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 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 than as if those same words were said in New York, London or Johannesburg, the impact is also different.
Nicole and Tiffany join Eric & Cobus to talk about what it’s like to be a black in China.
About Nicole Bonnah:
The documentary is an accumulation of years of experience in covering human stories centred on the experiences of ethnic minority groups. Nicole’s latest undertaking focuses on the cultural studies of ethnic migrant groups in China, empowering People of Colour and their communities to tell their own stories.
As a journalist, Nicole’s writing has been featured in a number of news outlets, including, London’s number one Black Newspaper – The Voice, and China’s Global Times.
Graduated with a BA in Journalism, Film and News Media from Roehampton University, Nicole is currently completing her Masters Degree in Professional Journalism at Edinburgh Napier University.