On being African in China
Zahra Baitie writes a candid piece about her experience of being an Africa n student in China. Many of the stories she recounts are familiar. The acceptance that Zahra provides of the way in which she is dealt with is both refreshing and telling of the situation that she finds herself in.
Much of what she talks about is a kind of everyday racism (Essed 1991), but it also underlines the very different way of talking about and confronting difference in China. There is a very candid and upfront attitude.
Much of these experiences are similar to the ones that Africans experience in Hong Kong also. But arguably in Hong Kong there is also less fascination and a much more abrupt interruption of social distance and discrimination.
It reminds me of Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks, "look mum a negro girl". Zahra has had to constantly navigate being exotic whilst also being in an emic position. She speaks Mandarinm spent lost of time with a Chinese family and is able to understand the way she is analysed and discussed in everyday encounters.
It is also interesting to note that in Chinese negative characters are used to represent Africa. My friend Kirk who passed me the story says that Western countries have more positive names.