Friday, November 30, 2007

Reverse Racism?

My sister lived in central China for several years and she has always told me that life there is much different than in Shanghai. One of the differences is in the way people treat Westerners, or us white folk. Shanghai is a very modernized and international kind of place, but Wuhan (where the sister lived) was not so much.

My sister often speaks about how anytime she went anywhere people would stop and stare at her. Truth is many people in Wuhan had never seen a white girl before and culturally they weren't embarrassed to show their curiosity. She tells stories of stopping to talk to a friend and within minutes finding a small gathering of Chinese people stopping and staring.

This did have its benefits, though, she says as often the Chinese would rush her to the front of lines as to give her a sort of prized position in their society.

As I said Shanghai is more international so this doesn't happen to us. At least not much anyhow.

Yesterday I went to the market to pick up a few things for supper. As I did this around 6 in the evening there was a crowd of people in the market and a long line to boot. This particular market is set up horribly so that the lines to check out are very near the only entrance into the store. This means that people trying to get into the store have to push past the people trying to check out.

I sighed, took my place at the back of the line and tried not to get too annoyed with the hordes of people pushing past me. After a minute an elderly lady walked up and stood in line right in front of me. As she was talking to an elderly gentleman I didn't get mad figuring the two were together.

Then the lady started talking in Chinese and looked behind her man. He moved out of the way and I moved out of the way as there were some goods behind us and I thought maybe she wanted something. Then she talked some more and looked right at me. I smiled but had no idea what she was saying.

Then she made a motion for me to get in front of her. I smiled and tried to indicate that it was ok, I could wait. But she insisted. Then she insisted that I move up in front of everybody while speaking to them all very loudly. So I moved up.

I felt bad about it, but I didn't know how to politely say that I was fine and could wait. At this point I would have had to be rude about it anyways. The lady clearly wanted me to move up. And yes, OK, I was tired and kind of appreciated the bump.

All the rest moved back and I checked out in a snap.

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