What It's Like to Be Black in China

GUANGZHOU, CHINA - DECEMBER 15:  Buyers and sellers in The Canaan Market, Guangzhou's first market catering mostly to African
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - DECEMBER 15: Buyers and sellers in The Canaan Market, Guangzhou's first market catering mostly to Africans, December 15, 2008 in Guangzhou, China. In Guangzhou, the largest city in south China, 20.000 Africans are trying to make a life for themselves as traders in wholesale markets. Here, they hope to carve out their own piece of the Chinese economical miracle. The traders buy clothes and other cheap goods to be shipped and sold back home. Approximately 80% of the Africans in Guangzhou are Nigerians, others are from e.g. Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon. (Photo by David Hogsholt/Getty Images)

Being black in China is not easy, but it's not as bad as many would have you think, according to our two guests this week who are both black immigrants currently living in Beijing. Sure, people stare a lot and there are often some inappropriate questions about hair and skin color, but more often than not says Black Lives in China creator Nicole Bonnah, those awkward questions come from a good place -- curiosity.

Nicole, originally from the United Kingdom, is a Beijing-based journalist who is embarking on an ambitious documentary film project about daily life for black immigrants living across China. One of the people Nicole interviewed for the film was Tiffany Johnson, an African-American educator also based in Beijing.

Tiffany, like Nicole, said China's largely homogeneous culture and inexperience in dealing with diversity does lead to some awkward encounters, but she adds that it would be incorrect to label this "racism." Compared to the United States, where race is a filter for almost everything in society, the Chinese are largely ignorant about issues of race. So when Chinese people say things that would otherwise be off-limits in Africa or the West, Tiffany and Nicole argue that because the intent isn't the same as it would be if those same words were said in New York, London or Johannesburg, the impact is also different.

Nicole and Tiffany join Eric & Cobus -- in the podcast above -- to talk about what it's like to be a black in China.

Earlier on WorldPost:

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