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Oriental Angel
November 11, 2009 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Lou Jing was your average 20 year old woman from Shanghai, until being on Go! Oriental Angel, an American Idol like singing competition show, had to point out the obvious. Lou Jing is half Chinese, half African- America, something China apparently wasn't ready for.
posted by djduckie (80 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I see you listened to NPR tonight too. I was gonna' post on this. Here's footage from Go! Oriental Girl, the TV show she was on.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 8:49 PM on November 11, 2009


Oh hey, I was just reading about this in Time Magazine a few days ago. Given how media outlets like Time cover the English language internet I wonder how accurate a portrayal it is.
posted by Kattullus at 8:59 PM on November 11, 2009


I also heard this on NPR tonight and considered posting it. The depths of racism in China as portrayed in the story are ridiculous. Lou Jing said she would rather get beaten to death than go on that show again.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2009


criticized her skin color as "gross" and "ugly"

I don't generally like to comment on a woman's looks on MeFi but since it's an issue from the article... wtf? She's stunningly gorgeous.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:04 PM on November 11, 2009 [14 favorites]


I don't understand what or who is pointing out the obvious and what the obvious even is.
posted by ODiV at 9:07 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


>: She's stunningly gorgeous.
I didn't want to be that guy either, but yeah.
God damn a lot of people are horrible.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:07 PM on November 11, 2009


B..b..but AMERIKKKA is teh RACIST!
posted by HTuttle at 9:09 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


You can read the translated online comments here from chinasmack. It's as bad as what you would expect from your typical youtube commenters.
posted by cazoo at 9:10 PM on November 11, 2009


yeah listen to NPR everyday. Sick of getting scooped and since this happen to hit on some of my favorite topics (race relations, and gorgeous, talented Af-Am girls) I figured I would post it. Had the Times link first, was going to try and incorporate both, but since they pretty much said the same thing and I liked the NPR picture better, went with it.

It sucks because it seems like she was fitting in very well and that the people who knew her liked her, and then really, this public attention pulled the rug out from under her.
posted by djduckie at 9:11 PM on November 11, 2009


I don't understand what or who is pointing out the obvious and what the obvious even is.

That she's of mixed race is pretty obvious from her appearance. Apparently, her fellow Chinese didn't notice this for the 20 years she was growing up. Once the show referred to her as "Chocolate Angel", however...
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:12 PM on November 11, 2009


I don't mean to minimize this, but have you ever read a Youtube comment? Calling black people ugly on the internet is hardly alien to America. Obviously hearing those kinds of things for the first time would have been pretty shocking.

Apparently, her fellow Chinese didn't notice this for the 20 years she was growing up.

I'm sure they noticed. I just don't think anyone ever made these kinds of racist comments to her face, or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 9:15 PM on November 11, 2009


as soon as a child is born, the parents are required to register with the authorities as to which of the 56 government-approved ethnic groups their child belongs; there are no mixed-race categories

What
posted by qvantamon at 9:17 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


This article discusses Lou Jing and also the black volleyball player, Ding Hui.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:17 PM on November 11, 2009


Chinese posting messages on the Web criticized her skin color as "gross" and "ugly"

I've noticed a growing trend of articles in the Western media which pick out the Chinese equivalent of Youtube commenters and use their idiotic opinions as somehow representative of the entire nation.

Owing to the little exposure they've had until very recently, a lot of Chinese certainly express views on other races that we'd regard as ignorant or less than politically correct. For example, I remember one of my Chinese teachers in Beijing telling my half-Jewish, half-Chinese classmate that his Jewish ancestry was to thank for his intelligence.

But I've found this is generally the case in countries that tend to have very few other-race foreigners. When I was traveling in Turkey, I met more than one person who, in all seriousness, asserted that I must have a natural martial arts ability due to my Asian heritage.

