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Black Student Claims Trip to China Revealed Ugly Truths About How the Chinese View ‘Dark Skin’

Reported by Liku Zelleke

Just like in most countries in Asia, Chinese people also associate lighter skin color with beauty. People with dark skin, be it their own fellow countrymen or foreigners working or studying in China, often have to face racism that ranges in level from barely overt to outright violent.

A person who has had firsthand experience about how it really is in China is Ghanaian student Zahra Baitie, who wrote for The Atlantic about her one-year stay in China. The one word she used to describe the whole trip was it being one big “ordeal.”

Baitie says everywhere she went she was the topic of conversation among the Chinese people, and they even took photos of her because they thought she was strange.

One particular incident she writes about is how one woman asked, “Excuse me. If I may be so bold to ask, in your country do people consider black skin beautiful?”

When she responded, “Of course, they do and, to be honest, I wish I were darker,” the woman became “aghast” by her response and said, “I would never have thought that in my lifetime I would hear someone say all you’ve said. So you really don’t want to become lighter skinned? In China, we believe the whiter your complexion is the more beautiful you are and there are many ways to achieve this.”

The woman’s comments come from a general perception that exists in China where being black is associated with being poor, which in term stems from the country’s own culture where, for centuries, lighter-skinned people have looked down on darker-skinned people and relegated them to being peasant farmers.

But things can and have been known to escalate from simple perceptions or comments into violent reactions. In 2012 Georgetown’s basketball team was playing an exhibition game in China when a racial remark by one of the Chinese players resulted in an all-out brawl.

In 1998, a 300-people-strong mob broke into an African students’ dormitory at Nanjing University and destroyed their possessions for no other reason than that they were Africans. All the while, the Chinese were shouting “Down with the black devils!”


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47 thoughts on “Black Student Claims Trip to China Revealed Ugly Truths About How the Chinese View ‘Dark Skin’

  1. Ralland Miller

    There was a genetic study in America and China to try to find the origin of the Chinese people. This study was called the Chinese Human Genome Project. The study found out that the earliest Chinese people originated from Africa. In the review of this project in the LA Times, Li Jan, one of the researchers is reported to have said that his fellow Chinese scholars would be very upset because he revealed to the world that ancient Chinese people were Africans; This study was a well designed genetic study conducted by Chinese scholars in America and China. These scholars made this conclusion themselves but they never wanted it to be known that modern Chinese people originated from Africa. This is because the early negative ideas Europeans wrote and propagated about Africa have solidified in the minds and imaginations of people and it has made being African the worst of human flaws in this world. The Chinese scholars would be upset because they do not want  to be associated with whatever Africa is in the eyes of the world.
    VIEW link and share extensively: http://www.trinicenter.com/FirstChinese.htm

    • Anthony allen

      I read that article you quoted also. Though chinese skin is obviously lighter even yellowish they have strong african features. They should at least be intelligent enough to look in the mirror. However racism by its very actions denotes ignorance and lack of intelligence.

      • Richard Daniel

        I am glad that you had a positive experience with the Chinese in Beijing. I don’t want to start looking at Chinese People in a bad light. I am sorry that the young lady had such a negative experience, things like that do happen. We have enough problems in the world that stem from Racism and ignorance. God made us all different because it was beautiful. Who can dispute with the Creator of the Universe?

    • Carli

      I read that study and the Chinese scientist said people are going to have to accept it. They were probably the Negritos.

  2. Floyd

    I visited China 4 times and doing my trips did not see the problems this young lady from Ghana experienced. They were very warm to me, wanted to take pictures with me and was interested not so much in my color but my culture.
    I felt safer walking on the streets of Beijing at night than I do in America.

    I do business with the Chinese and they are good business partners. I witnessed seeing a name of a business call “Obama” in a mall in Xian China. This was in 2010 and this business was named after Obama. They were in love with our president who is Black. They are more aware of our scientific purpose of our color than we think. Therefore I am confused with the young lady’s experiences.

