But Ms. Jing doesn’t go for that; she says she’s “completely Chinese.”
You can expect a bumpy, bizarre road if you don’t look “white” in the U.S. and you say that you are; confusions, misunderstandings, and even hostility will come. If you look brown or even darker, if you have a broader nose, lips, or ears (or if it’s the opposite) and call yourself “white…”
But 20-year-old Lou Jing a recent contestant in China’s “Go Oriental Angel” (their version of American Idol) has left the country with questions about how it sees itself – particularly what or who is “completely Chinese.” You see while Ms. Jing’s mother is Chinese, her father is African-American.
Ms. Jing recently declared herself “completely Chinese.” While this seems bizarre to many people, most particularly if you’re “white,” this isn’t so very new. Paul Seriodio is the “white” South African who chose to call himself African-American when pressed about a form.
Of course the U.S. must contend, and make clumsy peace, with the remnants of the African Holocaust (the Atlantic slave trade). China doesn’t have that history, that experience. It and Japan discovered their own biases against each other centuries ago, but that was very different.
Ms. Jing’s decision reminds me of when I chose to stop – or at least stem the flow of – my anger at Anglos. While people routinely break the inter”racial” down to a binary of Black and white, which just doesn’t carry much water anymore – to put it politely), I rebel against that. But that’s a whole nother story; a digression for a later time.
My heritage, as with most other peoples’, no matter whom they are and where they’re from, is more varied and complex than that. If I were angry at Anglos, and their heritages were a part of mine, then doesn’t that come back to me?
In my own multicultural or multiethnic experience, I’ve wondered, and mentioned in this journal, how surprised I am to be embraced as African-American. So I understand Ms. Jing’s choice, even if I can’t actually relate to it.
Here Anglos and people of color alike might call Ms. Jing nuts or deluded. But you have to ask how “race” operates in China. There are some scholars perspectives on Chinese biases or bigotry. While it only represents on, point of view and there is probably some bias, it might shed some light on a barely and rarely comfortable question.
What happened when she went to school? “She used to wonder why she had black skin,” said one classmate. “We thought about this question together and decided to tell her it’s because she likes dark chocolate. So her skin turned darker gradually.” Another classmate weighed in, “We said it’s because she used to drink too much soy sauce,” according to Cnn.com
Why did she not ask about her color or her father, who she’d never met, until she was 16-years-old? These are natural questions in the United States; they are a part of a coming-of-age.
The notoriety that Ms. Jing has received makes the way she describes herself so much more important. As with questions about what makes someone Black, or how they chose to describe themselves so, if they don’t look it, the same must be asked about being Chinese. These are questions that must be answered about how color biases work in China where there are very few people of color.
Apparently coming-of-age stories may be as foreign to China as the idea of a pretty, brown, Shanghainese woman calling herself “completely Chinese.”