The Chinese New Year’s Gala is an extremely popular TV program that airs on the last day of each lunar year. I grew up watching it. It’s mostly made up of patriotic, revolution-nostalgic songs and operas. Pop singers sometimes get gigs on it. That’s all political. Comedy skits make up a huge chunk of the gala too.
I slowly lost interest in it over the years as my favorite comedian retired and I became harder to entertain. But this year’s gala caught my full attention. They had a skit where some actress put on fake breasts and a fake butt and painted her face black to act as a Kenyan woman.
This is an example of thoughtless, insensitive misrepresentation of a race, and I hope my country, and every country for that matter, would stop doing this.
My issue is this. A lot of people of African descent have not received any proper consideration when their image is being exploited on TV until fairly recently. The black image was used for unilateral amusement for far too long. There were human zoos with Africans in them at at the World Fair in the 20th century!
Many habits that we have in representing people of African descent, be it black Americans or Brits or modern day Africans, stem from this deplorable tradition of seeking out the spectacular, the abnormal, the surprising, the eye-catching. While this is just how the media operates, unknowing and/or unwilling people had their public image distorted for other people’s capital gains. This should be an obvious moral transgression and it bears resemblance to slavery. Instead of people’s labor and body being exploited unwillingly, people’s images are being exploited.
A spokesperson of the Foreign Affairs Office fired back at critics who called this skit racist and said that this is an attempt at sabotaging Sino-African relations. As my girlfriend put it, he is saying that China has African friends and is therefore exempt from all racist accusations. I am extremely disappointed in my country for tolerating, first, the shameless and ignorant skit and second, the excuse for tolerating it.
The spokesperson also said that China is through and through against any and all forms of racism. I very much doubt the credulity of that claim because China doesn’t seem to understand the history of the exploitation of the black image. Or perhaps, China doesn’t understand that public image is capital and there are economic strings and civil strings attached to the ends of it. Either way, judging by this spokesperson, China is not in a place to claim that it is against all forms of racism.
The featured image was taken from VOA News.