Few countries in the world are cursed with as much anti-black racism as Communist China. That’s my conclusion after reading the report by newswoman Sylvia Yu of the Canadian Broadcasting Co. One of China’s most popular Web sites (sin.com) was overwhelmed with hundreds of hate messages and racial slurs when it was announced Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would visit China last spring.
The epithets, as translated by Miss Yu, are disgusting and simply unrepeatable. The common theme is “black” or “blackness.” Miss Rice was not attacked as a representative of a capitalist-imperialist power, which one might expect from a Leninist dictatorship. Miss Rice was attacked for her ethnicity, her looks and her gender. The sin.com Web site, says Yu, is a particular favorite among Chinese elites and what she called the “educated masses.” She writes: “Racism and sexism are so widespread on the mainland that no one was especially surprised by the hateful verbal attacks on Rice.”
Several years ago, I interviewed two Ghanian students who had been sent to Soviet universities in communist Russia on “Patrice Lumumba” scholarships. After a few months, they fled to England because, they told me, whenever they danced with Russian girls they would be bumped into, shoved against the wall and later beaten when they returned to their Moscow dormitories. University officials ignored their complaints. Leninism seems to have no effect on anti-black racism, whether in Russia or today in China.
A Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, says Miss Yu, was “so disgusted by the awful remarks that he felt compelled to write something about it.” Liu Xiaobo is a former Beijing university philosopher who has been battling censorship.
“When I asked my Chinese teacher,” reports Miss Yu, “and several friends what they think of black people, almost all of them say the same thing: ‘They’re scary, they smell, they’re loud and different from us.’ ”
Miss Yu tells the story of Jean-Marc Agnero, the 20-year-old son of two Ivorian diplomats who has lived in Beijing the last seven years. He says the Chinese are becoming more openly racist toward blacks.
Miss Yu quotes Mr. Agnero: “When I first got here, the Chinese were impressed to see black people. We’re new to them. They used to touch my hair and skin. Some of them touched my skin to check if it was dirty. … It’s going to take a long time for the Chinese people’s attitudes to change.”
A Canadian interracial married couple, identified only as Sally and Alvin, had real difficulties getting employment as English teachers. Sally was a Caucasian and was hired; her husband was from the Dominican Republic and was rejected. The school principal said, true or not, if they hired Alvin as a teacher, the parents would pull their children out of his classroom.
Much of this Chinese hostility toward Africans and African Americans must change by 2008 when the Olympics open in Beijing. Whether such ingrained racial prejudices can be successfully discouraged in the next three years is doubtful.
Arnold Beichman, a Hoover Institution research fellow, is a columnist for The Washington Times.