In general, I think the Chinese view towards foreigners tends to be one of curiosity and interest rather than outright bigotry.
posted by pravit at 9:21 PM on November 11, 2009 [11 favorites]


qvantamon: "as soon as a child is born, the parents are required to register with the authorities as to which of the 56 government-approved ethnic groups their child belongs; there are no mixed-race categories

What
"

Have you seen most ethnicity sections on American forms? There's no "misc. sund." category there, either.
posted by boo_radley at 9:22 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


A lot of Asia has this problem. Living in Korea has blown my mind- It's not a 1950's kind of virulent racism, it's more like. 1492, Columbus racism. They just don't know how to handle other cultures and colors and races, so they just kind of gawk and presume the worst.
posted by GilloD at 9:27 PM on November 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Wow. She's amazingly beautiful.
posted by Avenger at 9:28 PM on November 11, 2009


It's also worth noting that my Korean Elemntary School textbook has exactly TWO black characters. In the 5th grade he has ENORMOUS lips that more or less look like the artist nabbed them from the back of an Al Jolson record. In the 6th grade he's a backwards cap wearin', bleach blonde, basketball throwin' dude who looks like nothing so much as Denis Rodman. And those are probably the only black people my kids really interact with for, uh, 20 years or so.
posted by GilloD at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


In general, I think the Chinese view towards foreigners tends to be one of curiosity and interest rather than outright bigotry.

Uh, Lou Jing isn't a foreigner.
posted by delmoi at 9:29 PM on November 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


as soon as a child is born, the parents are required to register with the authorities as to which of the 56 government-approved ethnic groups their child belongs; there are no mixed-race categories

What


It's also worth mentioning that the 56 ethnic groups in China are truly that - ethnic groups. Unlike the race-based categorization in the US where, for example, people of Arab and South Asian decent are classified as "White", the Chinese minzu scheme is more based on groups that have historically been regarded as different cultural entities, even if they are racially similar to one another. As an example, "Han" encompasses people living in the northeastern corners of Heilongjiang near Siberia, and the southern tips of Yunnan bordering Burma. Genetically speaking, northern "Han" are more similar to the "Manchu" minzu than they are to southern "Han."

I'm not sure if there are official rules about which minzu you belong to if your parents are from different groups, but I imagine you have a claim to either. I've read articles about many Han with only distant Manchu links claiming Manchu ethnicity in order to benefit from minority university quotas.
posted by pravit at 9:30 PM on November 11, 2009


I'm fairly sure there's a few mixed options in the US census, as well as "other" for every major category, and you can still write in whatever you want. And it has a buttload of categories to choose from.

And do you have to declare anything aside from mother, father, place of birth, [NOT-KENYAN] to get a birth certificate?
posted by qvantamon at 9:30 PM on November 11, 2009


Uh, Lou Jing isn't a foreigner.

Wasn't referring to Lou Jing in particular here but more to the general experience of non-Asians in China.
posted by pravit at 9:42 PM on November 11, 2009


Okay, wait a second. I just looked at her picture- What part of China did they think she was from? She's black. Someone had to tell China she's half-NOT CHINESE?
posted by GilloD at 9:42 PM on November 11, 2009


Same issues in Korea and Japan for blacks. Maybe just a little bit more open-minded in Japan, but in relative terms these countries are completely bass-ackwards when it comes to racial issues.

I teach adorable six year-olds who told me "new Obama President" would be bad for America because he is "mixed."
posted by bardic at 9:44 PM on November 11, 2009


She's black.

She's the black pearl! Get it right.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 9:52 PM on November 11, 2009


as soon as a child is born, the parents are required to register with the authorities as to which of the 56 government-approved ethnic groups their child belongs; there are no mixed-race categories
That's a hang-over from the scheme they copied from the Stalin-era Soviet Union, with a similar dodgy set of rules for categorisation. It meant (still does in many instances) that you might get preferential treatment as regards family planning regulations ('minorities' could have more kids) or need a lower score for college entrance, so the system got gamed a lot - e.g. massive upsurge in Manchu registrations after family planning rules came in, where previously you might have downplayed that heritage due to the negative associations with the denigrated Qing dynasty. Not sure of the exact ins and outs of proving it - in the case of the Manchu the language is almost entirely dead and given the demographic history of the north it's not like there's much of an obvious Manchu physical type or anything.
posted by Abiezer at 9:55 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


(Which is extra weird given how popular hip-hop culture is in Korea. 대한민국 missed the clue train.)
posted by bardic at 9:55 PM on November 11, 2009


bardic: "(Which is extra weird given how popular hip-hop culture is in Korea. 대한민국 missed the clue train.)"

