Editor’s note: one Chinese detergent manufacturer has been receiving wide and severe criticisms at home and abroad, as one of its latest advertisements feature a black young man “washed” into a white one. The issues of racial discrimination, and the appalling ignorance of some local enterprises are seen as very bad examples for all. In our neighboring countries like South Korea, India and Japan, people are even more alert to the phenomena of racial discrimination. For example, people in South Korea apprehend that racial discrimination do no good to themselves while doing harm to others. In India, the scholars urge the government to bring effective policies that stipulate “zero tolerance” of racial discrimination as soon as possible. In Japan, the parliament has recently passed the bills that forbid “hostile words” targeting towards specific ethnic and racial groups. In the opinions of several German scholars, the racial issue is indeed a sensitive one that concerns “political correctness”, and the Asian communities should learn a great lesson from what the Western societies have experienced, so as not to pay a huge price in the future.
South Korea: the people of other racial groups are simply categorized as “rich or poor”
“People call me ‘filthy foreigner’ on the street, simply because I resemble a Southeast Asian in appearance!” A native of South Korea who resides in Jizhou Island complained about his awkward experiences when he was invited to “Hello! Talk Show for the Citizens”, a popular TV show on KBS. You can easily find similar complaints about racial discrimination when you watch various TV shows in South Korea. KBS used to launch a street interview program called “How Does It Feel to Be Different”. In the show, when a Spanish asked the way and tried to borrow the cellphones from others in the streets of Seoul, the South Korean natives seldom refused to offer help, and were extremely enthusiastic indeed. However, when a Burmese tried to the same as the Spanish, he was frequently frustrated as few South Koreans were willing to lend the cellphones to him. In “Non-Summit Session”, a similar TV show, a Ghanaian youngster named Sam complained about the racial discrimination in Korea by saying that he had to follow the latent rule of “the white first, and the black second” when he was featured in an advertisement. When his photo was hung up high in the Eastern Gate of Seoul, one of Sam’s friends soon burst into tears, as it was unthinkable for him to see “the photo of a black man in the street of Seoul”.
The official stats reveal that the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has dealt with a total of 37 legal cases of racial discriminations caused by different nationalities, ethnic groups and colors of skins in 2015. Yuan Yujin, a female native of Vietnam, got married to a South Korean citizen in 1998. Although she is a naturalized citizen of South Korea too, she will often complain that “I cannot expect to be treated equally however hard I work”. Her salaries are frequently delayed, and her employers would find various kinds of excuses to fire her without having to offer compensation. She says that she is often turned by cold eyes owing a series of problems caused by her race, and her color of skin.
In response to the inveterate social problems in South Korea, one report of OhmyNews (a news website based in South Korea) argues that South Korea has been sticking to the philosophy of the nation-state and the national viewpoint dictated by blood relationship. Therefore, the nation holds an exclusive stance of multi-cultures, constituting the primary cause of racial discrimination. Kim Hyun Mi, professor in the Department of Sociology, Yonsei University, believes that the racist prejudices held by people in South Korea are also reflected as their contempt of their peers from other Asian nations, who bear resemblance to them in appearances. She also points out that the exclusive stance held by people in South Korea is attributed to the extra emphasis on economic development, and they are liable to categorize different nations in accordance with their economic development status. They generally accept that developed countries like US and UK are “more advanced” than South Korea, and that all developing countries are “of the lower level”.
Say “No” to racial discrimination is obviously crucial to the development trend of South Korean society. The editorial of OhmyNews points out that people are supposed to guard themselves against racial discrimination, and that people who reveal signs of racial discrimination are supposed to realize that the losses caused by their attitudes of injustice will finally fall upon the South Korean people citizens themselves. The irresistible trend dictates that we shall embrace multi-culture and eliminate racial discrimination from the root, which is a must not only from the ethic perspective, but from the economic perspective as well. Experts believe that it does no good to the progress of South Korea as a modern nation if the people hold exclusive and intolerant stance of other ethnic and racial groups. As a matter of fact, South Korea is troubled by the low birth rate in recent years, and the labor forces that are willing to take “3D” (Dirty, Demeaning and Dangerous) tasks are also shrinking. In that case, many immigrants from abroad can well mend the shortage of labor forces in South Korea. It is fair to conclude that citizens of South Korea should learn to respect the newcomers in order to enhance the comprehensive competitiveness of the nation on the international stage.
