Just When You Were Starting To Feel Comfortable….



Although each day I start to feel more and more comfortable living in China and dealing with the differences, today I realized that things are still as bad as they have always been.  Remember, the young lady that I have taken under my wing?  Well… she is doing very well at the school .. the students love her and the other Chinese teachers have become friends… unfortunately the rest of the city isn’t so kind.

Today I was awaken to a frantic call from the headmaster of the school.  He was very upset and need to ask my advice on how to deal with something.  I soon found out that the apartment owner of the place where the other African-American teacher lived had called and demanded that he move this teacher out of his apartment.   It seems that the older neighbors that lived in her complex were complaining about her.   Not because she was noisy… Not because she was causing trouble or even threatening them… but because she was too “Black” and she scared them.

My total shock was apparent when I temporarily couldn’t even speak on the phone to continue the conversation.  It seemed that the owner of the apartment said she has to move… or he would cause a lot of trouble for the headmaster of the school.

unbelievable…. but … This is the real China.   So, my boss asked me how he should handle the situation.  He said he had to move her… but how can he explain this to her.   He said he hated the fact that these people were doing this.. and that she was a very kind and good-hearted person.. and these people were just crazy.. but he had to do something or they would make her life difficult over there.    I understood his situation and I told him I would speak to her.

I think this was the hardest phone call I have every had to make in my life.  Telling someone who they were being discriminated against and had to move to a better place.   However, I felt the best way to handle it was to tell the truth and then help her to deal with the disappointment and pain of being treated unfairly.

I did call her and talk to her… and then when I met her at school continued to support her and help her deal with the situation.   I know it hurt…but I made sure she knew that we were there for her… and so where all the other teachers and students at the school.  I mentioned the issue to my husband and he did not seem surprised at all about it.  He told me he is surprised it had not happened earlier.   He said the older generation of  Chinese are like that and that was one of the reasons why he didn’t introduce me to his grandparents, although they know he is married to a foreigner.   I am understanding more and more the longer I live here.

It pains me to think that although I have been here for 3 years… and have met the everyone from the Mayor to the taxi driver… that some people would be so cruel just because her skin color is darker than mine.

China has a long way to go when it comes to acceptance of people who are different.   It is not only people with dark skin, but people with disabilities, from other provinces and people who are just poor.   The thinking of the whole has a long way to go.  This whole situation has pulled me back to reality.   I am accepted only because my husband is local Chinese, and my skin isn’t very dark and I have been here for a long time.

It is times like these that make me want to start my own civil right movement here in China.  I have done a lot of firsts in my life…. and have been a pioneer in many areas… but this is the first time I feel that I have really met a wall.  I can’t protect all my friends from this kind of situation but I can teach them how to deal with it and grow from it.

I still love Chinese culture and traditions but sometimes I really don’t the people.


until next time…


35 thoughts on “Just When You Were Starting To Feel Comfortable….

  1. Whenever we see the dregs and most wretched of a society do something that shows us how horrible they can be, we often label their actions and who they are as “The Real ___!”. They are no more representative of their culture as we are of ours. In my years abroad I am sure I was met with racism, but none more virulent and violent that what I am exposed to, and successfully navigate right here in the U.S.A.. Don’t let them rob you or your friend of the positive influences and wonderful memories you have there!

  2. Louise

    You need to STOP generalizing China. Not everyone is like this. Some old people are bit like that because there is stories about black monsters and stuff. People I know have no problem with black people. Try to understand the culture before you go around criticizing a WHOLE country. It is like me going to America and having someone going and calling me a chink and then calling America racist and having ” a long way to go”. Except when I’m doing that I’m insulting 311 million people and not 1.33 BILLION!

