While the U.S. struggle with color preoccupation, even with President Barack Obama, China has its own surprising and terribly sensitive anxieties with this. China seems, in many ways, to be sophisticated, at least in business and financial contexts, but its dearth of people of color has placed it and one of its new celebrity citizens on a precarious and painful state of awakening.
I wrote, or commented, about this last month; many people have been keenly interested in this. It is strange that few of them have been journalists. The slight attention paid to this has grown a bit with Obama’s arrival today. National Public Radio’s All Things Considered had a story. Only a day or so ago “The Wall Street Journal” ran a piece. They were the two “blue-chip” mainstream outlets to file stories. But there was also Hyphen Magazine that published a somewhat different perspective.
By succeeding in China’s version of “American Idol,” a 20-year-old brown woman, Lou Jing, born of a Shanghainese mom and an absent African-American dad, has stirred concerns that touch on ethnic nationalism, foreign policy, and very personal identity. She has pressed her fellow Chinese to ask themselves what it is to be Chinese; to question how narrowly or how broadly they should define the idea or themselves.
Monday’s meeting with President Barack Obama bares very sensitive political and diplomatic questions may weigh heavily.
This begs fascinating questions about what color or “race” consciousness means when you step away from North American shores. Away from this heavy and perilous emotional and historical baggage of the African holocaust (the Atlantic slave trade), the U.S. does not hold all the cards and did not write “the book” in assigning meaning to or interpreting this. It makes you ask how is “race” assigned or color defined elsewhere where there isn’t that U.S. baggage.
This is fodder for a great, thorough feature story.