      • Floyd

        Billy_Ray_Valentine, first of all I am Black as Black can be and my wife is light skin.They did not want to take any pictures with her, only with me. I visited Chindu (twice), Shanghai, Hong Kong (twice), Xian, Shijiazhuang, Beijing (3 times), and Shenzhen. I went to one of the largest trade show in Shenzhen and I did not experience any form of racism due to my color. I visited Beijing, Chindu, Shijiazhuang and Shenzhen the fall of 2007 and traveled alone without an interpreter and had no problem. I walked the streets of Beijing, walked into a restaurant and was introduced to a rare meat that was delicious. It was donkey meat…..believe it or not.

        I really do not understand why the Chinese I have not been exposed to are racist? Its a mystery, maybe I have blinders on.

    • Lauralei99

      China is a large country, and there are hundreds of millions of people therein. I wonder if you and the writer were anywhere in the same vicinity.

      • Floyd

        I do not know where the writer went, maybe she had the experiences by others in different areas. One must realize that there is one form of government in China (communism), and everyone (except the rich and high power) are treated the same. The culture in that country is very homogeneous. Tibetans’ culture may be a little bit different, but they too are very nice people. I met one on the street in Beijing and we had a long wonderful conversation. He happen to speak English.

        What I do not understand is there are a lot of Chinese who are dark. I noticed in one of the hotel restaurant a Chinese eating breakfast who was a close resemblance to my Grandfather. There nose are as flat as ours, if not flatter, some are darker than us and as loud as we are when socializing. I just do not understand.
        I am meeting with a Chinese business man next week and I will bring this topic up to see how he respond, and I will forward the results of our conversation to this blog.

        • Asim

          im sorry but it sounds like you’re just saying things, for what reason I’m not sure. You’re spelling is horrible, and you said when talking they are as loud as us. Well personally, I’m not loud when socializing. What you fail to realize is that people are different everywhere you go. So if you have even been to China it doesn’t mean you’ll experience the same things other do. Relax my brother.

          • Floyd

            You are telling me that I did not experience what I stated? Also I was not aware that everyone have to be a perfect speller to make comments. Before accusing someone of misspelling words check your own spelling. Every one make comments while in a hurry and words will be misspelled. What’s important are the messages getting across.

            Evidently you do not know the genetic make up of Black people. We can be loud because of our vocal cord is superior to many, the reason we are great singers. My mentioning being loud was not to demean my race but to compare the Chinese genetic make up to ours. I guess my explanations of some of the physical traits were not understood by you.

            Also, I am not a professional writer, I am a Chemical Engineer and they are definitely not good writers. But I do not lie about my life and experiences. Everything I stated can be proven. If you want copies of my airline tickets, or other documents proving my experience in China, I would be glade to send it to you. Send me a request for this information at garumco@aol.com, and I would reply. Also I can give you emails of those I visited in China, and they can prove my visit there. Its up to you to pursue this further.

          • Penti

            I disagree with you. My daughter spent years singing in Xaimen, Fujian Province, China. She is black and had no racist encounters. Actually she said that she experienced less racism than she experiences here in the USA.

    • Dont Belive Floyd

      They are monitoring all the major blogs and posting completely erroneous information wake up people .

      • Penti

        Are you speaking from personal experience or what you have been told? I know someone personally who was there for years and she said similar things about experiencing less racism there that she has experienced here. She is back in The USA with no plans to return to China in the immediate future. She still says the same thing. She had a singing contract which ended.

        Her stay in China was longer than any she had in other countries. She had time to learn how the Chinese responded to her. She got homesick and wanted to get back to California cooking and us, her family.

    • KW

      Black men are more accepted than black women. They see black rich men athletes, musicians and now a President all over TV. Black women have it worst than anyone and many black men contribute to this lack of acceptance.

    • butterfly2015

      Wow. So Interesting to Hear your Experiences. And One that directly contradicts that of the author. I like your Version Better but that does not Mean i don’t believe the Author’s Experience didn’t Happen.

    • dee

      It depends on which province you’ve been because I have also come under discrimination in ShanghaI and shenzhen

  3. Lauralei99

    I noticed that also, and I really wonder about that. My guess is that she is lighter than Zahra. Much lighter.

