Wednesday, April 25, 2007


So, this is the thing that’s been bugging me for the last few days.

My son & his friend went to a school musical last Friday evening. They came home after school to hang out before heading out for dinner then the show in school. Just before they left for dinner, I heard my son say, “Hang on, I need to get my school ID.” His friend said that he didn’t bring his, to which my son replied,” Oh, but you don’t need to show it. You’re white.” True enough, the guards checked my son's ID but didn't ask for his friend's.

Somehow, it made me sad to hear him say that in such a matter of fact way. Apparently, the security guards in school don’t check ID’s if the kid is Caucasian. I am not sure if they check ID’s of Caucasian adults or not.

I guess I shouldn’t be naïve about the existence of such double standards. But I am very surprised at this colonial attitude being present here in China. After all, historically, China has always been wary of foreigners. However, it seems that now, the reverse is happening & Caucasian foreigners are being placed on pedestals. Not just in this example that I have just quoted, but also in the workplace, where white expats seem to be treated with a bit more reverence than non-whites.

It may seem like a small thing to get upset over, but I want to make the point to my kids that it is NOT okay to discriminate based on skin color, and one shouldn't be complacent about it either.


Anonymous said...

I have always wished I was right. I certainly do not feel proud to be a chinese at all.

In fact I would encourage my kids to marry whites so that my kids and future generations can be more white than chinese.

aliendoc said...

anon 9:42 - I am sorry that you feel that way. I think we should be proud of who we are, no matter where we are from, & what color our skin is. I wonder how old you are, because I think some of the self-confidence & pride of self comes with growing up & maturing & just plain living life. I wish you all the best...

The Imp said...

returning home to my apartment one evening (when i was in shanghai), i noticed a new guard by the gate. he smiled and waved to the caucasians a couple of steps in front. but he moved to cut into my path to stop me and presumably ask me what i was doing there.

first thing i did was to smile, raise my voice and told him in English that i live there and i'm not Chinese. Heh.

guard backed off without a word and let me pass.

same thing, if the clubs don't let me in thinking i'm local or something, i simply waved my credit card, wave cash and yell at them. but after that, refused to give them the 'bribe'

rudeness work in China. so terrible.

pretzel said...

I think there are 2 categories of people in Mainland China... well, at least that's what i understand from my Mainland Chinese frens.
It's usually those in the lower strata who are not well exposed (vs those educated ones, etc). These people usually discriminate even against their own country folks; and they have difficulty differentiate people like us (overseas Chinese), until we open our mouths to speak.

What my frens taught me was that if those people are rude to you, just be assertive and set them straight. No need to be upset about their ignorance; no need to feel apologetic. That's how you survive in big Chinese cities. Even mainland chinese also get conned in big cities like Shanghai sometimes.

Being too nice and soft... you'll get bullied.

aliendoc said...

It's not so much the rudeness that bugs me, but the double standards...

Anonymous said...

Not so much rudeness that bugs you? But the double standards?


So one can be rude but as long as they are rude to everybody then it doesn't bug so much?

The truth is that in China the Chinese are rude to each other. It's a way of life to be rude.

But the whites are polite people and have manners. And rudeness DOES BUG them! Hence the Chinese leaders and bosses tell their workers to be polite to the whites.

It all starts somewhere. As long as we allow ourselves to be treated rudely and say that it doesn't bug us while we worry about double standards....we have to ask ourselves why is there a double standard in the first place?

Perhaps it's because the whites know how to stand their ground and they do treat people more politely than the Chinese do to each other in China.

By the way I am Chinese.

Even in Singapore you will see some mainland Chinese people being rude to get their way. And Singaporeans would say they cannot stand the Chinese from China. But do the Singaporeans do anything about it? Not really. Most let themselves be bullied.

Survival of the fittest. The ones who are strong, rich and powerful dictate how society behaves.

And you can see this happening everywhere in the world.

aliendoc said...

I haven't found rudeness to be an issue here, surprisingly. That's what I meant when I said rudeness hasn't bugged me here. For the most part, the Chinese here have been courteous & helpful. Maybe my skin has already been thickened by dealing with Singaporeans who generally aren't the epitome of courtesy & warmth in the first place!

The guard wasn't rude about asking to see the pass. What bugged me was he asked to see the pass from a non-white person, while allowing the white guy to go through freely...hence double-standards.

Actually, I have seen some nasty behaviour from foreigners here (whites as well as non-whites) so I don't think that is the reason for the double standards.
Anyway, I haven't been here long enough to figure out the whys & wherefores of the Chinese attitude towards white folks...

nofearSingapore said...

I think if the scenario is a little different, eg an International school in Africa, a Chinese child or non-dark-skinned child) will be presumed to be an expatriate student and any dark-skinned child will be assumed to be local and hence need verification.
The security guards who are less enlightened are probably just doing their job like the guard in Beijing.

But I know, it's no fun to be in your situation.


aliendoc said...

I think what you say is probably true, Dr Huang. It just made me a bit sad to hear my son accept the double standard so matter-of-factly. Anyway, I expressed my concern to the head of security & he agreed with me that all ID's should be checked no matter what color skin the student! After all, there is more than one international school here & a white student could possibly be from a different school.

Thanks for everyone's comments!