How best do we, as a community, handle incidents like the one shared widely across WeChat and other platforms by our brother WodeMaya? Needless to say, we are all angry about the mistreatment of our continent, communities and people.
Over the past week alone we have seen racism and related offences rear their ugly heads both here in China, and in African countries.
While our host country China battles Coronavirus and bemoans racism (rightly so) we, Africans and people of African descent have rushed to the country’s defence producing videos in support of the country and volunteering to assist in efforts to bring the nation back to normalcy. Victor Ejiaya of Nigeria’s recent article for PhronesisMedia also details the official support China has received from many African countries including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, amongst others.
As such, these most recent instances, for many will feel like a slap in the face – so yes, we may feel disgusted, frustrated, hurt, the list goes on … but anger without action is pointless.
History and experience can serve as a useful guideline and inspiration at times like this, looking back, or around us to see how other African and diasporic communities around the world handle racism.
Guyanese scholar and orator Walter Rodney, author of the text ‘How Europe Underdeveloped Africa’ stressed that Black communities across the world should actively and openly share in their experiences with each other. How does such an idea apply to the situation that faces us as Africans and people of African-descent in China?
From Ghanaians to Grenadians, and Black Americans to Ethiopians and so on, we can tap into each others’ experiences with racism and use our unique experiences to best decide how to deal with it as a community, with the understanding that we are one people – and racism or discrimination against one from amongst us should be treated as an injustice against us all. This can only be achieved by encouraging honest and open dialogue amongst our diverse community. In this same spirit of learning, sharing and reflecting, the thoughts shared in this article are intended as a start to such a process.
As a community platform, we spoke to several people across our communities in China and asked – how do we deal with issues of racism towards our people? What should our response be, if any? These are their recommendations in no particular order:
Samuel Ofosu Donyina, Beijing, President of Beijing Normal University African Students Association
“What I have realized personally over the years is that, while many people have written about us, we are the best people to tell the beauty of who we are as Africans. We are the ones that live out the culture of the continent and we have it in us. We don’t need anyone else to do it on our behalf, we are the ones to tell it best.”
“When we stand as one, there is power. Let’s work together to increase awareness of the racism we face and raise the issues of such videos with China.”
Peter Kwabena Angoh, Datong, Author: By the Fireside
“Challenge ignorance as and when you see it. When faced with racism speak truth to it and dispel whatever myth the perpetrator is basing their ignorance off of. If you are a journalist or a reporter, do your damn job and stop writing about things that are are not true, because the painful truth here is that there are more negative things to report about China than there are in Ghana, but to what end? We should also take the time to educate the Chinese about Africa, most don’t know anything.”
Chosen to remain anonymous, Guangzhou
“Invest in China-based African and diasporic organisations – there are many bodies across China trying to enact change. Let’s invest in our own institutions and make them as sturdy as possible. From within, encourage the organisation to give back. No matter how long we’ve lived abroad we must commit to giving back to our respective homelands.”
Ria Raadwijk, Beijing, I Do It For Africa (IDIFA)
“The initiative should come from the African diaspora in China who have experienced racism here and have knowledge of the abusive videos, articles and behaviour of unscrupulous Chinese citizens living in Africa or visiting African countries. Together we should: educate both Chinese and our own African people back home especially in the remote places through materials ranging from pamphlets to LED boards in strategic places for both African and Chinese people to see in both China and Africa; especially in arrival halls in African airports or in airplanes featuring a video before landing. Create and share art that celebrates our culture: songs, poems and dance are catchy; and encourage African artists all over the world to create songs with catchy lyrics that celebrate Africa because music travels fast.”
WodeMaya, Internationally-Based, Video: “STOP These Type Of Chinese In Africa”
If you witness Chinese people exploiting Africans on the continent, please stop them.
There are also those who don’t get angry and prefer to let it slide each time that something crops up, leaning on the following argument espoused by Toni Morrison. “The function, the very serious function of racism is a distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being… Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
They make the argument that China should bear the responsibility of educating its citizens and that if we spend our energy towards bettering our motherlands they will have no choice but to reckon with the truth: when united Africa and her global diaspora are mightier than the world ever imagined.
For those of us who do get angry, we must recognize that anger without action begs the question: are we prepared to live through such racism again and again? Our mentality should be “don’t get angry…get active.”
What solution do you think is the best? Do you propose another course of action? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and have your say. We will follow up by passing these recommendations on in a follow-up article shared with the community and its leaders.