In China: Racist or Racial?

Racially hyper-sensitive outsiders (most of us in the Western world) who typically fail to differentiate between racist and racial routinely accuse Chinese of racism and xenophobia. Such accusations are sometimes but not always accurate, and this article touches on a few important nuances regarding typical Chinese talk about race and appearance:

China Grapples With Issues of Race and Ethnicity
“the country’s problem, he suggests, is not so much one of “racial prejudice,” but rather of putting too much emphasis on “differentiating people by race.”
[…]
“China, she says, “is more claustrophobic than xenophobic—many people are still not used to foreigners and just feel awkward around them.” Still, she acknowledges that such comments highlight the fact that China has never had a public debate on how to deal with issues of race and ethnicity. “People are not so aware of ideas like political correctness. It’s not like in the U.S.,” she says. “And in fact they tend to make comments about all aspects of people’s appearance—you’re so fat, you’re not pretty—there are few taboos.”
[…]
“there is still some lingering “folk prejudice towards black people” in Chinese society. Yiyi Lu, a Beijing-based sociologist, argues, however, that “Chinese people are not so much racist as snobbish—they tend to think of Africans, for example, as coming from poor countries.” Contact with wealthier Africans or African-Americans, she believes, will gradually break down such attitudes.”

More about racism and talk about appearance in China:

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