Latest News:  
Beijing   Light rain    21 / 13 ℃  City Forecast

English>>Life & Culture

Where skin color attracts curiosity

By Darnell Gardner Jr. (China Daily)

13:48, October 16, 2012

On seeing a black foreigner, a Chinese co-worker remarked, "He's too dark." I looked at my skin - certainly lighter than my fellow laowai's but darkening quickly in the summer sun - and wondered what my colleague meant by "too dark".

For me, an African-American, these kinds of awkward situations crop up all the time in China.

"What do you mean, 'too dark?'" I asked her. She replied that she thought Beyonce was beautiful and assured me she saw nothing wrong with my particular hue.

And I believe her. I'm sure she sees me no differently than she does any other foreigner.

But with people like me being such a rarity in China, working out how others interpret my presence here has been a bit challenging.

Once while caught in a storm, a friendly security guard invited me to take shelter with him in his booth. Tired of fighting against the wind and rain with my umbrella, I accepted his offer and took a seat inside.

The guard was elated. He fired off a string of questions, most of which I couldn't understand, and then took to rubbing my skin and hair. A few minutes later I'd exhausted my limited Chinese vocabulary, and my new friend was now asking to try on my shoes. I indulged his last request, gave him my thanks and left feeling like an alien life form.

Almost every day I have someone grinning and pointing at me. Sometimes they'll smile and wave, and sometimes they'll just look plain astonished.

It's become normal for me to have to explain that I'm American, not African, and it's not uncommon for me to attract a small audience when haggling over the price of trinkets on the street.

I know these kinds of reactions are merely expressions of curiosity, but they can make me really uncomfortable sometimes.

Some days, I don't want to be unique. I don't want my presence to elicit any kind of reaction. I don't want to provoke any particular thoughts or raise any particular questions. I just want to be.

But I know that, for as long as I'm here, I'll never be able to simply fade into the background. I knew that before I came, and I can live with it.

Things are a bit different at home. In the United States, a person who stares at me because of my skin color isn't curious. They probably just don't want me around.

【1】 【2】

News we recommend




Special for moms and moms-to-be

Top 10 most expensive divorces in China

No gold medal in literature

CNNGo lists world’s best Chinatowns

Is 'China First Kiss' ugly?

Global hit 'Gangnam Style' triger debates


Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. Frontier defense regiment station on Wubalao Island

  2. Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force holds military review

  3. Endeavour moves to final home

  4. Water level in Ganjiang River in Nanchang drops, due to recenty dry

  5. 1st high-cold-resistant train set onto tracks in China's Harbin

  6. The consuming challenge of food safety

  7. Musican of Princess of Wencheng

  8. Chinese basketball player poses for magazine

Most Popular


  1. A Boon to the Economy
  2. Upsurge of giving birth in US should cool down
  3. Pending CNOOC-Nexen deal puts West in hotseat
  4. Editorial: Endangered green growth
  5. Nobel committee should reflect on booing sounds
  6. Commentary: The case for Huawei in US
  7. No joke, China job creator for US
  8. Commentary: Regulating shadow banking
  9. Editorial: Targeted auto support
  10. Japan should admit dispute over Diaoyu Islands

What’s happening in China

Graduates willing to take less for first position

  1. Free license plates for new-energy cars
  2. Cop joins ransom kidnap that killed hostage
  3. Famous clothing brands condemned for pollution
  4. Speeding police car kills mother and boy
  5. Patriotism charter attracts 50 mln signatories