  3. Yolanda

    Hello everyone! I am that young lady that Jo wrote the post about. After all these months I finally worked up the nerve to write a comment. Even though things were rough at the beginning, I grew to like the town and the people in it. Some of them showed kindness to me and helped me out. I would choose China over South Korea any day. Only a few incidents happened in China, South Korea was a lot worse. I even threw away my Korean things in the trash and want nothing else to do with South Korea or their culture. I would not wish my worst enemy to go there! If you are curious as to why I say this, you can email me and I will give you all the horrible details as to what happened during my time in South Korea.

    1. jen

      Hi, yolanda if you don’t mind could you email me more, i’m a dark skinned women whose possibly taking a job in china. and i want to know more about having darker skin and the life of it in china?

  4. Pingback: Travel And Teach In Spain « Acts of Faith In Love & Life

  5. JASON

    Well you know it is what it is. I think we have to be ready for things like this when we travel/plan to live in different countries. I think it’s always good to stay in the biggest cities and not these out of the way places where people are the most ignorant. But even so, like the lady who was Spain, it can happen anywhere.

    I hope this girl does not adopt a victim mentality over this. I would hope that she did her research before going over there and as a result she should not be too shocked by this.

  6. Violet

    Its the rice and noodles… if you cut out the grains and increase your water intake your blood pressure will normalize. If you have a chance read Gary Taubes book “Why we get fat and what to do about it” it addresses the blood pressure issue as well. Many blessings!

      1. Louise

        This proves how subconsciously racist you are. There is plenty of things to eat. It’s like saying ” Unforetunately in America if don’t eat hamburgers and Mcdonalds there isn’t much else.”

  7. How much responsibility do these schools have in working out arrangements beforehand? It just doesn’t seem like a good business practice to leave these black women out on a limb when they’ve invested so much to move to a foreign country. Also, any woman who wants to consider this really needs to do some serious investigating and vetting. Some of this could be easily revealed by asking well-placed questions beforehand. I wouldn’t be so keen on being in an Asian country because they are already so xenophobic and discriminate against other Asians, so this racist attitude you displayed here should not have come as a surprise.

    1. @Faith… Faith.. first of all .. my school is different than most… most school will give you advice on finding an apartment but you need to find it yourself. Just like in the states… when you get a job you find your place to live. They just give you an housing allowance. In this case… my school rents the apartment for you and pays for it… so you do not have to worry about these kind of things. Now… the apartment they rent is used for several people… since most people stay for about 6 months to a year then leave. There is no way the School .. .is going to know how the neighbors and landlord are going to react to the situation. And as I have written in my previous blog..”please, please be careful” .. you must do your research a head of time. That is why I write these blogs.. to inform people the truth of what happens over here. The school is not going to tell you these things .. because obviously they want you to come and work for them… and teach English. As for working out things beforehand…. what exactly do you mean? there is a contract that says what they will and wont do for you… you agree on that contract before you come to China. Nothing in the contract will say… there wont be discrimination from the locals…. We just have to remember .. that it is a different world over here… and that is why I always say.. it takes a special person to be able to live abroad… and it really changes how you see things. This woman was not out on a limb.. actually… my school helped her tremendouly.. by giving her a job.. when she was cheated by her agency in Beijing, and giving her a place to live. Although, we had to move her to live in a different apartment.. the only hassle to her was having to pack her stuff. Because we had workers move her… and she still has a free apartment. The school cant control the people…

  8. Lorraine

    Jo, how fortunate the school and this lady had you to turn to for handling this fiasco. It doesn’t surprise me because everywhere in this world, you are going to have people who think certain ways. As China further cultivates its relations with Africa (they are beginning to invest heavily in some African countries) the cultural divides may start to narrow.

    This teacher may even find a Chinese husband who loves and worships her the way your hubby loves you. I don’t think these experiences should discourage anyone from visiting any country as I have my behind here in Montana where some places have black folks few and far between. But I know that blacks have been here since the 1800s and one former slave woman founded a town called Belt and her son is buried in Great Falls. We are everywhere and some have paved the way, others like you are still paving. I say pave away. Life is too short. We have to get back up when we are knocked down and enjoy the good times.