  4. Curious

    Maybe she just had the misfortune of speaking to an idiot. They do exist and are often mistaken for representing a whole group of people.

  5. blacjk jones

    The Chinese Americans i’ve known (very few) have been nothing but encouraging to me —–explaining their culture, medicine and other things of worthwhile knowledge.

  6. godfather05

    You can blame it on the movie industry and the American Media. Before any Chinese people saw any Blacks in person the movie industry showed Tarzan movies and Birth of A Nation which installed all of the stereotypes that not only Chinese but other foreign countries included. In Europe. these devils told Europeans that Blacks had tails and were savages and without any additional information they believed what they were told. Now Blacks are more prosperous in Europe than in many cities in America because Europe has many Blacks living there unlike China.

  7. Ralland Miller

    To those who have not been exposed to bigotry in the Chinese culture because of their limited association with Chinese is like saying there is no racism in America because of exposure to a limited number of “good white folks”. Chinese people originated from Africa. Because of the early negative ideas Europeans wrote and propagated about Africa the minds and imaginations of people has made being African the worst of human flaws in this world. The Chinese scholars would be upset because they do not want to be associated with whatever Africa is in the eyes of the world.
    VIEW link and share extensively: http://www.trinicenter.com/FirstChinese.htm

  8. BUZZ

    i live in China and the horrors of racism is too much to bear….africans too do reverse racism where they see the chinese as mannerless and often rigid and spitting everywhere

  9. Ahmasi

    Asian and specifically China, have been deeply influenced by Euro-centric esthetics! Light skin is valued more than dark. On a recent segment of the show VICE on HBO, they did a segment about how white men in particular, are in high demand for all sorts of things. There were white men who presented themselves as ‘doctors’ of this or that without being questioned by their Chinese hosts! One of the white men said it was nice to be so deeply appreciated for being white! There are Chinese and other Asians who undergo operation to make their eyes look less Asian! Now the Chinese are flooding Africa in search of Africa’s rich minerals. Africa is the birthplace of Humanity; many Asians, as was pointed out, have what I refer to as very ‘Africoid’ features while maintaining their Asian eye structure. There are ancient African people in Eastern Africa who look remarkably Asian! A few decades ago, Chinese scientists disputed the scientific findings that pointed to Africa as the birthplace of Humanity and actually manufactured ‘data’ to try to prove that China was the cradle of Humanity! They were quickly debunked! Asian racism can be a virulent as European despite one’s personal experienc!

    • Penti

      Ahmasi, I definitely agree with your last statement. However, I don’t disagree with the rest of what you said. It is most believable.

  10. Teepo

    I visited Bejing in 2009. I didn’t have any problems. I’m dark skinned, everyone wanted to take pictures with me. I should’ve charged them. I loved my trip!

  11. Oren Elow

    I met a Chinese woman here in the US at an event at Boston University some years ago who approached me to view an art piece to which I was looking at. She then invited me to come to a lecture on, John Done, at BU, later in that week. And after the lecture we sat down for more then an hour where she told me a lot about herself and her study. She was one of that best persons I have ever met. To bad she had to go back to China. She wasn’t the only Chinese woman whom I found kind and we met many times to talk. One day I asked her what would her mother and father say if she brought a Black man to her home as a date. She said they wouldn’t care one bit as long as I was rich.

  12. Corbin

    Let’s face it, light skinned people have ALWAYS been viewed as beautiful and superior to dark skinned people and it will always be this way. To tell a dark skinned person that he/she is just as beautiful as a light skinned individual is just a way to pacify him/her knowing that there isn’t much one can do about their skin color. We are all human however, the majority of the black population secretly wish they were light skinned. Light skinned individuals are afforded the finer things in life whereas the darker individuals have a difficult time with almost everything in everyday life. As much as we scream and holler about injustices, this is one injustice that is never going away. It shall remain this way forever. My suggestion is to deal with your skin color or buy something to lighten it and carry on. Do you remember how the black community went crazy about Lupita N’yongo?? Every magazine spoke about how “beautiful” she was. No. Lupita is not beautiful. If she were not in the movie industry, many of us would most likely laugh at her if we passed her on the street. On the other hand if we passed by Vanessa Williams or Phylicia Rashad, we would be showering them with compliments. Those of you who are truly capable of being honest with yourselves know that I am telling the truth. As hard as dark skinned people fight to correct this injustice, the worse it’s going to become. Accept your fate and do the best you can with the skin color that you are born with. Complaining does not work.