Go Jun Ki, President of Kim Hoi Foreign Human Resources, believes that it is virtually impossible to force the people in South Korea to shift their minds by themselves. Instead, new legislations should be resorted to in order to change how the entire society thinks. ▲
Japan: nobody is willing to sit beside a foreigner in a tram
The “superior complex” of the Yamato people is easily made use of by some Japanese. Even now, the people from DPRK and South Korea receive the derogatory nicknames like “the second/third generations eating pickle”, given by some people in Japan. More appallingly, the members of some far-right organizations even shouted in the streets “kill all South Koreans” or “drive all of them out of Japan”. NHK, the biggest television station in Japan, made a survey that concerned over 300 foreign residents in Japan, asking them whether they were discriminated against by the Japanese people. Among all the discriminatory phenomena they listed, the most evident ones are like such: “a common Japanese will normally walk away if he/she sees a foreign traveler in a tram, as none of them is willing to sit beside a foreigner”, “lots of restaurants in Japan put the signs on which is written ‘foreigners are not welcomed here’” or “the foreigners are excluded from any social welfare including national annuity and medical insurance”, etc.
On January 21st, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination pointed out the serious racial discrimination issues that exit in Japan: “Since 2003, there have been over 360 racist demonstrations and public speeches in Japan. Some far-right groups and individuals are spreading words of hatred and promoting racial superiority via newspapers, internet, televisions and other social media…… They usually belittle, harass and even provoke the foreigners without restraint…… However, the Japanese administration fails to respond to and punish their improper behaviors, which makes the problems in Japan even more serious.
In May of 2015, Ariana Miyamoto, a native of Nagasaki aged 20, was crowned Miss Universe Japan 2015. However, some Japanese believe that Ariana “is not eligible to represent Japan” since she was born to a Japanese mother and an African American father. The controversies only reminded Ariana of the unpleasant past of her childhood, when she was often bullied by her peers. The schoolmates would throw garbage at her, pull her hair, and refuse to swim in the same pool with her. One of Ariana’s childhood friends, who also happened to be mixed-blood, committed suicide at last as she “felt it impossible to be accepted by the Japanese people around”. Even now, it’s still difficult for Ariana to receive new contracts of advertisements, films or TV plays, which other Japanese actors will easily get in the entertainment business.
The misfortune that Ariana bears is by no means an individual case. In most Japanese universities, overseas students from African countries cannot usually be treated with proper respect. For example, the servicemen (usually old grannies” in the college canteens will usually refuse to offer dishes to the African students, as they apprehend that African students will eat too more while their Japanese peers are left with nothing. In February of 2015, Congressman Maruyama (also the director of legal affairs in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party) made some very rude remarks upon US President Obama: “When an African American is elected the President of US, he inherits the blood of black slaveries.” He even joked as such: “It might be unthinkable for all US people when the country was initially founded that an African American, a black slavery can win the presidential election.”
An Osaka scholar in cultural anthropology thus tells the reporter of Global Times: “In essence, the Japanese people bear a profound inferior complex in front of foreigners, and notably those from US and European countries. The national character of the Japanese people is generally introvert, and they would primarily generate very deep anxieties of the foreigners and all exotic things. As a result, a common Japanese, when he/she has to get along with foreigners, will behave either too arrogant or too self-abased.” In the opinion of the above-mentioned scholar, all far-right groups are supposed to perish as soon as possible, and the government and the media are obligated to promote a favorable social environment that welcomes and includes foreigners into the mainstream society. He believes that the knowledge of one ethnic group about another usually stays at the superficial level. For example, speaking of Africa, the Japanese people will often label it with black slavery, basketball and hip-hop, but few people ever know that Africa is the very continent where the mankind originated. The Japanese people are mostly fond of the American culture, but few of them will ever mention the slaughter of the native Indians. So it’s necessary that they get comprehensive, objective understandings of the foreigners and foreign countries through proper education.