  9. I definitely agree with/like what Maria said. Futhermore I would say that as hard and painful as this experience was/is, that she should keep going and not let this deter her for doing what she has to do. I say this because when I moved to Madrid 1 1/2 ago, I faced similar treatment. My first graders and the headmaster loved me to bits, but I couldn’t find permanent housing while there. When I showed up to apartment viewings, either they not answered their doors or they would tell me that they room was already rented (didn’t matter that I talked to them literally 10 minutes before showing up). After that, my spirit was broken, and even though my headmaster spent 2 hours trying to talk me out of it, I was sick of all the racism (not just finding housing) I was experiencing. Now, I have huge regrets because I feel I didn’t fight hard enough, that I let them win. So, I tell this to everyone who is a similar position to not give up, and to definitely let those who are willing to help do so, so that she can continue being an awesome teacher that she is.

    1. @Elaine… I guess I didnt think about Madrid being like that .. but i guess.. it is all over the world isnt it? The one good thing that came out of this.. is that the other Chinese Teachers and administation in our school .. realized the discrimination in their city first hand. They couldnt believe that someone would do that to a person they know and consider their friend. They were all upset and shocked about what happened. it was an education in reality for all of us…. I feel that my husband protects me a lot.. from a lot of things…. the fact that for out apartment.. he handled everything and then brought me in and he is the one that always deals with the landlord, the fact that he handles everything that has to do with dealing with older generation Chinese. I am very, very lucky to have him with me… He keeps me safe in a bubble of rainbows and butterflies so i dont have to experience the bad stuff.. hummm… maybe i need to hook the young lady up with a boyfriend …. hummm

      1. This is from my friend Kim who is Vietnamese… regarding race relations in her country… Kim wrote: “I understand how it hurts you when people treat someone different just because of their skin color. I am from Saigon and I have met a lot of black people. They never had any troubles in Saigon. They were treated just like any white people. But my sister told me lately we had a lot of robbery, crimes… Caused by African guys from Nigeria and now people in Saigon started to feel uncomfortable being around a black person. I know it is wrong, but it is somehow explainable. Chinese people in your city may have had bad experiences with some bad Africans and the result is they would try to stay away from any black ones (for old people in China, all black people come from Africa). I hope this would explain something and hope you feel better and try harder to prove that skin color does not tell anything. Try to love them, they will recognize they were wrong”

  10. V

    Hi Jo.

    I know it hasn’t been that long since the incident happened, but how is the young lady now? Has she found another place to live? Does she still want to stay in China?

    1. Because she works for our school we provide housing for her… we would never let her be on the street. We have moved some of the other foreign teachers around and have put her in another apartment with one of the English ladies. Who feels terrible about what happened to her.. and welcomed her with open arms. I think they will end of being the best of friends. After I have given her a heart to heart about China, people and prejudices and I have given her some advice on how I deal with it… she hasnt given up hope. She tells me it is not a new experience for her… since she has taught in Korea before for over a year and it happened to her there. She said that in Korea people yelled out to her that she was ugly and other things that were not kind.. But that doesnt make it any easier. I will toughen her up… and get her motivated and happy again.. no worries…

      1. If you don’t mind my asking, how dark is the lady in question? Do you mind comparing her to someone famous.

        I’m just curious because I not shocked that this would happen but it is the first time that I’ve read of such an incident. I don’t think I’ve ever come across such negative things happening in Japan. Maybe some of you will have something different to say.

        I’ve read horrible things about blk people in Spain OTOH.

        1. @Chic Noir… strange question.. but … I am the color of Honey.. and she is the color of Dark Chocolate… so there is an large visable difference between us. Although she is 10 years younger and much thinner than I am. The big differences in Japan and Korea compared to China.. is that they have US Millitary bases in their countries… China does not… so they do not have the same kind of mindset about the various races. Although, my japanese friends tell me that color is also an issue there. the more white the better…

  11. Peta

    It’s a crying shame what happened to your friend, but at least she has people on her side who are all looking out for her.