Being racist and appreciating or even appropriating the cultural expression of those who are dismissed by your racism isn't weird at all.
posted by idiopath at 10:08 PM on November 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's common, but it's still weird to observe.
posted by bardic at 10:10 PM on November 11, 2009


This is an interesting story, but I'm unimpressed by how they are shocked! SHOCKED! not only at the racism she's encountered but that "many people didn't even realize their comments were discriminatory or hurtful". Wow, nice othering, NPR. Good thing that could never happen here.

Now I will spend the rest of my evening making fun of how the presenter pronounces her r's.
posted by smartyboots at 10:13 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The fact that Hip Hop culture is so popular in Korea really only demonstrates that fact that it's not really virulent, hateful racism so much as it is utterly clueless racism. The only black people they ever meet are in rap videos or movies.
posted by GilloD at 10:21 PM on November 11, 2009


The thought occurs that racism may be how humanity will speciate.
posted by Malor at 10:23 PM on November 11, 2009


When I was traveling in Turkey, I met more than one person who, in all seriousness, asserted that I must have a natural martial arts ability due to my Asian heritage.

Dude, I get that in my own motherfucking country all the time.
posted by cazoo at 10:23 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


Now I've seen everything: a ganguro girl who actually pulls it off.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 10:27 PM on November 11, 2009 [3 favorites]


The thought occurs that racism may be how humanity will speciate.

Because obviously mixed race people don't exist.
posted by delmoi at 10:28 PM on November 11, 2009


GilloD: "The fact that Hip Hop culture is so popular in Korea really only demonstrates that fact that it's not really virulent, hateful racism so much as it is utterly clueless racism. The only black people they ever meet are in rap videos or movies."

The people who perpetrated the American genocide dressed up with feathers in their hair and did "indian war dances" and portrayed noble savages in Thanksgiving re-enactments in school pageants. The intellectual basis for Nazism was peppered with ideas borrowed from Jewish thinkers. Neonazi skinheads have a scene that orbits around music that traces its roots to Africa. Cultural mixing is no contraindication of virulent racism. Not to say that this proves Korean culture is violently racist, but really the fact that they like Hip-Hop is orthogonal to the question of their racism.
posted by idiopath at 10:38 PM on November 11, 2009 [9 favorites]


Here are two other recent articles that discuss racism in Asian countries: China's Race Problem from Forbes and South Koreans Struggle With Race from the New York Times.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 10:41 PM on November 11, 2009


This was also my experience in China. Not necessarily hateful (in the way that, say, Kipling isn't necessarily hateful), but very strong stereotyping:

White = rich
Jewish = clever, rich
Black = basically everything you'd expect from a 1920's Disney cartoon.
Chinese-American = why don't you learn to speak Chinese better?
Japanese = uh, let's not go there.

To do some stereotyping of my own, and add a hefty dose of sweeping-generalization-based-on-anecdotal-evidence:

I'd say it's mostly a product of ignorance, naivete and lack of exposure to diversity. There just ain't that many black people in China, and they're mostly in the cities, in particular the more cosmopolitan ones like Shanghai. The mass media, meanwhile goes everywhere, and the internet gives people opportunity to be ignorant from long distances. Add in a single mother and a black father in a society that's still quite sexually conservative, and voila! Misery!

"many people didn't even realize their comments were discriminatory or hurtful" . Wow, nice othering, NPR. Good thing that could never happen here.


It was the girl herself who believed this. Good for her for staying positive on her fellow people, even when they don't deserve it.
posted by ScotchRox at 10:42 PM on November 11, 2009 [10 favorites]


This is obviously a terribly broad brush, but China is ridiculously racist when it comes to black people. From my impressions though, it is a different type of racism than in the West. In many Asian societies dark complexions are considered very unattractive, the idea of "tanning" would be madness and women spend copious amounts of money on skin-whitening products. There was a cosmetics commercial I saw in China for a product Bai Daifu ("Dr. White") where the fair-skinned model says "Mei bai shi wo yisheng de mengxiang" i.e. Beautiful white skin is the dream of my life... another TV product had the slogan "I'm white, you're white, everyone's white".

