outsiders, and inherently racist towards black people.

I wish I could say it was only an isolated case of racism, but this was not the first time I had witnessed Chinese people (even from my close friends) be openly prejudicial towards black people, and Muslims.

As a white foreigner, sometimes I become privy to their racism, as was the case when the Hong Kong and Liaoning males allowed me to become one of the boys.  Being white however seemed to appeal to the Liaoning male who loved to talk about how sexy Ivanka Trump is.

I just thought this is a psychological problem in this guy’s mind, and he is a racist too.

The Face Of Racism From New Immigrants In Australia

This all-too-familiar brush with racism made me think.

In Australia, people come from all over the world to live, so all our friends are different colors, races, and believe in different things.  I grew up with friends whose parents immigrated from Lebanon, Iran, Tonga, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Europe, America, Vietnam, China, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and I had Aboriginal Australian friends.

We are a multicultural and tolerant country.  Often however, the new immigrants who call Australia home will bring their racial superstitions to Australia, and form mono-ethnic ghettos.

It is also common in China to meet someone new whose Chinese friend studied in Australia, only to be asked, “My friend said Australian people are racist.  They don’t like Chinese people.”  In these conversations, Australian people become scapegoats.

I usually respond, “How many Australian friends did your Chinese friend make in their four years studying in Australia?”  That usually puts their argument to bed pretty quickly.

A Question Of Tolerance

It is important to note that the question in Australia is not one of racism, but a question of tolerance.

Australians grow up in diversity, with all shapes, sizes, and differences in schools, workplaces, and in broader society.  Australia is a race of races.  Australians already have developed their own way of life.  Learning to understand the intricacies of hundreds of races is irrelevant when you relate as an Australian.

Every new race that calls Australia home brings their customs and culture.  It would be unreasonable to assume an Australian will care to learn the cultures and practices of each and every new race that is welcomed into Australia, including Chinese culture.  That is why we learn to tolerate other cultures different to our own.

Immigrants conversely who have come from a homogeneous race to an open society, cannot practice the same form of tolerance.  Because, tolerance comes with begrudgingly accepting something in, while racism comes from pushing something out.

Go Back To Where You Came From

Racism in Australia, when it does happen, is when an Australian says, “Go back to where you came from,” similar to how Chinese people will kick out black people, and don’t give them a chance to be included in their society.

When a job advertisement in China reads, “no black teachers”, that is also racism.

I know an Australian will not say, “I don’t want to be his friend because he is Chinese,” because an Australian-born Chinese who is my colleague or neighbor is still an Australian.

Immigrants in Australia are already on the margins.  To integrate into Australian society comes with change.

In my experience, being vastly exposed to every imaginable race and culture since childhood until today, and then coming into mono-ethnic countries like China, I have come face to face with the culturally taboo struggle that Chinese people have with foreign people.

I would need a whole book to write about it.

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