China’s mixed “American Idol” reveals backward color politics


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.

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One thought on “China’s mixed “American Idol” reveals backward color politics

  1. Meg says:

    It’s sad to see a country so beautiful cannot handle a mix half “Asian” and half black woman; she could be the next famous Halle Berry or Beyonce Knowles! Look at Tiger Woods? Do you chinese hate him too? He is the same like this girl Lou Jing! Tiger’s half “Asian” and half black!

    I’m not sorry to say but I guess Chinese just can’t handle a woman with curves. I visited HK with my “Chinese” husband and WOW! The girls looks to have teenage boys bodies! NO curves to tell if she’s hit puberty or not!

    Really people! You claimed her mom is Shanghainese why can’t you just say her daughter’s one too? It’s sad her mom learned the hard way, that ALL BLACK men leaves their women to endure the harshness of life! Leave them alone! They’ve endured enough! Let her live a happy life!

    So does it make a difference if she’s half white instead of black???? When I was in HK with my chinese husband I have noticed Chinese treating whites better than even themselves! How sad…

    It’s sad to see that this is happening and most of our jobs from the U.S. is coming to a such a savage place. Please! If Obama visits, Please tell him to get out like you tell this poor girl who’s done nothing wrong!!! REMEMBER Obama IS half black also!!

    She didn’t ask to be half Black! It just happened!

    I hope Lou Jing gets to come to the U.S.!!! She will be HOME here and this won’t happen to her!!! She’ll be accepted and much happier here with people who understands her!

    And I hope one day when she does come to the U.S. and becomes famous, I hope you “Chinese” don’t ever claim that she is one of you! She’ll be one of us! Americans!

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