Japan needs to be alert to the serious issues of racial discrimination. On May 24th, the House of Representatives of Japan passed a bill that targets to eliminate the “words of hatred” against specific ethnic groups. But several legal experts still apprehend that the elimination of “words of hatred” is virtually impossible if the government only chooses to educate instead of punishing. ▲
India: the twisted “self-respect” only aggravate racial discriminations
The African people working and living in India are feeling even more upset and dissatisfied recently. In February of 2016, an overseas student from Africa ran away after causing a car accident in Bangalore, but a couple of innocent college students from Tanzania were brutally attacked by the furious mobs. The logic of the attacks was queer: “the consequence of the wrongdoings by an African must fall upon all African people here.” On May 20th, a teach from the Democratic Republic of the Congo started a quarrel with 3 local Indians in the street of New Delhi owing to some trivial matters, but he was beaten to death with clubs! Jason, an overseas student from Nigeria, speaks quite helplessly in a recent interview with Indian Today: “There was one time that I heard an Indian granny who tried to intimidate a crying baby like such – if you don’t stop crying immediately, I’ll leave you playing with this black guy!”
As a result of recent discriminatory incidents, most African diplomats in India feel quite unhappy. In most cases, the suspects are not properly punished according into law, which only makes the African residents in India feel “increasingly insecure”. In protest of the recent incidents, some diplomats even refused to attend the activities featuring “African Day”, an official event held by the Indian government. Some consulates even canceled all celebrating activities on schedule. The diplomatic envoys of Eritrea in India even suggested “not sending any more Eritrean students to study in India”. The Indian government attaches great importance to the relationship between India and Africa; and in order to disperse the baneful influences, the Ministry of External Affairs of India had to reiterate that “the attacks on foreigners in India only added up to the shame of India herself”.
In April of 2016, David Adeli, an African America, gave his answer to this question on Quora: “In the eyes of a tourist, which country is characterized with the most appalling racial discriminations?” He pointed his finger at India. “In India, you’ll easily bump into a series of difficulties in daily life if people believe that you are coming from Africa,” he thus wrote. The netizens from India responded positively: “You are not exaggerating at all. As an Indian native, I feel ashamed of these phenomena, but the problems of racial discrimination cannot be solved from the root in a short span. When I was a child, I was taught that people of the lower castes were destined to sit on the ground, rather than the chairs.”
When the couple of innocent Tanzanians were attacked in India in February, Tunku Varadarajan, a columnist of The Indian Express, wrote an article that urged Prime Minister Modi to offer public apologies on behalf of the Indian government on TV. Modi should make it clear to all that racial discrimination is strictly forbidden in India. Oasis Bassin, an Indian expert of juvenile issues and social critics, believes that racism in India is, in essence, “a mechanism that preserves the self-respect of Indian people”. India was under the colonial rule of the British Empire for over 2 centuries, and was often dubbed “a country of barbarians”. The national characters of India are forged within this period of history, as the Indian people are trying to realize “self-redemption” while most of them attempt to emulate the lifestyle and mindset of the western societies. After Indian gained independence, a new type of national character was gradually built with patriotism as the major feature, and the Indian people started to believe that they were more advanced than the western countries in tradition and culture. But it is also noteworthy that the British colonial rule has helped to shape the aesthetic concept of modern Indians. For example, white skin is usually considered to be the symbol of beauty by most Indian people, while the dark one usually denotes strenuous manual labor. Bassin also shares his insight of the “mind of revenge” of the Indian people. He points out that the Indian residents once suffered from similar racial discrimination in UK and Australia, and the media report irritated the Indian people and home and forced them to take revenge. As a result, it’s nothing strange that the number of discriminatory incidents is increasing recently.