Fair-skin is the sine qua non of feminine beauty in China. It is a big complement to tell a woman how "white" her skin is, and a woman in China can be stunningly gorgeous but if she's got even a moderately dark complexion all people will notice is how "black" she is. The word "black" itself has the double meaning of "bad". Most Chinese people have a very limited knowledge of other countries and cultures, but they do know that Africa and India are poor, which adds to the prejudice. Remember though that about twenty years ago that the average urbane Chinese person had never seen a real-life foreigner in their lives, let alone a black one.

That said, China is a not an ethnically homogenous place like Korea, and the Chinese do not have the same type of nationalistic "anti-mixing" chauvinism that seems to be prevalent there. And while I'm sure there were a lot of revolting comments posted about Lou Jing, they would be coming from the Chinese equivalent of the youtube commenting troglodyte-class and hardly representative of mainstream opinion.
posted by moorooka at 11:02 PM on November 11, 2009 [6 favorites]


In many Asian societies dark complexions are considered very unattractive, the idea of "tanning" would be madness and women spend copious amounts of money on skin-whitening products.
This is of course much more if not entirely about about the historical and prevailing prejudice against rural people and the rural poor - only a peasant girl working outdoors has a tan, not the pallid beauty of the secluded chambers of the wealthy, hence the status.
posted by Abiezer at 11:11 PM on November 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh yes, and unmarried mums don't get the best treatment in China either... for all the nasty comments they're making about Lou Jing, I'm sure there's a lot worse about her mother
posted by moorooka at 11:12 PM on November 11, 2009


only a peasant girl working outdoors has a tan, not the pallid beauty of the secluded chambers of the wealthy, hence the status.

Wasn't there a similar sort of belief/ranking in Europe from feudal times onward? (To say nothing of modern day Europe's problems)
posted by peppito at 11:19 PM on November 11, 2009



In general, I think the Chinese view towards foreigners tends to be one of curiosity and interest rather than outright bigotry.


Well, that's the problem, isn't it? This young woman isn't a foreigner. But I wonder whether her detractors consider her Chinese. Polite curiosity about weirdo outsiders may even be correlative with vicious hatred and discrimination against insiders who somehow blur or cross the lines of that define a group's conception of itself.

The cuckoo bird, a case of polly shouldn't be....
posted by Diablevert at 11:20 PM on November 11, 2009


Same issues in Korea and Japan for blacks. Maybe just a little bit more open-minded in Japan, but in relative terms these countries are completely bass-ackwards when it comes to racial issues.

Not in the Japan I know. Obviously, "blackness" is an issue in Japan, but, then again, all foreigness is an issue. A few years into my time in Japan I complained to a friend of mine who happens to be black that I was sick and tired of what I imagines to be people staring at me on the train and in post offices or whatever, and he said, hey, compared to what he experiences in the States, Japan is downright relaxing.

In regards to China, they are just getting started. We've just experienced the American Century, now welcome to the Chinese Century.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:27 PM on November 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


race issues in China are a bit less, ah, black and white than the "Lou Jing incident" reports would lead one to believe. eg:
Africans in China look for success...
posted by dawson at 11:45 PM on November 11, 2009



Wasn't there a similar sort of belief/ranking in Europe from feudal times onward?

Up until Coco Chanel took a vacation on the Duke of Westminster's yacht in the 1920s.
posted by Diablevert at 11:46 PM on November 11, 2009


She's stunningly gorgeous.

Beauty is a cultural construct. You can yell at people about their notion of beauty all you like, but there ain't not gold standard, as anyone who would purport to understand anything about the history or politics of appearance ought to know.

Those Chinese commentators think she's ugly because they live in a culture that says black = ugly.
posted by rodgerd at 11:46 PM on November 11, 2009


I don't think it's really appropriate to remark in this instance that Lou Jing is "gorgeous" or "pretty" or whatever, as if to point out how ridiculous the Chinese are being by calling such a beautiful woman ugly.

If Lou Jing indeed looked like a dog, would that then make her treatment somehow more acceptable?

And, in this context, isn't calling Lou Jing "gorgeous" more than a little condescending?

