Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Racism

Participants: Peter, Kevin, Angela

Wait, before we start this discussion, are you waisheng ren? [=Chinese who emigrated to Taiwan in 1940s when the KMT lost the civil war in China] I just wanna make sure we’re all, y’know, the same…

Well, actually, yes, my father escaped from mainland china after the war.

Oh!

Don’t you mean ‘retreat’? Escape sounds a little…, don’t you think?

Well, escape, retreat, these are different things, maybe he meant escape!

But retreat means you will go back, escape means you don’t want to, right?

Well...

Well, I’m the 9th generation in Taiwan, my family came 300 years ago.

But from where?

Hokkien province.

Well, Angela, what do you think is the difference, in your definition, between Taiwanese, and Chinese, because your question one is Taiwanese people, and question two is Chinese people.

So, she’s saying the people who live here and the people live in china.

So what is the difference, is it just geological, in your opinion?

Well, I think that culture is based on history, and Taiwan has had a very different history from China, you know, it was only populated by Aborigines till about 300 years ago, when people started coming over from China, fleeing the end of the Ming Dynasty and all the upset there, and then it was basically self governing, till the Ching took it over for about 50 years, and then they handed it to the Japanese somewhere in the 1800s, and it became a Japanese colony, and then during the Chinese civil war and the Japanese invasion of china, Taiwanese soldiers were made to fight and help the Japanese side. There was no strong communist party here, the communist party was never in power here, and you never had the Cultural Revolution here. So historically, it’s very different than China. But also, Chinese people have a different idea of race than, say, white people. White people think more along national lines, like you’re German, or you’re French, we don’t think of the white race as a cohesive whole, whereas I think Chinese think of everybody as one group, don’t you say ‘hua ren’? So what I wonder, when you say Chinese, are you saying, culturally? Or nationally?

In my opinion, Chinese are educated to say that all Chinese are one nation, we don’t make exception for cultural or racial. You’re Chinese. Period. Even the Singapore people, they’re Chinese, no exception. So that’s why we’re always arguing about it. They accept this way, you’re original from china, so you’re Chinese. So last time I told the funny story, that actually, china is a part of Mongolia, because the Ching dynasty came from Mongolia. So china is really a part of Mongolia, if you think about it. As history goes by so everything will change. And people can choose what they want, but this is difficult to accept for Chinese, even highly educated people, to ask them to accept this idea. Maybe as child they’re taught this way, so they cannot change.

For the Chinese people in Indonesia, it’s not really about skin color is it? Even if your family has lived in Indonesia for 100 years, they still think you are Chinese.

Another funny story, in Indonesia, you cannot keep your Chinese surname. You must change the surname.

Yeah, but even you, okay, even you remove your last name, but you cannot change the truth that your ancestor is coming from mainland china?

But the people in Indonesia, there’s a kind of racism, they want to block out anything related to your origin, it’s too much. But it’s maybe because the Chinese people they occupy the economic resource, and maybe they’re afraid they will try to take away political power, so they want to overthrow the Chinese race, that thing comes up.

I think the situation you mention about the Chinese people in Indonesia, I think, I think the major cause think is related to preservation for insure their native people, have to share the economic growth outcome result, and because the Chinese people make too much fortune, and most the property and the resources are controlled by the Chinese people. So I think the, I think it’s not because the racism.

That’s why I call this kind of thing racism. I’ll give another example, Malaysia is getting better, in the past they were really against Chinese race, but now they accept the people have their own Chinese surname, it’s okay, but they say the Malay people want to control their political power, but they say the Chinese can keep their economic power. Its true, you ask the Chinese people the Malay people really enjoy some privilege in education, in civil service, there’s really some quota for Malay people. In Thailand, the tour guide told me, actually, they say the fifth generation of the Thailand king, you know that movie, The Annan King, they say the king is the most famous in Thailand, he modernized the Thai, and he really accept Chinese, he said Chinese could immigrate into Thailand, so I say he really make a change in Thai. So now they are really a lot of Chinese in Thailand, and they are accepted, that’s because of the king. But I say, right now, the past percentage of the Chinese race, and the native, I don’t know, but I think they keep balance, in Thailand, that’s my observation.

If we call somebody you’re racist, it means you, how to define, you are a racist or not?

My issue is different, I say racist could be more, maybe aggressive, or say maybe you don’t really like black guy, but I don’t say that’s really racist, if you say you don’t like the other race, and you try to kill them, then that’s racist. But if you don’t like them and just keep away from them, then that’s not rally racist. It depends how aggressive you are.

But somehow, just like we discussed earlier, about the beauty definition, we’re influenced by the media, and the environment, okay. So unconsciously, our concept, or our attitude, okay, be distorted to the so-called racist concept. Just the difference of the degree, or the what action we need to take. Because extreme the racist you just say, you’re not the same, the race, just WWII the Hitler, he want to kill the Jews, because he think the Germany is the okay one, the best in the world. But I think the most people is not the extreme racist. But somehow the racism is very universal, every people in the world somehow has some racist feelings.

