Fascinating piece on Lou Jing, a young Chinese woman who happens to be black.
My wife and I experienced some of this when we lived in Taiwan. She is half-Vietnamese, so the assumption was that she was an ABC (American Born Chinese). She doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, and she is also a healthy, beautiful American woman, meaning she has a figure and weighs more than 89 pounds.
The reaction she got from people, especially shop keepers, blew my mind. Several of them nearly got punched in the face.
“You’re too fat!”, “half-breed!” and “why didn’t your mother teach you Chinese?” got thrown at her regularly. I would tell them to shove off and not translate. She eventually learned the word for “fat” and that led to quite a few fireworks.
As a white guy, I never had a problem other than the occasional “lao wai” and the passive-aggressive “screw the foreigner” attitude. But I have seen the way blacks are treated, and it is shocking. Once in Taiwan, a black student at one of the universities was walking through a night market with his Chinese girlfriend and the crowd parted like the Red Sea parted for Moses. All eyes were on them and the hushed commentary buzzed with the scandal of it all.
There are many advantages to having a common language (something the Spanish advocates in the USA forget or choose to ignore), but the demographic dominance of Han Chinese creates its own problems. For all of America’s flaws, we still handle our multi-racial society better than most. As China continues to open to the world, I hope this particular part of their culture matures quickly.