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English>>Foreign Affairs

Colors of love

By Lin Meilian (Global Times)

08:18, August 27, 2012

Jo Gan, an African-American woman, and her husband Michael Gan. The couple now work and live in Zhejiang Province. Photo: Courtesy of Jo Gan

Every week her letterbox has requests from other black women, asking how she managed her marriage with her Chinese husband. She always cautions them there is no safety net in life. Sometime you break a bone, sometime you break a heart, and sometime you have to break a taboo in a country where residual racism means many families frown on the idea of bringing a black member into a family.

After living in China for four years, Jo Gan, an African-American woman who married Michael Gan, said that one of the biggest oddities she has found is the lack of Black-Asian couples, even in the big city.

"One of the reasons for this comes from media stereotypes that portray black women as difficult to control, oversexed, larger and not attractive due to skin color and body shape," she said.

When she asked young Chinese men what they think about black women, many smiled and said they prefer white women, but black women with whiter skin are OK. They can "try one for fun."

"With so many single men in China searching for wives and a huge population of single black women around the globe, it would make so much sense for these two people to get together and become a powerful couple," Gan added.

She is a living proof that romantic alliances sometimes overwhelm bias. But the loss of face involved in dating or marrying a black partner still weighs heavily on many families. And local prejudices can take bizarre turns. One mother from Hunan Province stated that she believed her grandchildren would look like "giraffes" if her daughter married an African.

If you ask people in China about racism, many will tell you racism doesn't exist in China and they respect people of all countries and colors. Chinese media coverage of racism is generally shallow and focused only on the US experience. But if you dig deeper and ask what they think of black people, they will say: "I am not racist but . . ."

Non-white foreigners, especially black people, are likely to face more obstacles in China as many Chinese see them as inferior.

"No one in the world today would admit they are racist against anyone," Cheng Yinghong, associate professor of history at Delaware State University in the US, told the Global Times. "What often betrays their racist bias against certain ethnic groups is they explain socio-economic achievements or failures by finding the answer in the culture of the group, so much so that culture is essentially used as an alternative to 'race'."

Sultane Barry, president of the Association of Guineans in China, told the Global Times that he believes the root of the ongoing racism the African migrants suffer is the attitude of African leaders.

"As long as African governments keep on begging, there is no way they can stand up to anybody and defend the rights of their citizens anywhere," he said. "More awareness by Africans themselves is needed here."

"This makes it impossible for Africa and Africans to have any respect anywhere, not only in China," he said.

"The only image of Africa being shown in the media is that of a continent where people die of AIDS, hunger, war and all the ills you can imagine. This is the image that has to change, if Africans expect to be respected," he continued.

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