Her actual physical looks, and out opinions about her looks, have really nothing to do with anything.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 PM on November 11, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'm not sure that comparisons of this girl's treatment in China with South Korean attitudes are totally fair. Half-Korean half-African American singer 인순이 (In Soon Ee/In Sooni/Insooni) is pretty popular here.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:10 AM on November 12, 2009


And, in this context, isn't calling Lou Jing "gorgeous" more than a little condescending?

She was a contestant on an Idol-type show. Obviously looks factor into that kind of thing. And further more, if people are called ugly then it can make them feel better to hear that some people think they are good looking.

half-African American singer 인순이 (In Soon Ee/In Sooni/Insooni)

And of course in japan there's Jero
posted by delmoi at 12:22 AM on November 12, 2009


But do Koreans see her as a fellow Korean, or as a foreigner?
posted by armage at 12:25 AM on November 12, 2009


One of the comments from the Chinasmack roundup:

it’s insane aye? i cant believe how many racist comments are on here, who cares if shes half black/asian? she’s HOT!

Ahhh, scopophilia. The great equalizer.

Of course the commenter goes on to add:

acceptance is the way forward.

just FYI:
mix asian/black/white/whatever = hot

posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 12:32 AM on November 12, 2009


" as if to point out how ridiculous the Chinese are being by calling such a beautiful woman ugly."

Maybe because, um, it is actually ridiculous? There's more than a little absurdity in reading about an uproar over the ugliness of a woman who, to judge from her carefully prepared publicity photo, isn't.

As much as you may want comments about this woman's ugliness to symbolically represent a comment on some Chinese cultural construct -- and it looks like we managed to do that, too -- they're still comments about her appearance. While it's not super incredibly useful to meet those comments at their level, there's nothing to be gained by pretending the absurdity of calling a pretty girl ugly just because of the shade of her skin doesn't exist.

Because, yeah, saying that is pretty fucking absurd.
posted by majick at 1:45 AM on November 12, 2009


I wonder how much of it was trolling or honest beliefs.

On that matter I wonder how much the idea of trolling has overtaken the online community of China. I'd like to assume it's homogeneous to online culture in general, but then again that would be a pretty ethnocentric view. Or would it be an ethnocentric view to believe that they wouldn't have similar online qualities.

Oh how hard it is to be politically correct.
posted by Allan Gordon at 2:54 AM on November 12, 2009


Wasn't there a similar sort of belief/ranking in Europe from feudal times onward?

Yep. In Elizabethan England*, for instance, the fashion was to whiten the skin with a mixture of vinegar and lead. It was toxic (as you might imagine), and there were other cosmetics to cover up the resulting pock marks and scars.

Wealthy women of the period would also wash their faces with mercury to soften the skin, and use belladonna eyedrops to dilate the pupils for a doe-eyed look. Basically Elizabethan women's fashion was a big ol' hazmat festival.


*And very probably elsewhere, but my knowledge outside of Tudor and early Stuart England gets a little fuzzy.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:34 AM on November 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Jasper Friendly Bear, I saw the South Korea struggles with race article in NYT too. It had one of the funniest endings ever for a Times article:

“Our ethnic homogeneity is a blessing,” said one of the critics, Lee Sung-bok, a bricklayer who said his job was threatened by migrant workers. “If they keep flooding in, who can guarantee our country won’t be torn apart by ethnic war as in Sri Lanka?”

Yes, we wouldn't want Korea to be torn apart by war, Sung-bok!
posted by sy at 5:18 AM on November 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


For the culturally sheltered:

United States:
Dark skin == Away from the fluorescent lights of the office, getting a tan == Rich

China:
Dark skin == Out working the fields == Poor

I remember taking a bus in Laos, and the first thing everyone did was close the window shades. I, having never seen the particular part of the countryside I was traveling through, wanted to keep mine open. People seated in front of me and behind me kept closing my shades because of this preternatural fear of sunlight.

And naturally I didn't have enough mastery of the language to explain to them that the sun's UV rays would be blocked by the bus windows, and that there was a 0% chance of them getting even a little bit tan.

So I just kept re-opening the blinds.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:30 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is not shocking to me. My experience, living in graduate student housing in California--in a complex that had a very high ratio of Chinese nationals (at least 30-40%) was very eye-opening. Many of the students were not overtly racist, however the older Chinese parents were 1950's, jim crow, hit 'em with a firehose racist. This was a problem because many of the students would bring their parents over to live with them and watch their kids.This meant that there was a very large population of older, non-english speaking, racist Chinese nationals who were rude to the point of excess to me, my wife and the few other African Americans that lived in the complex.
posted by anansi at 6:45 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


If Lou Jing indeed looked like a dog...