    • Theodore Duane

      Slave mentality comment. .you don’t know how in general any darker skin people think..or if they desire to be lighter skin..and so if you’re dark skin you can only speak for yourself..I do know darker skin blacks who are ome of the most beautiful people I seen in the world of beauty, and not one of them spoke in terms of wishing to be lighter skin..and trust me we have had talks reference to skin complexion. .

    • Penti

      Corbin, I have no idea where you get your ideas from. Certainly there are those who prefer lighter skin. Not all of us, though. Skin color is not a priority for me or my children.

      The most beautiful man I have ever seen was a black gentleman who worked at the US Post Office, Rincon Annex in the early 60’s. I understand he went on to become a lieutenant in the police department. I have never seen anyone blacker, He was beautiful! So beautiful, I wanted to paint him. His skin was perfect as were all of his features. His ears were small and perfect. His features were not white by a long shot. He did not look like what what we sometimes want to call “typical” African. Of course there is no “typical.” He looked as though he could have been related to Ms N’yongo.

      By the way, although she may not epitomize your idea of beauty, she is indeed beautiful. I am just glad that there are those of us who recognize that. I find some of the white female movie stars who are raved about as being so beautiful, quite ugly. That is how I see them. I can’t say that they are not beautiful just because I can’t see it.

      I am 78 years old and have never seen white as the beauty standard. I was raised in Southwestern Louisiana where I was out of step with so many people who thought lighter was better. We even had some in our family. Not even as a child did I think that whiter or light skin was prettier.

  13. G. E. Goree

    Corbin, I am sorry that no one took the time to educate you on this subject. Speaking for myself, my dark skin does not make me less, nor does it make me feel less ANYTHING that anyone else of ANY COLOR. I determine the limitations of my life, not my COLOR. Please, get counseling, learn to embrace people as people not as light or dark people. There are much greater issues in the world that need to be addressed.

  14. Pingback: Black Student Trip to China Revealed Ugly Truths About How the Chinese View Dark Skin - Global Events and Happenings

  15. Sydney

    Corbin, Really??? I’m am a black woman, I am neither very light or very dark. I fall in the middle of the spectrum somewhere like most black people. I have never wished to be lighter….not even for a day. I am over 40 yrs old and my skin color has never been an issue to me, nor has it been a hinderence to my accomplishments. I know too many black people who are successful and they are all shades of black…but most are darker in complexion. Look around you….most of the most successful black people across academic and all other fields are darker hued. Oprah, Bob Johnson, Michael Jordan, Ben Catson, Condeleeza Rice, Michelle Obama, Tamron Hall, Magic Johnson, Johnny Cochran, Angela Basset, Lupita N’yongo, countless more…….Drs, attorneys, businessmen, and other professionals …….and other unknowns around the country and throughout the world…all darker in hue. All I can say is that people see and believe what they want to see and believe. People believe what they live and you have obviously lived a negative life experience…but I’m betting that your skin hue has little to do with your perception. You just seem very negative and hateful toward blackness in general. Love yourself and the skin you’re in and others can’t help but love you. If they don’t, that’s their issue, not yours.

  16. Giselle

    Corbin, im a proud dark skinned sister always have been and always will especially as im hitting my 40′ s. Im blessed to have this beautiful because when it comes to aging ( which every population worries about wrinkles and sagging skin) myself and other individuals with similar complexions dont really have anything to worry about because Black doesnt Crack”. Do you know why darker skinned populations are the most hated? Because of a thing called Aging. Melanin goes for approximetely 350 dollars per vial ( more precious than diamonds and platinum put together). In the thing called Aging, it maybe expensive to lightnened one skin and look ghastly like Sammy Sosa. But it is more expensive to look like myself, or the actress Nyoungo because wrinkles and sagging skin flaws are not apparent on dark skinned complexions. So to answer your question Corbin. This darkskinned sista had never wanted lighter; a million wrinkles and sagging skin will become apparent. No thank you.. 😉

    • Juanita

      I totally agree , I love being black. never in a millions years do I want to be light. Black is beautiful those whites know it because they want tan their skin to look like us it won’t happen. The origin of the human race came from black people. Everybody is in denial.

