I have been living in Hong Kong for a month now. I have been observing this society with interest and making my own observations so that I do not succumb to generalizations and assumptions of how Chinese people are or ought to be.
I want to tackle the subject of racism which was really sparked by the following video: Black woman facing discrimination on MTR sparks outrage in Hong Kong
To summarise; this black woman got onto the MTR (train service) and the moment she sat down the Chinese woman sitting next to her took out a tissue and covered her mouth. I MEAN!!!I would be outraged. I have been on the MTR myself in the past month and I must say I have observed some weird behaviors by some Chinese people(not all); such as:
- choosing to leave their seat and stand up when you sit next to them
- being stared at like you have done something wrong just by entering the train
- refusing to even touch you or your elbow even when the train is clearly full and it cannot be avoided
But someone covering their mouth after you sit next to them???I don’t think I would have this woman’s courage to stand up and speak against such behavior. So this post also applauds her confidence and pride in herself as a black person in Hong Kong. It sparked a lot of debate around racism and basic ignorance of some Chinese people which explains their behavior towards minorities.
I decided to read further about how black people are generally perceived in Hong Kong. The truth is we (black people) are a minority and although Hong Kong is described as a diverse, first world city; there are not many black people relocating to this city in their numbers. Mainland China seems to have the greater numbers of black people living there. So I came across an article stating that Hong Kong is in essence a classist society not a racist society. This means no matter what race you are, if you look like you are upper class you will be treated with respect. If you dress like the Hong Kong people; that is wearing flashy designer clothes and watches then they will not feel threatened by you being black. The general assumption is that black people relocating to Hong Kong are usually academics with high academic qualifications or they own businesses and come to Hong Kong on business and return to their countries. So these groups are not discriminated against and they are not that many to even worry about.
The Filipinos, Indonesians and other East Asian minorities are the ones with the “poor illegal immigrant” label in Hong Kong,not black people. This is only because of our small numbers so this is a mild comfort. Does it make it OK though?
My question is if this is such a modern society why are we still having labels at all? Why do we only respect blacks when they are educated and belonging to the upper class? So you are going to cover your nose when the “ordinary looking” black person sits next to you and you call yourself evolved? I know that any capitalist country will have classism as an issue and that is a whole other battle to fight. Our humanity is such that we fear anything that is different from us and we would rather not associate with it. And by “we” I mean all of us. Even black people say racist things about Chinese people and that is not OK either. It is our lack of understanding and it is sad that it has been discussed over and over and yet there is still no one with a solution to the problem.
My social investigations continue…but the experiences of that young woman and her mother on the MTR show that racism is alive and will not be going anywhere anytime soon…