Okay, I agree with this thing. I have this kind of ideology, that white people, and Japanese, are the best one, I think most people think this way, or the people from southeast Asia, these ones are lower class, but what we think this way, from influence of media, sometime they present this way, if you want the other people to respect you, you got to respect first. But they show up this way, how can you respect them? You see what I mean? I have a teacher, its hard to translate to English, but he says something like, the poor must have something slimy.

Slimy? Like something wrong with them maybe?

Right, they don’t prepare in advance, they don’t wash themselves. But this don’t apply to the handicapped people, but these poor people, they don’t wash off themselves, so they become that way.

That’s a really strong thing to say…

Just like you talk to aboriginal people, well, t his is difficult to say, but we talk about Hakka and Minnan people, but you know, do you see this kind of thing, Hakka people normally stay in the hilly country area, not the plains or cities, do you know why? And the aboriginal group, they stay in the high mountain area, you know why? Some people say different people immigrate to Taiwan at different times, but most people prefer to stay in plains area. So why do they separate? Because Minnan and Hakka fight, and Hakka lose, so the Hakka moved to the hilly area, and they fought with aboriginal people, and aboriginals lost, so they have to go to mountain area. Now that’s so long ago, no on really care about that, but at that time, if a Hakka came to the city, then they will be killed.

So it was like ‘sundown towns’ for Hakka.

Right, so in the past, the Hakka all stay in Miaoli area, and the city of Hsinchu is Minnan people. But that was a long time ago.

So that’s the same in Taidong. A friend of mine is a haircutter, and she likes to help people, so every once in awhile she goes to Taidong to cut hair for poor kids there, as a way of giving back. Well, she realied, all these kids are poor and negelected, they’re aboriginal kids, mainly. And she found out their parents are fruit farmers. And you’d think, well fruit sells for a lot in Taipei, its expenseive, so fruit farmers should be making some good money, but actually, the mafia who live in Taidong, they only let these farmers sell to them, and they only buy it for 2-3NT a kilo. And you can’t live on that, so they’re depressed and angry and they neglect their kids…there’s just no money. So when you’re buying this fruit in Taipei at 50 or 70 a kilo, it’s all going to the mafia in Taidong, not the Aboriginal fruit farmers. So this stuff isn’t really in the past, it’s alive and well, now.

See, actually, I would say, the gvt really give aboriginal people a lot of chance. They have this kind of thing, they get a salary, and then they spend all their money, and then don’t go back to work

Is this something you’ve observed, or a story you’ve heard.

Well everybody knows this, it’s a general concept. It’s really true.

So, okay, then I really think that story is just straight-up racism. Have you observed that? Do you know a specific instance? Otherwise, I really doubt that.

But Taiwan is so small, it’s easy to move around, so the opportunities are there.

Well, I can’t trust this ‘story’ you’ve just told me, I’m sorry, it sounds like smear tactics. It sounds like something the gangsters in Taidong would say to explain why the Aboriginal fruit farmers are so desperately poor, and to cover up what they’re doing to keep them so poor.

I agree that there’s stories come from news reports or books we read before, but currently, I think in Taiwan, the gvt offer some affirmative actions for like the original people, or some handicap, or even some female, rescue these people, I think the key point is, still they’re, in current Taiwan, the achievement or the contribution you can make for the society is not depends on your original race, okay, I think most of the, I cannot say the current in Taiwan, the gvt provide the fair opportunity for all the races, for example education, but I think it is much better, I think, the society is more open, so if you want to work hard, no matter you are Taiwanese, or Minnan, or Hakka, just like our current president, he says he is Hakka, and also he is waisheng [= Mainland Chinese, not Minnan or Taiwanese], the second generation, so currently he can be elected as Taiwan’s president, so it means racism is not, you know the, concept, generally accepted by most people in Taiwan. I heard that in US, if you are not born in US, you cannot be elected president of the US.

It’s true.

So on this point, Taiwan is more open.

Where was Ma Yingjieu born?

Hong Kong.

So some people in the party once proposed to, like the US, to exclude those people not born in Taiwan, but it was not accepted. So I don’t know, the private business company have many things to provide the opportunity for minority, like handicapped.

Well, Taiwan seems to do a lot for disabled access, I think.

Right, but honestly, when I want to employ a new engineer, honestly, I will choose someone from a background, like if some candidate is handicapped, I would prefer to choose the normal guy become my employee. So I think the racism is for some party or some situation, okay, for example, like the sports game, okay, we all say like Dr. Jones, the basketball game, I don’t know if you remember, we don’t like the Korean judge, because he always misjudged the game, I think most people, most judges in the sports game, somehow will be influenced by his race. So that’s why, in the international baseball game, all the umpires, you need to have a 3rd party. It’s a rule, they cant be one of the two teams, so I think it’s a general principle, so it reflect the truth of that racism exists for all the races, all the people. So what we can do is, um, to find some, to offer some affirmative action, to keep the different minorities can contribute their wisdom.

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