  17. M Herbert

    I believe that some people are influenced by negative concepts, especially when those people are directly of subconsciously exposed to these ideas that becomes a belief. For example, the study was done with black children in america about which doll is good, bad or ugly and the black doll did not fair well. I think the answer to this dilemma becomes apparent when you look closely at the history of the subjugation of people around the world. Just my opinion. What’s yours?

  18. Deahn E. Connor

    It’s really sad to hear how people view our African Heritage, when every single race came from us. The Chinese people know that, they copy a lot of their culture from our culture if you know anything about our culture. So does the Japanese people. That’s how they were able to stay so strong. Now that the white race holds the power, everyone wants to be white, but there was a time when that was not so.

  19. Carl A. Patton

    Part I: Transitions In Time: Negra, Colored, Negro, Afro-American, Black American

    For Your Thought and Mediation

    I believe if I would wager that there will soon come a day when the masses of Black people will embrace their true cultural heritage.

    However, there will always be some Negro folk that will die in confusion and in things dictated by the decadent elements in society.

    The mis-education of the Negro will soon come to pass as enlightened students will question the absurd notion of Black American citizens claiming allegiance to a foreign country.

    Thus within the element and Realms of Time there will be a transitional process to establish a diverse curriculum in Black American history throughout the public schools, colleges and universities that believe in academic excellence and the accurate rendition of the history of the United States of America.

    I would imagine that the most significant results of transitions in time regarding the experiences of the descendants of Africans, Europeans and Native Americans are ingrained in culture.

    So as we look back in time what did our people say?

    “For centuries, against their will, our mothers were subjected to the most cruel and unfair treatment, the result of which has created among us a diversity of colors and types, to the end that we have become the most mixed race in the world.” (From Amy Jacque-Garvey, ed., Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey “An Expose of The Caste System Among Negroes,” written from the Tombs Prison August 31, 1923).

    The planned and calculated efforts of economic racism and mis-education has caused great confusion among the evolving Black Americans especially regarding his true culture, race, ethnicity and name.

    Our ancestors still speak, they still talk about the subtle realities of the Black American experience overtime. There has always been something inherent about Black people doing things for self. Especially regarding our education.

    Frances J. Grimke “Urges Black Teachers For Black Schools”
    “The institution to which I especially refer under the above head are those founded for the benefit of the colored race. But which has been mainly or exclusively under the control and direction of our white friends.

    These may be divided into three classes; first, those in which colored men are represented neither in the faculty nor the Trustee Board. Second, those in which they are represented in both. Third, those in which they are represented in one or the other alone. (Taken from Francis J. Grimke, “Colored Men as Professors In Colored Institutions,” A.M.E. Church Review, IV July 1885.

    Surely the enslaved Black man and woman in 1860 did not see himself as a Black American. During those times slave or free Blacks were not considered citizens and for the most part were not considered as human beings.

    What are we to gain from the messages of our ancestors that were enslaved? What can we learn from the past? Beloved Transitions in Time are very important thus we are forever grateful to the Creator for beginning Time.

    Henry H. Garnet “Calls For Slave Rebellions.”
    “Think of the undying glory that hangs around the ancient name of Africa:–and forget not that you are native-born American citizens, and as such, you are justly entitled to all the rights that are granted to the freest.

    Think how many tears you have poured out upon the soil which you have cultivated with requited toil and enriched with your blood; and then go to our lordly enslavers and tell them plainly, that your are determined to be free.” (The 1843 national convention, before which the address made, voted not to publish the document, but only after an intense debate. It did not appear in print until 1848 when Garnet published it himself, bound together with a reprinting of David Walker’s Appeal of 1829.

    However, the time table of life for all that liveth gradually moves in spirit and in mind. We are also aware that this time frame is not controlled or managed by man in the flesh.