But aren't all people beautiful?
posted by yeti at 6:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Chinese internet commenters had a similarly racist reaction to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visited in 2005. Admittedly, they may have been predisposed to look unfavorably on Secretary Rice for political reasons, and expressed their distaste in racist language (c.f. teabaggers and Obama, or more recently Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-LA)).

(Sorry for the off-brand linkage. This was covered by more reputable sources at the time, but I can't seem to find them now).
posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:09 AM on November 12, 2009


I don't know much about the mindset of youth in China today, but at least in my city born, well-educated family from Beijing, staunch racism is incredibly common. "White people are smart and safe; black and brown people are lazy, stupid, and dangerous; other Asian people: depends, just don't be Japanese."

I still remember the incredible condescension of one relative: "[kmz], I think it's good you're not racist in this day and age in America. You'll fit in better." As if not being a racist asshole was some politically calculated move on my part.
posted by kmz at 7:44 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shanghainese Girl Gives Birth to Black Baby, Her Parents Ignore the Matter with video
via the always interesting ChinaHush
posted by geekyguy at 7:49 AM on November 12, 2009


"Dark skin == Away from the fluorescent lights of the office, getting a tan == Rich"

Hahahahahaha! I'm brown -- though due to my well-mixed heritage, not particularly dark brown -- and 3rd generation American. Let me assure you, the connotations of my skin color have never, ever, ever led anyone to assume my membership in the leisure class.
posted by majick at 7:56 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here is an interview with Lou Jing.

Here is a Chinese magazine article about her, which discusses the racism and quotes a number of the racists.

Here is a Singapore Website (The Straits Times), also discussing the issue.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:58 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the whole "face is only important if you know someone" aspect of Chinese culture is at play here. Lou Jing only found out about it after the show when a lot of people who didn't know her personally suddenly knew _of_ her, and without a relationship with her, she's suddenly a target of effectively anonymous abuse.

Technically, I am Taiwanese, but while people who know me for the most part have no problem with that, Taiwanese who do not know me would see my non-Han features and say I am just another "Laowai." The trick is, after realizing this, learning not to give a shit about it.
posted by Poagao at 8:21 AM on November 12, 2009


Interesting.

My new brother-in-law is half-Chinese and half-Jamaican. Never had a problem with him other than that he's a lawyer. (grin)


Actually a damned nice guy who's making my little sister damned happy.
posted by Samizdata at 8:26 AM on November 12, 2009


When I was traveling in Turkey, I met more than one person who, in all seriousness, asserted that I must have a natural martial arts ability due to my Asian heritage.

I know people here in Canada, living in a multicultural city, who are convinced that all people of Latin American descent know how to dance the salsa and merengue because that's what they do in their spare time.
posted by bitteroldman at 8:48 AM on November 12, 2009


Got me wondering about the black GIs who defected during the Korean War and whether any of them had mixed race kids and what it was like growing up in the era of explicit internationalism and Third Worldism. Found this story about one of them, Clarence Adams, and it seems his daughter mentioned there was born in China to a Chinese mother (might have misread that) though a bit thin on the details and they had a fairly privileged life as foreign experts.
posted by Abiezer at 8:53 AM on November 12, 2009


Oh, there's this too from the National Film Board of Canada (we had a post on it a while back as I recall).
posted by Abiezer at 8:55 AM on November 12, 2009


blah blah blah Hines Ward
posted by Rat Spatula at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2009


About the following quotes:
This is of course much more if not entirely about about the historical and prevailing prejudice against rural people and the rural poor - only a peasant girl working outdoors has a tan, not the pallid beauty of the secluded chambers of the wealthy, hence the status.

The real story behind this story is an Asia-wide issue when discussing the treatment and place of half-Asian children, in particular, biracial children of Asian and black parents (or other darker-skinned "other" races that are not white) that reflects some serious racist issues that are in Asian countries, whether we're talking about China, Korea or Japan. Lou Jing would not be treated this way if this is just a simple issue of "Poor girl got too tanned." Are you serious??

