I heard the report while driving to school to teach my evening class -- very thought-provoking. I remember quite distinctly my students in Xiamen telling me that there was no problem of racism in China (I didn't believe them!) because of the racial homogeneity. In fact, this is what I wrote:
President Obama's arrival in China on Sunday is being eagerly awaited by many people, especially one young woman in Shanghai. Lou Jing is of mixed race, with a Chinese mother and an African-American father. She became famous nationally after her participation in an American Idol-type program sparked a spate of vitriolic online racist abuse.
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"When I was young, I didn't really know I was different from other people," she says. "It was only after entering the competition that I realized I was different from others."
The show drew attention to her background, which is very unusual for China. She was raised in a single-parent family by her Shanghainese mother, who is a teacher.
Her African-American father, whom she has never met, returned to the United States without even knowing he had conceived a child in China.
On air, her mother, Sun Min, said she had only ever had one conversation with Lou about her father. She described how her then-7-year-old daughter had asked about him. "I didn't answer and immediately started crying," Sun recalled. "From then on, Lou Jing never asked again." [Ya think?!]
In her two months on air, Lou was nicknamed the "Chocolate Angel" and the "Black Pearl" by the media. She wasn't bothered by these names, she says.
But online, the poison pens were venomous. Chinese posting messages on the Web criticized her skin color as "gross" and "ugly;" they called her shameless for appearing on television. The worst insults were reserved for her mother for having had a relationship with an African-American out of wedlock.
Lou and her mother are now suing one Shanghai newspaper for libel.
The discussion of racism was almost amusing, since China takes the firm position that there is no racial discrimination in China. That’s a pretty easy position to take when you have a mostly homogeneous society. But, I asked, how about the various minority groups in China. Would it be considered a problem if a Han (the majority ethnic group) were to marry a Miao (a minority group)? No, they said, most of the minority groups are so assimilated that there are few distinctions made any more.This story about Lou Jing makes the point that with increased openness, China will be confronting the issue of racism more and more in the future. And the stigma about out-of-wedlock birth is also going to be an issue that China will face more frequently in the future [remember the sex-ed story?]
I asked the students whether inter-racial marriage was considered a problem, and they assured me that it was not. I asked how their parents would react if they were to marry a Caucasian person. The men said this would be no problem, and as they were talking I could see the women laughing and whispering to themselves. So I asked them how their parents would react, and they said their parents would see it as a big problem. They would worry that the children were not Chinese, and would not be raised to understand Chinese values.
[The audio won't be online until 7:00 p.m. ET, but the link to the written story, above, should give you access to the audio when it is available.]