Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What Chinese College Students Think About Race

It’s not what you might expect.
As an English teacher at a Chinese university, I spend a lot of time with young people. As a result of friendships I’ve developed, I have learned a lot about what they think about race and ethnicity.
I’m particularly well positioned because my university has an especially large number of students from Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa. As one of the few white people in my province, I am able to witness interactions between these diverse racial groups who have rarely, if ever, come into contact before they went to college. Some of my students have told me I’m the first white person they’ve ever seen, and almost all say the African students are their first blacks.
Most identitarians believe the Chinese are traditional and realistic in their attitudes towards race. For now, this is true, but the Western mentality is rapidly infiltrating Chinese society and corrupting the minds of young people. The old ethnonationalism that protected Chinese identity is evaporating under the pervasive forces of globalization and liberalism.
I have around 200 students every semester, and about 90 percent are girls. This has something to do with the way the system approves students for certain areas of study, and a lot more girls than boys end up in my English classes. In a class of 30, it’s not uncommon to have no male students. As a result, I am far more familiar with the girls’ perspectives than with the boys’.  The average age of these girls is 19-21, so they are fresh enough not to have fixed views about race, but old enough to want to explore the question.
When I ask my students what they think of black people, they express mixed results depending on sex. The girls often react with disgust, revulsion, or pity. They use terms such as “ugly,” “black skin,” “weird hair,” “smelly,” “loud,” and “flat nose.” Part of this has to do with Chinese standards of beauty, which value a prominent or “high nose,” “three dimensional face,” “light skin,” and “double eyelids” (a skin crease above the eyes like that of whites). The Chinese perception of beauty is almost the exact opposite of the way blacks look.
The girls’ disgust is often combined with fear, and they associate blacks with crime. This gut attitude from Chinese girls can be perplexing because it arises from those who have often never met a black person, or have seen them only in passing. It seems to me this association of black people with danger and violence is almost innate for Chinese people, especially women. I’ve also noticed that black African young men have absolutely no luck trying to date Chinese girls, who see them as weird, ugly, and aggressive.
This contrasts sharply with Chinese girls’ typical reaction to whites. From my own observation, and from what I hear from others, they practically throw themselves at white guys. In our class introductions at the beginning of the semester, I usually have at least four or five ask if I will date them—they flirt with me right in front of the class. Many more make advances privately.
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