Shanghai Student’s TV Success Releases Flood of Racist Posts from Viewers in China
Lou Jing, a student at Shanghai’s Theater Academy, dress for a night of competition on Go! Oriental Angel.
Lou Jing, a junior at Shanghai’s prestigious Theater Academy, considers herself completely Chinese. Many in China’s TV viewing audience would say otherwise. The daughter of a Chinese woman and an African American man she never met, Lou Jing nevertheless felt comfortable in the nation of her birth, that is until she appeared on a popular television singing competition. Her sudden visibility to those far outside the Shanghai region that she calls home sent shockwaves across the nation as viewers were confronted with the realityof multiracial identity, embodied in a talented young woman who is both Black and Chinese.
A contestant on the popular American Idol-type show, Go! Oriental Angel, Lou Jing made it through the first several rounds of the program and became one of 30 finalists. While she does have some supporters and fans, the sheer volume and intensity of her detractors’ comments have made news across China and around the world. In late September 2009, Time Magazine described the controversy as it was unfolding:
In August, Lou’s appearance on the show not only boosted viewer numbers but also sparked an intense nationwide debate about the essential meaning of being Chinese. Over the past month on Internet chat rooms, where modern China’s sensitive issues are thrashed out by netizens long before they reach the heavily censored mainstream media, Lou’s ethnicity has been the subject of a relentless barrage of criticism, some of it crudely racist. Many think she should not have been allowed to compete on a Chinese show, or at least not selected to represent Shanghai in the national competition. She doesn’t have fair skin, which is one of the most important factors for Chinese beauty. What’s more, her mother and her biological father were never married; morally, the argument goes, this kind of behavior shouldn’t be publicized, so she shouldn’t have been put on TV as a young “idol.”
These kinds of posts on the most popular chat rooms have attracted thousands of comments. A few have been supportive of Lou, but the rest range from expressions of fear and ignorance to outright racism. One of the most popular posts about Lou Jing on the KDS Life forum asked in mock seriousness, “Is it possible that she is Obama’s daughter?” Another poster said, “I can’t believe she’s so shameless that she would go on TV.” Most of the critics are agreed on one point: that this black woman cannot be regarded as a “real” Chinese.
In the end, Lou Jing did not win the competition, but her Go! Oriental Angel experience has forever changed her perspective on being Chinese and Black. In an interview with NPR, Lou Jing described the shift in her attitude:
Before, on the street, people might say things like, ‘How come she looks like that?’ But that was just a small number of people. When I was younger, I thought life was beautiful. Why is it that now I’ve grown up, I don’t think that anymore?
Lou Jing hopes to leave China, if not permanently, at least in order to finish her education in peace. According to NPR.org, “[h]er dream is of escape. She wants to study journalism at Columbia University. She believes the lack of knowledge about racism in China is such that many people didn’t even realize their comments were discriminatory or hurtful. But for her, the world suddenly seems a different place.”
Posted by Ajuan Mance