    Meanwhile we so often note the reality of the time or year in which we now live 2015. The evolution of Negra, Colored, Negro, and Afro-American has evolved into the distinct Black American race. The foolish notion that Blacks in America with enslaved ancestors are African and American defy any semblance of logic.

    The essence of time, place, condition and the economics of racism is very important to understand this phenomenon. The initial venture into Africa (The Land of the Blacks) was for economic reasons.

    Cont. Part II

    Peace and Paradise,
    Carl A. Patton writing for the FreedomJournal Press Friday 9 January 2015 in the year of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.


  20. Carl A. Patton

    Independent Thinkers Capitalize Black

    Looking Back Into Yesterday and Today

    I remember as the Black American Experience continued to evolve my initial educational experiences. In grammar school I was not yet aware of the critical need of acquiring an education, especially among those that had been mis-educated.

    However, I would soon embrace the zeal for education as a vehicle to help the Black man and woman receive civil and human rights. But meanwhile I suffered from the material circumstances of the Black American Experience and the housing crisis. During the 1950’s for Black Americans in the south and throughout the United States there was a housing problem.

    We moved four times when I started attending the public schools. So by the time I was in the 3rd grade I had attended four different grammar schools. What resulted was that I did not learn the basic mechanics and techniques of English grammar. I also did not benefit from a good foundation in mathematics.

    Therefore I have never been efficient in the basic tenets English grammar. But now I realize that what is most important is the content of a particular piece and not so much the technical composition.

    My beloved Brethren, Peace be unto you. As we continue the efforts of a Free Black Press we bring a very serious question or concern up for review.

    The reference to the race or ethnicity of any group of people should always be capitalized. Thus if I refer to White people as a race I capitalize the word White. Also if I refer to Black people as a race I capitalize the word Black.

    We also declare that most Black people that don’t accept the false notion of Blacks in America as Africans and Americans also note Black people with a small b in writing. I also wonder what their thoughts are. We know the misnomer of Africans and Americans but who are the black Americans?

    Meanwhile there are basically two confused camps that insult Black people. The so-called Africans and Americans will capitalize African and American but in writing they will always use a small b to denote Black people.

    I imagine this pseudo African has some conception of race pride and feels that Black is not representative of a country or race. But all Black people born in America are Americans (the United States of America).

    We also argue the following: Black Americans represent a distinct ethnic group among other Blacks or Africans throughout the Diaspora. Therefore we are best distinguished from the other people with African ancestry by noting that we are (those Black like me) Black Americans.

    Meanwhile the second group over-laps with the African and American groups. However, this group is mostly concerned about Standard English Grammar. Therefore somewhere among the mainstream tenets of English Grammar Black is noted with a small b unless it begins a sentence.

    For the record, whoever designated this rule are unaware that from our vantage point Black used in reference to a race or White used in reference to race should always be capitalized.

    For you thought and mediation a lost body, soul and spirit may use a small g in reference to God. This same person may not believe it is important because he is a fool (fools are those the reject God). But those with some knowledge of the Creator realize that God is always noted with a capital G. This is for certain out of respect. There is no respect or allegiance to anything that is higher (Greater) than what we give to Almighty God.

    Meanwhile with the denial of the true cultural heritage of Black Americans we find some of our most astute scholars, writers etc. following the ethics of English Grammar and not race pride. These are the small b people.

    For the record the independent thinkers of the FreedomJournal Press capitalize any word we so desire to make a point. Therefore we find it ridiculous for anyone not to capitalize Black. I saw Black Willie not with Mae Helen but in a library reading.

    This is still a further indication of the lack of information and knowledge by Black people. No independent thinker would ever allow some grammatical usage to dictate how they write or think.

    To be an independent thinker one also has to be creative. Thus words are created /invented. Thus we have seen the Gadget people who suffer from Gadegtitis. Therefore we do not limit our creativity by following some man-made laws that insult and impede the Black Experience. There are Black, White, Brown, Yellow and Red people.

    Peace and Paradise,
    Carl A. Patton writing for the FreedomJournal Press Wednesday 14 January 2015 in the year of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.



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