Tag Archives: china

lily1

Chinese like You: White Adoptive Mothers and the Reality of Racial Privilege

By Guest Contributor Sara Erdmann

Cover to “Forever Lily: An Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption in China.”

Despite the fact that international adoption has become commonplace — most recent studies show that over 70,000 Chinese girls were adopted into the United States between 1991 and 2010 — Beth Nonte Russell’s path to motherhood was a nontraditional one. In her 2007 memoir, Forever Lily: an Unexpected Mother’s Journey to Adoption, Russell describes accompanying a friend who intends to adopt on a trip to China.

This book, while almost 7 years old, is continuously recommended across the web for adoptive mothers — it’s pinned on Pinterest and a regular on the book club circuit. In an era obsessed with memoir, it seems only natural that Russell would choose to chronicle her journey as such, particularly considering the major surprise (read: book sales) that characterizes her trip: Russell’s friend changes her mind. Quickly becoming the heroine of her own story, Russell looks down at the little girl she has only just met and begins conceiving a history in which the two of them were meant to be together. Eager to substantiate her sudden role as Lily’s mother, Russell proclaims that “there was a past life connection between [her] and Lily,” and that her “longing brought [Lily] into being.” To suggest that this child living in an orphanage in China exists because Russell willed her into being is problematic to say the least, but Russell goes one step further in her desire to feel permanently and unalterably connected despite her and Lily’s cultural and racial differences.

White adoptive families are regularly challenged by the idea of incorporating their child’s birth culture into their family. Researchers have long questioned whether an adopted child’s birth culture should be ignored, as in cases when families essentially raise their child of color as white, or whether it should be embraced, even to the point of trying to mimic a Chinese upbringing in the United States (think Chinese New Year parties and Mandarin lessons). In Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant observe that “there is a continuous temptation to think of race as an essence, as something fixed, concrete, and objective. And there is also an opposite temptation: to imagine race as a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate.” Because Russell sees Lily’s race as an essence, something unalterable, and she needs to feel she was meant to be Lily’s mother, she relies on personal epiphanies and memories that confirm that, in some way, she is also Chinese.
Continue reading

Sexism, Racism, And Swimming At The London 2012 Olympics

by Guest Contributor Sarah Keenan, originally published at Half in Place

I’ve been a little taken aback this week at the level of racism against China in the British and US media, and on longer-than-usual comment threads on various friends’ Facebook walls. I mean, I know that racism in sport and in the media is nothing new, and I know that being mixed-race white-Chinese, I’m taking the various swipes being thrown at Chinese athletes particularly personally. But still, the obsessive furor that has surrounded the 16 year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen has brought out so many hackneyed Orientalist stereotypes, it would be boring if it wasn’t so hurtful and infuriating.

For anyone who’s been asleep this past week, Ye Shiwen broke the 400 metre individual medley world record, breaking her own personal best time by 5 seconds and powering home in the last 100 meters to take gold in the event. In fact she swam so fast to the finish line that, as has been cited by countless commentators, her split time for her final 50 meter lap was 0.17 of a second faster than that of Ryan Lochte, the US swimmer who won the equivalent men’s event the night before. But rather than congratulating this young woman on an amazing swim and celebrating the small shifts happening to move swimming ever-so slightly away from being the white-dominated sport that it is (I think only rowing has a less diverse group of competitors), Ye immediately became the subject of doubt and speculation. Top US coach John Leonard described Ye’s win as ‘unbelievable’, ‘disturbing’ and ‘suspicious‘, BBC commentator Clare Balding turned to her co-commentator and asked ‘How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she ever has before’, and so began a week of intensive media speculation over whether Ye was doping.

Now like all Olympic medallists, Ye has been tested for banned substances, and has come up clean. But that’s not enough for thousands of armchair commentators who have suddenly become self-appointed experts on what could possibly be the ‘natural’ physique and capabilities of a Chinese girl. The fact that Ye, a young woman, had one lap faster than male Lochte has been bandied around as evidence that she was doping, ignoring the fact that overall Ye’s time for the 400 meters was still over 20 seconds slower than Lochte’s, and that it’s not humanly impossible for women to swim faster than men sometimes. The Daily Mail jumped on board to assert that Ye has an ‘unusually masculine physique’ in an article in which the journalist seems to refer to China and East Germany almost interchangeably. There is of course no denying that Chinese swimmers were involved in drug scandals in the 90s, but to assume Ye is doping because (a) she swum fast and (b) she is Chinese is racism at its most plainly obvious. Continue reading

DISGRASIAN OF THE WEAK! Vagina Whitening (That’s Right, You Heard Me)

By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian

One year I vacationed in Mexico and spent the entire time in the water, body surfing and boogie boarding. My skin got really dark, which I don’t care about one way or another, though I am afraid of sun damage and skin cancer, in that order. I made one mistake that trip though, and it wasn’t forgetting sunscreen (always, always remember sunscreen). My mistake was going to see my grandmother right after. The first thing she said, once she got over the shock, was “How did you get so dark?!” For the rest of the visit, she introduced me to her friends as “My Granddaughter-Who’s-Normally-Not-This-Dark.”

Light skin is still prized in Asia for a number of reasons that have to do with longstanding notions of race, class, and gender. Good thing then, that there’s a booming market for skin whitening creams, many of them manufactured by Western companies! And good thing the companies who make these creams also make commercials, because quite a few of them–beyond their creepy, disturbing premise–are kinda hilarious.
Continue reading

The Racist Super Bowl Commercial You Might Have Missed

By Arturo R. García

A number of ads during the Super Bowl Sunday night focused on the good things about Detroit and the auto industry. But the worst commercial of the day, aimed at Michigan voters, didn’t make the national airwaves.

