Jo Gan’s Take on Racism in China

My cyber-friend Jo Gan* lives in Yuyao, China, with her Chinese husband, where she works as Head of Foreign Teachers for a language school. Jo writes about her adventures and impressions of China with a lot of insight and humor in her blog, Life Behind the Wall.

I asked Jo’s permission to quote her latest entry, which deals with the question of  an African-American student – interested in possibly teaching English in China after he graduates – about the racism he can expect to encounter there. Here’s an excerpt from what she had to say based on her experiences; for example about her specific situation:

I live in a small city…. by Chinese standards…(1 million people) there are very few foreigners here… as a whole… some travel in and out… but only about 20 stay here all the time… (6 months to a year) …I am one of about 10 full-time foreigners in my town…. and I am the only Black American for miles …. and miles.

The Chinese image of who and what is American:

In China education is number one, so the parents spend a lot of time and money on educating their children.   However, they are not quite as educated themselves on many things… one is (…) race.   In their mind, Americans are white, blue-eyed, blonde haired people…. they just recently figured out there are other races… when Obama became president.    So, one problem is them believing you are really American….

Overt racism she’s experienced:

I have had parents… not want black people to teach their students… students that claimed they are afraid of the teachers because they are too black…. and I even had a teacher that had to move because… the neighbors were afraid of her in the dark.  It can get pretty bad  in some places sometimes.  It is a big lack of education and knowledge, what you don’t know you are afraid of in a lot of cases here.

Her take on the overall situation for black people living and working  in China:

This is the truth…. it is hard in China for Black people… but .. not impossible.… I know many Black Americans that have lived in China for 10 years or more…. and don’t plan on leaving any time soon… you just have to have patience with their ignorances.. and blend as much as possible…learn the language… learn the customs…. and accept that somethings you just can’t change.…

Jo ends this post by noting:

“Nothing is easy… but who wants to have nothing?”

A sentiment with which I heartily agree!


* If you’d like to know more about Jo and her life in China, listen to my recorded interview with her from my Uncaged Birds On the Radio series!


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