Racism abroad?

I've read a few posts online about the Spain ad racism "incident." I posted a couple of comments on another's blog and thought I'd include them here.

Peggy E says:

Hmmm… it’s really interesting seeing this on a global level. It makes me ask the question if racism is culturally based. I definitely see how Chinese would not be offended, but Chinese Americans would. Chinese people rarely experience this kind of racism.

Kathy Khang says:

Can you expand on your comment about racism being culturally based? I’m curious as well, since only a few news reports have alluded to the Chinese (v. the Chinese or Asian Americans) being offended. It’s all very strange to watch - this country that has been so closed to the West desiring to put its best foot forward…if they actually saw the “news” reports shot at the food markets with non-Chinese gawking over fried scorpions would they understand that the attention isn’t meant as an affectionate or respectful gesture but really poking fun?

Peggy E says:

Most Chinese in China have never experienced racism since they are part of the majority culture. Their experience of race differs from Chinese Americans, where we have a history of being the minority. At some point we’ve seen the eye-pulling gestures, and we’ve been told to go back to where we came from. Those in China have never known this, so it’s not likely they would know this as racism.

Minorities in China however, experience plenty of racism. It’s been interesting talking to Chinese in China about this because they deny the existence of racism in similar ways to the majority culture in America. Befriend someone in a minority group, and you get a very different story.

I think in reading your post, I began considering racism on a global level since it seems to require a majority culture and a minority culture to experience such kinds of racism. When considering the world, who would be the majority, and who would be the minority?

PS: I’m not sure Chinese would interpret the scorpions as poking fun since many Chinese would not try scorpions either. I get the feeling that scorpions on a stick has been used to draw tourists to a food booth, and few really eat it. I’m seen seahorses on a stick alongside the scorpions and all of my Chinese friends have said they’d never eat it. You’d have to have them gawking at foods more representative of Chinese culture, something a large majority identifies with, to be offensive.


Alice in Wonderland said...

Yes, the minorities in China are probably not too happy. Of course by now you've heard that the little kids in the opening ceremony representing the minority tribes of China were actually all ethnically Han children dressed up in cultural garb, right? I felt a little duped after finding that out.

pegpie said...

Yeah, but I'm not surprised by that. I doubt the Chinese have that much awareness about their status as the majority culture to be sensitive enough to go and find minorities. After all, all peoples are Chinese people and there's definitely an expectation that they look "Han."

You know, there's all this criticism about using fake this and fake that, but I don't doubt any other country hasn't and wouldn't do such things, esp. the US, land of plastic surgery and photo editing.

Jerrissimo said...

True, the U.S. is guilty of photoshopping. Nevertheless, there's a divide between print and "live." Not only are they two different mediums, but there are different expectations. The U.S. public has been informed enough to know that anything in print can be photoshopped, so it's no shocker and it doesn't offend as much as it used to. I wonder whether the Chinese nationalists feel the same way in regards to their opening ceremoney. There are different expectations for different groups

In the US, when a performance is live or on stage, it is expected to be done with "credibility," as in "real talent" unless informed otherwise. Western audiences don't look highly upon lipsyncing or body doubles. We all remember the widely made-fun of Ashlee Simpson debacle, and (well, I do, probably not you) a bunch of angry parents complaining after they found out that Hannah Montana had a body double during one of her performances.

There's often an unspoken contract between the performer and the audience in live stage, and it comes in the form of expectations and whether they are or aren't met. If the audience is informed ahead of time that the performer on stage is merely mouthing the words, it might not be as bad. If they aren't, the audience has the right to be upset.

I suppose with the "minority" children, it would've been just as controversial if the U.S. had white people made up to look like a certain minority parading around. Oh wait...we've already done that. The only people upset about something like that would be the minorities...

Melody said...

I'm glad you blogged about this Pegs. When I saw the picture while watching the Spain/US basketball game...I think you could probably guess my reaction. I was surprised that the Chinese (or at least, whoever they spoke to that is supposedly representative of "the Chinese") weren't offended, but what you say makes sense. Would white Americans be offended by a similar gesture? I"m not sure, but I have a hard time thinking of a physical characteristic that could be mimicked...can you think of one? Anyway, I thought that Spain should have been kicked the hell out of the Olympics (as you probably could have guessed) because what they did is just SO contrary to what the Olympics are supposed to be about, which is "one world, one dream," or in other words, something along the lines of peace and harmony. Not making fun of people in a racist fashion. If the Olympics were in Africa and a team posed wearing black face, what do you think would happen? All hell would break loose, that's what, and that's as it should be. To me, the fact that this situation was made light of demonstrated the racial dynamics that are common in the U.S. Somehow, it always seems o.k. to make fun of Asians, no one's going to make a big stink about it. I think people know that and they take advantage of it...I was surprised that this came from the Spanish team, I guess I tend to think we (the U.S.) have the market kind of cornered on racism, but I guess not.

Melody said...

you've been tagged!! http://rabbitreader.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/tag-im-it/