Lou Jing and Racism in China

November 13, 2009

This story made me think of those moments. In short: Lou Jing is a 20-year-old Shanghainese woman and the daughter of a Chinese mother and a black father. A contestant on an American Idol-esque show in China (Go! Oriental Angel), she met an ugly, ugly reaction from Chinese viewers commenting on websites dedicated to the show. I’ve never heard anything in my own community nearly as vitriolic as those online statements, but it isn’t difficult to imagine that they sprout from the same seed as the offhand racism in, say, calling a black woman “chocolate-colored” on national television. And, growing up, I did hear that kind of careless, demeaning remark frequently.

I’m not the only one perturbed, but I am one of the few interested in speaking from a somewhat even-handed perspective. Curiously, coverage of the story has often been structured around the juxtaposition of Lou Jing with Barack Obama, the implication being that racism, in all its “no coloreds allowed” ignominy, has vanished from the American public dialogue -- but plagues an ignorant Chinese populace still. Consider this headline, for instance.

This blog has addressed this issue -- the Orientalization of racism -- before. Of course, pretending that the United States has come no further than China (or South Korea) masks both deep-seated problems that do need to be addressed by the Chinese (and South Koreans), and the very real progress that the United States has made in the last handful of decades.

But we should be wary of any story that tells us how China’s true, bigoted character revealed itself in the furor surrounding Lou Jing. What that line reveals is an inability to conceptually divorce a nation from its fringe. What, for example, do the plethora of racist comments on this site tell us about the whole of American citizens? 

It’s easy to be an offensive, racist idiot on the Internet. It’s harder to be one in real life, where Lou Jing and other commentators have argued that Shanghai is increasingly progressive and accepting of those who look different.

It’s important to address bigotry regardless of where we find it. But casting a snide gaze toward the disgusting comments posted online regarding Lou Jing is more than a bit hypocritical, especially with President Obama’s reception as ostensibly a symbol of our enlightened approach to race. And in a way, China, by portraying sympathetically a member of an ethnic minority on a major television show and addressing the racism directed towards her in public dialogue, is making the kind of progress Asian Americans continue to clamor for on this end of the Pacific.


Winston Chou


Winston Chou is a graduate student in sociology at UCLA. He is especially interested in issues of immigration and second-generation assimilation, but would almost always rather talk about obscure NBA players from the '90s. (Remember Chris Gatling?)



good point, winston. the part of the article that surprised me the most was that lou jing hadn't ever realized she was different until she appeared on the show at the age of 20. what kind of multicultural paradise must shanghai be for that to happen?i'm exaggerating, of course, but compare her experience to ours: how many of us didn't know we were different until we went on national television at the age of 20?
thanks for this entry. i have trouble making sense of everyone wants to condemn all of china for the unfair treatment this young woman has faced, but continue to believe racism in this country only happens every now and then.there is a lot to talk about in this story - and it should be talked about, not thrown around without consideration for actual opportunity for discussion and critical analysis of the situation(s).
Right -- unfortunately, the American dialogue on race is still stuck in "I don't care if you're white, black, or purple"-platitude gear.
From reading about her background, it appears a large part of this isn't as much about race, as it is that Lou Jing is the product of a married Chinese woman who had an affair with a guy who then fled the country. The mother hid the truth through pregnancy, until it was blatantly obvious to the husband that it wasn't his.The spin off of those linked articles is ridiculous though. It's unfortunately common for Western media to pick and choose facts or events, to fuel the self-serving and smug attitude we like to have when it comes to people/events outside our borders.One could EASILY make up an article about rampant American racism, xenophobia, prejudice, and discrimination and link to various Stormfront articles and comments. You don't really see this though, in East Asian newspapers, even though they could if they did what US media does.
There is racism in america against chinese people. Jews blacks, poor whites. Put it this way, if your race is the ruling class your are given the green light.White china is the ruling class. All 1.4 billion of them.Mostly poor and whipped by their communist rulers.This is no big deal. Let them hate.There is even a class of mixed blacks in america that hate dark skinned blacks. This is old news. But hey, did that chinese girl's mama not get some big black dick! Hell yeah! And she'll never see a dick the same way.
You want racism in America...let an Asian try dating a white southern girl...http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20091021182455AAZEcnJor find out what happens when a sixth generation Asian American lady or girl shows up to sing country music at the Grand Ole Opry!
thanks for this article. when i'm in or out of china i often overreact about chinese social/cultural absurdities, when it is important to recognize that all cultures are largely absurd.i like to think that the crazy americans have exposed themselves after the election of obama, screaming at town hall meetings, but that once they've gone hoarse, a new generation will have taken their place. i hope china learns faster that the US, and i believe it is, oddly enough. i'm learning to painfully uproot my american logic.
"You don't really see this though, in East Asian newspapers"Once you have higher african populations and accompanying increases in crime you will get the same kind of disgruntled comments.
The ignorance of the divergent histories of black Americans and contemporary African migrants to China implicit in that comment is astounding. The initial rise of "african populations" in the United States occurred through the brutal, deplorable traffic of human beings. Educate yourself.
"Once you have higher african populations and accompanying increases in crime you will get the same kind of disgruntled comments."Here in Singapore, the criminals were Chinese gangs until Lee Kuan Yew hanged them one by one in the 1970s. So, let us not kid ourselves into thinking that only Africans commit crimes. However, one thing I must say..Jim Crow, Apartheid, Segregation, official ban on interracial marriages never happened in Asia...only whites can perfect such a system and the Chinese or any other Asian would not be able to develop and perfect a system such as Apartheid even if they had white advisors. History of apartheid in South Africa tells us that the level of racism in the blood of Chinese will never match the level of racism in the blood of whites.
I think k she is beautiful, but this contest did not maximize on it. I read a recent article concerinig this incident and Lou Jing response was, She wants to move to America, because she feel as if she is no longer Chinese. I think the American model agencies can capitalize off this if they give her a chance.Famous beuatiful blasians models in that has had success in America. She can make it over here.Denyce Lawtonhttp://i1.tinypic.com/sf8psj.jpgAmieriehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amerie,_Red_Dress_Collection_2006.jpgLisa Wu Hartwellhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/34978644@N08/3239257113/