Friday, August 22, 2014

China and Ferguson

America’s gaze is focused inward, away from our borders, our coastal cities, toward our heartland. And the world’s attention has followed with us.

Obama said, “As Americans, we've got to use this moment to seek out our shared humanity that's been laid bare by this moment."

What happened to Michael Brown is not only tragic – the brutality of his death a profound violation of humanity – but also revealing of the darkly systemic racism that still exists in this country.

The entire country is talking about the situation in Ferguson. The world is looking at America, critical of the violence and continued history of suppression we are creating for ourselves.

China, expected to be critical of the situation, was largely silent, picking up some news from American outlets, until a critical editorial was posted on Xinhua

Austin Ramzy writes for the New York Times:

“While Chinese state news outlets can be highly critical of problems in American society and its government’s actions abroad, they can be slow to comment on events in the United States that may provoke discussion of similar phenomena in China, such as violent crackdowns last spring on protests against a planned chemical plant in the southern city of Maoming.”

This year we saw acts of terror, death, in Shanghai and Kunming and Urumqi. Tensions between the majority Han Chinese and China’s minorities, a suppression of minority culture and rights, military action against minorities have resulted in extremist responses. But I am not sure that a national dialogue has been generated about this problem in the same way that America was forced to talk about our prejudices and violence over the past several decades. The killing of Michael Brown and the media coverage and the statements made by the public exemplify the continued racism that exists in this country. America still has so far to go; black Americans still face so much racism and irrational fear and stereotyping and suppression. And though there may be many deniers of this racism, though there may be many people who justify these actions which should be labeled racist, America will talk about this. America will look inward and through shock and anger and outrage we will argue and enlighten and come together.

In China, the government cares about equality only as complete social integration. Cultural difference is tolerated so long as it does not constitute a separateness. And though many Chinese talk about oppression and inequality and human rights, these discussions are not wrapped into the national fabric as they must be here in America. Can events like this shape the Chinese consciousness like they do in America if the dialogue is not open in the same way? I fear that the conversation concerning minority tensions is so limited in China that what is seen publicaly are the extreme acts of terrorism but not the simple resistance of minorities to dominance and dispersal.

It should be noted that the Chinese commentary in Xinhua stressed that the real issue here is that the U.S. hypocritically chastises the human rights abuses of other countries while having so many problems at home. And the Chinese government is right. It is hypocritical. We need to do so much more for our own people who face systemic and overt racism here in America. But the difference may be the protections we have enshrined in our government for minorities, the actions we are working to integrate legally, and the conversation the people of our nation have in the media, in offices, at home, with friends about these issues.

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