One of the major stories told in Howard French´s latest book China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa is that of the Chinese attitude towards Africans. Howard French gives his take at NPR.
MARTIN: It was interesting to me how much racism you personally encountered over the course of your travels. I mean, just the kind of day-to-day, casual reminders of distance that is certainly not polite in this country anymore. I’m thinking about when you went to this hotel in Liberia. And then you went to this room to drop off your things and wash up, and there was no towel there. And then when you told your host this, he summoned a young Chinese man who worked for him and told him to fetch me one. He says, we don’t usually give them out because most Chinese bring their own. They wouldn’t want to use one that a black person might have used. I mean, put this in some context for me. I mean, do you think that this is, kind of, growing pains, and that at some point will people have moved beyond that? What’s your sense?
FRENCH: Everywhere I went, the local Chinese person referred to the people, in whose midst they had come to settle, as black people. You know, they would say, the blacks, the blacks, the blacks, the blacks. They wouldn’t say the Ghanaians, or the Tanzanians, or the Zambians, or the this or the that. It was just, the blacks. And this refusal, or reluctance, to allow any kind of finer identity – to render them totally anonymous as just simply black, as if that was the only pertinent detail about them, was very telling for me. That whether or not this is a passing phase, I can’t really say. But for the time being, the Africans are just, essentially, serving as a backdrop for Chinese processes – somebody that will be useful for them – or a place that will be useful for them for the time being along the way, as they proceed up the ladder of hierarchies, if you will, of civilizations of nations.
Howard French has been interviewed on a wide range of subjects, covered by his book. Click here for an updated overview of his latest interviews.