    That’s the one silver lining I can detect in this mess.

  12. blackandyellow

    Sorry to hear that this has happened. I have also seen this happen in Westernized countries to a greater or lesser degree. Hopefully, Black leadership in Europe, America, and Canada, can come together and spend some time educating the leadership in China about these issues, and the Chinese people.

    Maybe Black people in China coming together and teaching the Chinese about Black culture can help. There are places in China where large populations of Blacks live, and hopefully people will come together and work toward helping the Chinese understand Black culture. China is involved in Africa now, and wanting to continue to increase the amount of business they do with Africa, yet these insane attitudes continue.

    I have also looked at numerous Blogs and forums related to China, and quite a few people from the West who participate in these forums don’t help the situation. They encourage negative stereotypes about Black people, and play upon Chinese fears of Blacks.

    I am hoping the Universities in China will begin to include revelant courses on Black History, Africa, and the African Diaspora. I am gratified to hear that the owner of your school is not prejudiced, and can only hope that he will be able to continue to prosper in his business without a lot of flack from other people.

    Additionally, the people who are learning English need to be exposed to native speakers of other races. In all likelyhood they will encounter people of other races when doing business in the West or attending school in the West, with a variety of accents.

    China is near and dear to my heart, but it is unfortunate that this is happening. I prayed for your friend when she 1st had a problem with finding a job, and I will continue to pray that she is protected from things like this happening to her. It can definitely discourage a person. I pray that you will be well also, and despite any adversity you may face, you and your husband will stay strong and overcome it.

    1. @blackandyellow… Thank you so much for commenting. I have found that the younger generation and the more educated people in China have a more positive attitude toward Black Americas.. However.. when concerning the African countries.. they are treated similar to the Mexicans in the USA. They are accused of taken jobs and have not helped their own cause by fighting and commiting crimes. Since so many of the illegal Africans here pose as Americans… it is easy how there can be confusion. Unfortunately, it will be a long time before this country changes its preception of Black people. The small communities that have formed in china are usually in Beijing, Guanzhou, Shenzhen or Shanghai… most other parts of china have few if any people. This is the hardest part about living in China… and many of my Chinese friends in America warned me ahead of time. I have been very lucky in the fact that I have not been a victim of too much discrimination. But this was even an eye opening experience for me.

      1. Since so many of the illegal Africans here pose as Americans… it is easy how there can be confusion.

        This is troubling. Very troubling. It just makes it harder for us. I read about African men going to China to teach English posing as Americans.

    1. @Nicki… I know she was hurt.. but I was happy to see.. everyone at the school rally around her… someone even offered for her to come and live with her in her neighborhood. That was very kind…..

  13. John

    Your husband right about the older generation, they like the old way, Chinese marry Chinese, you will have to get use to their culture. that why I say is better to learn about different culture in Asian on how the behavior to others, how they eat, their spare time. The newer generation like other races, is hard to teach the old now day

    1. @John… this I know.. but somethings.. you can only know when you experience them. They keep this kind of thing a little bit of a secret when you are researching… but once you are here it is different.

      1. This is from a friend and reader…Maria wrote: “I loved your blog today, it is true it does hurt a lot when and if people base their actions towards you due to your race, however please tell your friend it is more of a reflection on the people themselves and nothing at all do to with her. Be black and proud! I had a similar thing happen to me in South Africa..yep there are still some places where blacks arent allowed. The woman I wanted to rent from would not have known my race because, apparently I have an English accent, anyway..the reason she deduced that I was black was my surname. I went around town looking for her neighborhood, yep she gave me the wrong address!! and she would not speak to me, she gave her black maid the phone and she (black maid) was just as rude if not worse!….I wanted to say honey..you are just as black as me..get over yourself:-D”

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