Biracial children have a history of not being treated well in Asian countries because it's a reflection of many things that are definitely real problems. Back in the day (not saying that xenophobia is totally gone), the children were burdened not only with being the other but also with "the sins of their mothers" type of stigma. These women were sleeping with outsiders. Not only that, sometimes these kids were born out of wedlock. Or in countries like Korea or Japan, the fact that you were a GI kid was also part of the burden because of negative connotations. The derogatory term of "Yang Gong Ju" or "Foreigner Princess" was an actual term used (maybe still in use) in Korea towards women who were in relationships with American men. The perceived stereotypes, especially in post-war Korea, were either they were women working in juicy bars or adult entertainment around the bases, or women looking for a U.S. citizenship. Sometimes, the negative connotation stems from the very real relationship issues where a child is born out of wedlock and the father abandons the mother and the child to go back to America or where ever they came from. In that case, the woman and child in the relationship suffers two-fold abandonment. Not just from the man, but also possible ostracizing from her family and those around her.

Even for those who live in a traditionally "acceptable" family structure (meaning, not divorced or born out of wedlock *rolls eyes*) don't escape teasing and being treated differently. The point is you're different. I remember growing up in Korea and overhearing people who didn't think I understood them whispering "tweegi" behind my back.

I'm not sure that comparisons of this girl's treatment in China with South Korean attitudes are totally fair. Half-Korean half-African American singer 인순이 (In Soon Ee/In Sooni/Insooni) is pretty popular here.

Even In Soon-i wasn't an exception. Sure she's popular now and accepted, but even she'll talk about how the stigma attached to biracial children. The only reason she was able to make it is because she became an entertainer. Entertainment was sort of an outlier career path that's more accepting because for the longest time, even entertainer wasn't really something taken seriously by Koreans. In fact, a child expressing any desire to become a singer or performer would've gotten yelled at by his parents for wanting to become a mere "ddanddara" rather than picking a real career. Another popular singer/dancer when I was growing up who was half-black went by the name of Mandeugi who was part of a boy band in the late 80s early 90s. He sort of faded out fo the limelight as well.

And if you think this is just some outdated thinking. Read this recent times article about Hines Ward. When the Steelers won the Superbowl, and Hines Ward came into the spotlight, it also put light on some serious issues in Korea regarding racism. All of the sudden because Hines Ward did something good, he was one of us, one of ours. And many younger Koreans online also discussed about this two-faced nature in Korean society towards biracial children and nonwhites. It just goes to show how much of this whites on top racial hierarchy is also affecting the rest of the world and isn't just an issue in countries that have had slavery in the past or segregation as most people like to argue when you discuss racism. ("Oh, it's only a problem in places like America where there's racism" "Oh, it's not an issue in this country where we haven't had slave issues/we abolished slavery early").

Those issues are really came to a head and hotly discuss in Korea in light of the treatment of undocumented workers. Not just because of human rights and workers' rights for these workers, but because they are also now affecting the children of some of these workers and Korean women.

Watch any entertainment program in Korea or Japan, any entertainer they bring on are more probably going to be mixed Asian and white. That's more pretty. More acceptable because they're Asian enough, but mixed with the good, pretty kind of foreigner. Flip open any Asian fashion magazine and you'll see Japanese or Korean models, but if you see anybody non-Asian, they are white or half white. I had plenty of friends who got scouted to model in magazines like CeCi. They were all half white. I knew some very beautiful model-like half black half Korean girls, but none of them were ever approached.

But really, biracial children in general all have issues, whether their parents are white, black, Hispanic, what have you. And it's still an ongoing issue.

In 2003 (fucking, TWO THOUSAND AND THREE, not like 1953), entertainer Lee Yoo-jin finally came out as being biracial. She had to try and pass for being Korean because of the stigma of biracial children and particular biracial children whose fathers were absent from the picture.