And most importantly, in the opinion of Bassin, it’s the Indian government to blame as it fails to take enough effective countermeasures to eliminate the violent attacks and racial discrimination against specific racial and ethnic groups in India. He hopes that the Indian government will soon introduce “zero tolerance” policies to bring down racial discrimination effectively, because only by doing so can this social stigma be rooted from the very bottom. The grievance of both Indian and African people cannot be properly handled with before the government actually moves against racial discrimination. ▲
German scholar: the Asian people “do evil unknowingly” as they stress the western mode too much
Speaking of the recent shampoo advertisement of Chinese manufacturer that stirred huge controversies, the netizens in Germany believe that “it may be no more than a simple joke, as China has never experienced what US has experienced in history, by which I mean the racial discrimination endured by the African Americans. It is noteworthy that there are only 600 thousand foreigners who are regular residents in China, a country with the world’s largest population.” The German media also point out that the Chinese advertisement doesn’t come from original ideas, and an Italian advertisement launched years ago featured a reversed process: a white young man was squeezed into the washing machine and washed into a sexier, black version. In the end of the advertisement the audience could read the subtitle of “the colored is better”, but the advertisement was also criticized for “making cheap remarks upon people simply based on the colors of skins”.
The recent article published by Stern (a weekly magazine in Germany) points out that “it’s actually the color of white to blame”. In Asia, white skin is considered to be extremely appealing, and the cosmetics that claim to make your skin whiter are usually popular among the consumers. The recent shampoo advertisement by a Chinese manufacturer, which immediately stirred huge controversies, is not a single case in Asian countries. In January of 2016, a piece of similar 30-second advertisement was released in Thailand, featuring a white-skinned beauty smiling with such slogan: “You’re bound to win with white skin”. In the background, a dark-skinned girl was weeping in grief. Likewise, this advertisement also aroused storming criticisms, and people also condemned its connotation as “racist”.
The Federal Center for Political Education in Germany published a research paper in December of 2015, stressing that racism is not typically something western. Although signs of racism are not so sharp and appalling in Asian countries, the social stigma has been there for long years. The paper mentions in specific the slaughter of certain ethnic groups committed by the Japanese army during the Second World War, and points out that the Japanese people used to categorize the US soldiers as “white” or “African”. On VICE (a website based in Germany”, several netizens describe the racial discrimination they have experienced in South Korea. For example, when a school tries to hire foreign teachers, the white people are usually more welcomed. Some language schools in Seoul even says bluntly that they will only consider white people, as they are mostly “cleaner and with better pronunciations”. In order to mend the relationship between different ethnic groups, some congressmen in South Korea have started to push the bills that ban racial discrimination since as early as 2013.
The foreign correspondent of Global Times in Germany used to talk with Alif, a Kenya-born engineer who used to work in Asia. Alif confessed that he understood why white people are more welcomed in most Asian countries. When he was impolitely called “Mr. Black”, he would usually squint his eyes – a gesture of revenge as he believed that most Asian people have smaller eyes. Alif said that he would warn with a very serious tone against people who called him “Mr. Black” in US and European countries, but he wouldn’t bother to do so in Asian countries. He understood that there are broadly different cultures in Asia, Europe and US, and people in Asia generally have no deep understandings of the signs and harms of racial discrimination.
Nielson Heiniger, a German expert of cultural history based in Berlin, thus tells the reporter of Global Times: “Racisms in becoming a new problem for Asia, but fortunately, it’s not yet so serious as it has become in the west.” By referring to the recent cased occurring in China, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and India, Nielson believes that most Asian people didn’t bid farewell to “inferior complex” until some decades ago, as they were the victims of colonial rule and racial discrimination in the long history. On the other hand, most Asian countries are trying to copy the example of the industrialized countries in the west, and western culture has become even more popular here – such is the case of white skin, which is now the symbol of fashion in Asia. As a result, most people in Asia are totally unaware that the words and deeds of themselves are racist at all.
Nielson also mentions that the western countries have already been taught a huge lesson in the issues of racial discrimination, and now racism has become a sensitive name that concerns “political correctness”. As a result, any words and deeds that are considered as racist in western countries will soon arouse serious attacks and criticisms of the individuals and enterprises that are involved. And they will pay a great price for racial discrimination. According to Nielson, Asia is playing an increasingly important role in global political and economic landscape, and Asian countries will have to include more foreigners in the future. Therefore, people in Asia have to be clear why they should break away from racism. In the opinion of Nielson, it’s necessary to push legislations that forbid and punish racial discrimination, and it’s even more important to quench the fire of racial discrimination from the very beginning – for example, the children in Asia are supposed to receive proper education of different racial groups with the correct knowledge in their textbooks.