A drunk man stopped me on the street today and asked to take a picture with me. I obliged.
My days here are filled with open stares as I walk down the street; people coming up to me, speaking chinese at me, and then touching my hair; and people giving me compliments on my skin color or how beautiful I am. Sometimes people ask if I am African or are confused as to whether I am American or not. TBH (to be honest) it’s not much different then being in the United States. But it’s weirder here. Maybe because of the language barrier, or maybe its that I’m in a truly racially homogenous society, or maybe its the alienation from my peers that the attention brings. Whatever it may be, I feel as if I’m being fetishized. I’m not a person, I’m not a part of the group, a part of my country, or a clear part of the world, I’m just my hair or my skin or my beauty. It might sound like i’m humble bragging, and believe me, I wish that I was, but being fetishized in China has pointed me to a larger problem.
What I realized today on my walk is that Americans rarely travel to China (heck, I’m realizing Americans rarely leave the country at all) and the ones that do leave the country are predominately white. Black people aren’t “not allowed to travel” but their circumstances are a big enough barrier–Also if you’re going to stop reading this post because I’m generalizing about ‘all black people’ then please do stop reading bc you have bigger academic problems tbh. For me personally, I’m not here buying souvenirs or going out spending a lot of money on clothes, cabs, and alcohol. I spend my money on food and transportation cards only. Because that is what the Freeman Foundation is paying for and that is what my parents are paying for. See, I’m not banned from traveling by the United States Government, but by the Market Economy and tbh it’s hard to separate the two. And this is true of literally millions of black people in America. That’s right, there are MILLIONS of us. We’re not a disappearing race of indigenous peoples (like unfortunately the Native Americans) but are in fact a very large part of America. But you wouldn’t know that from the reactions of the Chinese people seeing me walk down the street mouths LITERALLY agape with disbelief.
The saddest part for me however is that there are some Americans who treat me the same way. Not with respect but with some sort of morbid curiosity.
more on food in my next post (sorry)!!