So, yes. This story has EVERYTHING to do with racism.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2009 [10 favorites]


Lou Jing would not be treated this way if this is just a simple issue of "Poor girl got too tanned." Are you serious??
I wouldn't be if the Lou Jing case or racism was what I was talking about - have another look; my comment was entirely about the traditional preference for pale skin.
posted by Abiezer at 9:25 AM on November 12, 2009


My apologies if I misread you, but to be honest, with the flow of comments before it came off as "this is just part of the tradition of darker skin being viewed as unattractive" rather than an explanation of a different point.
posted by kkokkodalk at 9:30 AM on November 12, 2009


Well, shame it came off that way, but just had a look back and I'd quoted the bit I was responding to (I know I sometimes don't in slower-moving threads). And I would stand by the thrust of what I wrote - the prejudice against dark skin long predates much contact with with non-Asian peoples and from everything I've read and heard has its roots in those urban-rural/peasant-not divides.
I stayed out of the larger debate about racism in China (bar those more recent posts) because really I've got too much to say about it and can't boil it down to anything coherent.
posted by Abiezer at 9:35 AM on November 12, 2009


What a beautiful young woman, and from the interviews it sounds like she's very grounded and smart. I wish her all the best.

Being a biracial child whose minority-in-that-community parent is not in the picture seems so hard, at least from the friends I know who have had that experience. Having this all play out so incredibly publicly must add more challenge and stress to an already difficult situation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:54 AM on November 12, 2009


Children who have mixed-race heritage are stigmatized all over East Asia:

"Amerasian," Wikipedia
"During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, many of the unions between American fathers and Asian mothers happened through client-prostitute relationships. Mixed blood children, whatever the reality of the occupations of their parents, have inherited this social stigma. In poor countries where impoverished women have little choice but to consider prostitution as a means of survival, the resulting sense of disempowerment among men and women alike can bring seething resentment. Additional resentment may be fueled by the common knowledge that many servicemen fathers made promises to support the children, and simply left for the U.S., never to be seen again."

"Bui Doi," Wikipedia
"Life was difficult for the Amerasian; they existed as pariahs in Vietnamese society. Under the Amerasian Homecoming Act of 1988, a Vietnamese Amerasian could obtain a U.S. visa on the basis of appearance alone."

"The Living Hell of Amerasians," FrontPage Magazine

"G.I. Babies," The Manila Times

... except, as others have mentioned, those who are "good enough," for whatever reason, to be a model, actor, actress, or musician, all of which are considered base occupations in any case.
posted by halonine at 12:20 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is obviously a terribly broad brush, but China is ridiculously racist when it comes to black people. From my impressions though, it is a different type of racism than in the West. In many Asian societies dark complexions are considered very unattractive, the idea of "tanning" would be madness and women spend copious amounts of money on skin-whitening products.

The obsession with whiteness to the point of bleaching skin is also a part of the history of American racism. One the most powerful moments in Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father is his discovery as a child of a Life magazine article on skin bleaching among African Americans.
posted by bearwife at 12:26 PM on November 12, 2009


Children who have mixed-race heritage are stigmatized all over East Asia:

There are some notable exceptions (eg Karen Mok)
posted by Pollomacho at 12:39 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've lived all over the world, and I've never been anywhere where there weren't people who were racist.

I suspect that the only thing that varies is the proportion of racists that feel comfortable voicing their prejudices. Whether the number of racists as a proportion of a populace at large in a given country varies, I am still uncertain.

I say this not to defend the barefaced racism in NEAsia, where I've lived for more than a decade. It's indefensible; just as the racism that percolates along in Canada or Australia or America or any other nation that considers more enlightened (no pun intended) is indefensible.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:58 PM on November 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Same thing happens in Malaysia - African students get tons of abuse, and that's just the stuff that shows up in the papers. I'm Bangladeshi and growing up I had no end of crap lunged at me because I was the same race as "those goddamn migrants stealing our women and robbing our houses". My dark skin didn't help matters - I wasn't attractive enough to rise above the racism. People who knew me at school often tried to make me mixed-race or Malay or a diplomat's daughter, because those were the only categories where I could be Bangladeshi and still go to school and have a relatively well-off life. To resolve their cognitive dissonance.

It annoys me whenever people who are supposed to be "my country people" (whichever one that is) talk about how all the West are racists and that Asians are all about solidarity yadda yadda - no one ever stops to examine their own privilege and racism. Being Asian doesn't give you a free pass.
posted by divabat at 2:21 PM on November 13, 2009


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