Main Site Blog Help

Race and Chinese culture

Perhaps this is more contentious a topic than what the Chinesepod community generally likes to tackle, but it has come up a couple of times, and I’m not really sure how to think about this.

I just had a long argument with a language partner who lived in New Zealand and said that the Maori were parasites, that they were New Zealand’s “national panda.” Now, I called this out as racist and we had a long argument about it, and thus this post. Now, your beliefs on Maori in New Zealand aside (though if you call a group of historically disadvantaged people parasites you are no friend of mine), I’m curious how people deal with things like this. In my experience with language partners, people who have not grown up in the western cultural milieu have beliefs that for most progressive Americans today would be considered pretty prejudiced (this also includes members of the asian american community).

One way to deal with this is, of course, to avoid it. Another is, I suppose, to find more progressive Chinese people (I have no clue where they hang out). Another is to try and develop a set of rhetorical strategies to at least help them understand the complexity of these issues, and the problematic nature of their beliefs. I dunno. It was a pretty tense conversation with this language partner, and I’m sure I have others which harbor similar beliefs, we just don’t cover them. As a progressive American who is fairly politically active, I am absolutely steeped in thoughts about this (and am still reeling from the recent decision on Philando Castile), and so growing up I spent a lot of time challenging my own racism, coming to understand structural racism and structural violence, etc. There are a lot of otherwise “good” people who have very racist beliefs, and in the context of Chinese culture, I’m not sure what the best way to deal with it is, and I’m curious what other people’s experience is…

(And if there are other places online where there have been constructive conversations on this, I’d be very curious to see them…)