“They said I was dirty. They said all black people smell bad.”September 12th, 2012
In an open letter to the Chinese state, Leigh-Ann Worrell, 24, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados, warns that the Asian superpower must address some hard truths about the way foreigners, especially black people, are treated.
Dear China (and its people),
It has been nearly a year since we met one another. The meeting was truly by accident: I wanted to see somewhere different, and you “welcomed” me to study for free.
How could I say no to such a wonderful invitation? So I didn’t, and less than a month later, I packed up and took myself half way across the world to your East Asian land.
The culture shock that I experienced, however, is too hard to describe. I thought to myself, ‘you hosted the Olympics – then a mere three years ago – certainly you will be welcoming to any and everyone.’
I soon realized my belief was a fallacy. To be honest, I felt like you did not want me here at all. Your people pointed and stared at me. They burped in my face. They said I was dirty. They said all black people smell bad. They said I was a drug dealer. They made me feel like crying.
But you said you welcomed everyone?! What happened to ‘One World, One Dream’? Were you lying? Or is there only a certain type of “wai guo ren” (foreigner) that you want to come here?
For my studies, I travelled to the south of your expansive landmass. There, I thought I could find a little less unease and a lot more comfort, as your Guangdong Province was home to hundreds of thousands of people with whom I shared a sun-kissed skin colour.
Once again, I was surprised by your dry, harsh and unwelcoming nature. Even though I was less than 15 minutes from one of the largest African enclaves in the province, your people continued to point and stare and remind me that I was not one of them.
Your people followed me as I was trying to have a lovely Sunday afternoon with my friend, demanding they take my picture. Even when I said no, they laughed and continued on my trail, until, forcefully, I said “no” in Mandarin.
It makes me so angry. Sometimes, I regret the day I made the decision to meet you. Just the other day, I was talking to a Nigerian girl about you. She told me: “China is trying to develop its economy, but it left its people behind.” I could not have said it better myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had an interesting time here. Some of your inhabitants have been nothing but nice and hospitable to me, and for that I am truly grateful. In addition, people from all over the world are drawn to you, and I have been able to meet them – from Egypt, Cameroon, France, Uzbekistan, Spain, Seychelles, the list can go on and on.
But let’s face it China, if you don’t get your people to be more understanding and accepting of us “hei ren” (black people), then we won’t come back. And we will tell people not to go. We will find other countries to invest our time and money in.
You stand to lose.