Written by Efe Plange
So a video making rounds on social media and causing serious reactions from all over the world, is a commercial from a Chinese detergent company, in which a well-built Black guy painter is literally washed and made “anew” and even “better” into a shorter, small-eyed and skinnier Chinese man/boy with lighter skin (Yes I am being very intentional here). The storyline does not only portray the fine chap as dirty physically, but mentally as well, to promote the racial propaganda that African men are sex maniacs!
Now the uproar has been world-wide but for our own people it comes almost as a shock. But that is the funny side of racism that hardly gets pointed out. For us Black people, it is almost always a case of Black and White, with no room or consideration for any grey areas. Therefore, one of the most shocking experiences with racism outside home is discovering that we indeed are perceived to be the bottom of the human race…even by other colored people.
I’ve always announced, that most of my first experiences with racism came from non-whites. I am talking Brown and yellow people. And I tell you, it is actually more painful than the usual Black and White dichotomy. In my opinion, they break you even more… Let me quickly share one such incidents with my Chinese Students.
During my Composition instructorship days, it was usually the case that my Chinese students, despite my experience and qualifications in the field, would outrightly request a native White English instructor instead of me. And then after our first lesson, exclaim to each other, “Oh! Her English is actually better than ours!” This happened to me more than once. My experiences with Indians, Chinese and even some of our own White Africans (Moroccans, Egyptians, etc.) makes me think that the topic of racism, probably has been too oversimplified. This over-simplification is largely responsible for its endless persistence, as it does not foster a holistic approach to dealing with the matter.
In an earlier piece, Black Skin White Masks: A personalized Oppression, I even noted how we, even in our own social contexts, deal with intra-racism because as an oppressed group, our worldview is being shaped for us. Hence, interactions with our own people reveal how the double standards play. We cry about racism yet there are some tribes and ethnic groups in our own society who see themselves as the chosen ones above others.
This Chinese ad is simply appalling, but then again, I, for once, am also excited as it is beginning to generate a whole new angle of racism which is largely glossed over. Now it is time for us as a people to wake up from our long slumber of preferring everything non-black and claim ownership and autonomy over our lives. After all, for how long are we going to claim “victimship” when we now have full autonomy over our choices and decisions?
Personally, I have developed my own strategy for dealing with Racist encounters such as these: I fight racism with racism! Meaning, if you spew out any ignorant statements and views about my kind, I do same about your kind because guess what, we all have the right to be ignorant at least once in our lifetime! And while everyone is mad at the company, laying a hand on the Black man who agreed to be in that commercial, would be very much appreciated for some questioning. He obviously needs some of the blame here. What’s worse, he even looks Ghanaian and West African!
Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She is a Graduate Teaching Instructor, and recently concluded a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media: efplange_gh on both Instagram and Twitter, and Efe Plange on Facebook.
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