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Anti-Black Chinese versus anti-Chinese South Africans; is there a better evil?

By: Thandiwe Ntshinga


At the end of last year, I stumbled upon an article written by Musawenkosi Cabe for New Frame on an anti-Chinese hate speech case that appeared in front of the equality court in Johannesburg on 25 November 2019. This case was lodged as a complaint by The Chinese Association as a response to racist and xenophobic statements towards Chinese people after Carte Blanche aired its investigation on animal abuse in the donkey skin trade.


During the case hearing, experiences of racism and xenophobia were shared by Chinese-South Africans. These South Africans highlighted childhood trauma as the result of exclusion and bullying in South Africa during and post-apartheid. In a bid to prevent the further marginalization of South Africans of Chinese descent, The Chinese Association request to the equality court was “to grant a relief geared at improving social relations, including an unconditional, an interdict preventing similar future speech, damages and that the respondents render community service to monitor and remove anti-Chinese hate speech on social media”.

Undoubtedly, with the covid-19 outbreak originating in Wuhan, China, anti- Chinese sentiments have been opening expressed in South Africa and beyond. In Australia, companies and business were forced to apologise for racist advertisements associating Asian people with the coronavirus. Social media anti-racism activism can be seen reminding users that the “coronavirus is not an excuse for racism”. It’s clear that people of Asian descent are having a difficult time with racism and negative racial stereotypes.



All of the above acknowledged, I wonder whether this can (or should) divert attention from the anti-Black racism amongst Chinese people that is currently being illuminated in China’s responses to the covid-19 health pandemic? On 14 April 2020, MacDonald’s China was strong-armed into giving an apology for a video that circulated on social media of a sign on a store’s door which stated that “We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant.". This, on the heels of an interview with a Ugandan student who appealed for evacuation as an African person in China. In her interview, Victoria tells of how African people are being denied medical service and are, somehow, seen as the sole carriers of the coronavirus by local Chinese people. While the entire world is pointing fingers at China, in China, the Chinese (continue to) see fault in Black African residents.


There is nothing new about anti-Black attitudes in China as well as in Chinese communities internationally. There have been a number of calls by Black communities in the United States to boycott Asian business in their communities due to racist ill-treatment. On the continent, the influx of Chinese business and migrants have brought there own brand of anti-Black racism to African soil. Videos and interviews have circulated on social media revealing the way in which Chinese immigrants view Africans. Unabashed, these Chinese business owners and workers in Africa, attest to Africans being inferior to all other races—and deserving of our exploitation.


I once had a brief online conversation with an Asian anti-racism writer. In what I have seen of their work, they unpack the role of Asian people in perpetuating racism as allies to whiteness. Their main argument is that we are all “people of colour” and therefore need to work together to dismantle white supremacy. I wrote to this writer because I appreciated their stance on Asian people's contribution to racism. My experiences with Asian people both in South Africa and in Asia have been drenched in an anti-Blackness that differs from that of white people. In our conversation, they told me that they believe that things are coming together for some solidarity between Black and Asian communities. I told him that I’m not too sure about all that…

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