The ad shown above for Republican state senatorial candidate Peter Hoekstra hinged its attack on incumbent Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) on Orientalism. The actress, playing a “Chinese national,” says:

Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spend so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.

Continue reading

Racebending Roundup: Hunger Games & Red Dawn Follow The Money

By Arturo R. García

The main character and narrator of the story. Katniss is slender with black hair, grey eyes and olive skin. She is sixteen years old and attends a secondary school somewhere in Appalachia, known in the book as District 12, the coal mining sector. She is often quiet and is generally liked by District 12′s residents, mostly because of her ability to provide highly-prized game for a community in which starvation is a constant threat. Katniss is an excellent hunter, archer, gatherer, and trapper, skilled just like her deceased father. She and her father shared singing ability, too. Since his death in a mine explosion, which killed Gale’s father too, Katniss has been the sole provider for her family, a role she was reluctantly forced to assume at the age of eleven when her mother’s grief overcame her ability to function. Katniss is surprised when her sister is chosen to compete in the Hunger Games, and willingly steps forward to take her place out of love.

- Character profile for Katniss Everdeen, via Goodreads

Does that description – more specifically, that physical description – sound like it matches Jennifer Lawrence, pictured above?

Only in Hollywood.

Continue reading

Maclean’s Magazine revisits old fears with ‘Too Asian?’ article

By Arturo R. García

Thanks to the group of readers who tipped us off to this: apparently Maclean’s Magazine is saying Canada’s a nice place to visit for people from China – just as long as they don’t stick around and have kids who attend college there.

Wednesday, the magazine released an article originally titled“‘Too Asian,’” with the sub-headline, Some frosh don’t want to study at an ‘Asian’ university. The article opens by introducing us to a group of white students put off from even considering going to the University of Toronto in part because of its’ reputation for being “too Asian.” Of course, this is followed up by the explanation that the sentiment is “not about racism”:

Many white students simply believe that competing with Asians— both Asian Canadians and international students— requires a sacrifice of time and freedom they’re not willing to make. They complain that they can’t compete for spots in the best schools and can’t party as much as they’d like (too bad for them, most will say).

As one reader noted via e-mail, these fears are nothing new: In 1979, the CTV network aired a news piece called “Campus Giveaway,” that misrepresented Chinese Canadian students as foreigners, and inflated enrollment statistics. The story led to protests against both the network and W5, the program on which the story aired. The controversy was cited as the impetus for the formation of the Chinese Canadian National Council.

After being taken off the magazine’s website, a edited version of the story resurfaced Thursday: some paragraphs in the story were re-arranged; the headline had been changed to”‘Too Asian?’” – note the question mark – and the sub-headline was changed to a more sedate-sounding, Worries that efforts in the U.S. to limit enrollment of Asian students in top universities may migrate to Canada. The CCNC will reportedly meet today with Maclean’s management and Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Koller, who wrote the article.

An Extra In The ‘Chinese Professor’ Ad Speaks Out

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Soon after that “Chinese Professor” got everybody talking, question started to emerge over the Asian participants in the commercial. A lot of people pointed out that it didn’t look like they were actually from China, and more likely young Asian Americans who were recruited here, in the United States, to be part of the ad. So who were these Asian faces?

Turns out, most of the extras in this commercial had little or no idea that their appearance in the ad would turn out like this. I was recently able to track down Josh H., who happens to be one of the extras in the now-infamous future Chinese classroom. He says he was recruited when he signed up to be an extra on Transformers 3. Here’s what he wrote to me:

Continue reading

China’s Transgender Community

by Guest Contributor Monica Roberts, originally published at TransGriot

Since the turn of the 21st century, China has begun making another ‘Great Leap Forward’ in terms of modernization and putting itself in the world’s spotlight.

We got a glimpse of just how much it has progressed during the recently concluded Beijing Games, and its space program continues to take giant leaps as well toward their ultimate goal of becoming the second nation to put a man on the moon.

One interesting thing that has come to light is that China, like ‘errbody’ else on our planet, has an estimated 400,000 transgender people in their midst. Over 1000 of them have had surgery, and we in the West have been getting introduced to them and their stories as well.

It’s not unusual now to Google ‘china transsexuals’ and see many links to various stories about transpeople in China. But all Chinese transsexuals probably owe a major debt to internationally acclaimed dancer Jin Xing. Her struggles and eventual SRS in 1995 basically opened the door that has made life easier for other transpeople across China to follow.

Chinese society has become more open and tolerant towards transsexuals to the point where in 2004, Chen Lili won the Miss China Universe pageant and was poised to become the first transgender contest in the 50 plus year history of the event that was being staged in Ecuador that year. But rules were quickly passed limiting the event to cisgender women and Chen was barred from participating.

Maybe the Donald should rethink that ban. Some of the biggest traffic days I get on TransGriot is when I post video or photos from various transgender pageants around the world.

As the examples of Jin Xing and Chen Lili show, Chinese transpeople are being fully integrated into society. They can now change their ID cards without hassles, their civil rights are protected by law, and after they have surgery can get married and have those marriages recognized by the state as valid.

They are examples that the rest of the judgmental Western world would do well to emulate, especially in my own country.

(Photo Credit: China Daily)