Things Americans honestly cannot explain to the Chinese
I admit I’m at a loss for words sometimes. Rarely so, because my ability to talk, and persuade is paramount to my having a successful business. Still over the course of time, when myself and the Chinese talk, things come up, where, well….it’s difficult to use either common sense or logic to explain away some of the peculiarities of the American（or Western） way of life.
Here are a few:
Jesus rising from the dead
Oh yes, I remember it well. We were all sitting together one day in the autumn cool of Guangzhou, 0n a grassy field(are there still grassy fields in Guangzhou?), when everyone started pestering me about Christianity.
I was 23 and shall, um, we say a somewhat more strident follower of the subject than perhaps can be said today. With pride I explained the basic tenets of Christianity. Leading up to the climax, I explained as well as I could the crucifixion. I jumped around a bit, describing how Christians were thrown to the lions, and persecuted for ages, by those godless Romans. Than with a proud and believing voice I explained how Jesus rose from the dead. That I fully believed in this, and that the fact he did rise from the dead is perhaps the basic tenement of our faith.
While explaining with pride the core of Western Civilization, there was nearly complete silence, with the occasional question. My whole spiel took 15 minutes. It was obvious to me that the Chinese indeed really knew nothing about the West. And were really soaking up this opportunity to learn, via a real live Westerner. It was up to me to “represent”. I was very proud that I was the one that could proudly explain to the godless Chinese such an important part of our culture.
When I was finished there was complete silence.
The glow on my face was surely evident.
Than maybe after 5 seconds, their processing of my story was complete. From within the crowd of people I had been speaking with, a voice finally spoke up:
That’s right dammit. I tell a story of Jesus rising from the dead, and someone actually says to me the equivalent of “bullshit”. Someone didn’t actually didn’t believe me. What blasphemy!
I was truly taken aback. Angry, actually.
Than in unison nearly everyone present laughed.
Truly, I was offended. I didn’t know what to say. How could someone not believe Jesus didn’t rise from the dead?
“How can someone rise from the dead?” , they asked
“Well….it was Jesus”, I muttered
“I don’t believe it,” another one simply said.
“You need to have faith”, I replied. I was now beginning to get a bit angry. I felt the urge to criticize China. I just didn’t know where to begin. It had yet to dawn on me the uphill struggle one naturally has trying to explain the ability of one to rise from the Dead.
Lesson? Explaining the concept of Christianity is a lot easier if you leave out the “rising from the dead” part.
Why are Americans so fat?
Fat people. No, not people like me......I mean really, really, you gotta be kiddin' me fat people.
There is nothing more embarrassing for me in China than seeing an obviously overweight American . At first I thought it really was no big deal. I really didn’t get what the Chinese obsession with weight was.
Chinese all think I’m fat. I’m a 6 footer, 185 lbs. Or 1.83 to the rest of you. And from the kid in Tibet to nearly everyone else, I’m considered “fat”, or “Da duzi”. Yes, I protrude a bit. So what? Yet the longer I live in China, and I the older I get, ie, the more conscious I am of my health, the more I’ve come around to the Chinese sense of bewilderment.
When I see a 350 lb man I blush with embarrassment.
I was at the Shenzhen airport awhile back and came across a huge American, easily over 300 lbs, struggling to walk out of the departure area. He was sweaty, grimaced, and had an aura of shame about him. Or should have. I wasn’t sure he was gonna be able to make it without fainting. Every single Chinese person waiting there just stared. And stared again. I wanted to blush. I remember I was filled with disgust. True, the older I get, and the more I try to take care of myself, the less sympathy I have for someone that doesn’t make the effort to do the same.
Chinese often ask me why we Yanks are so damn fat. I try to offer reasons that I think will make sense:
Processed food. Advanced countries have made having to go shopping on a daily basis obsolete. You see, processed foot is the best thing to come along to fight global hunger……
Culture. Fast food is in our blood. Salt and cholesterol….yummy!
Walmart. The king of cheap. The king of processed food. It’s actually made living without vegetables possible.
As a last line of defense, however, I then I try and turn it around.
Our buildings have elevators.
We drive. We don’t need to bike to work.
（have you ever considered it how strange the Chinese might think of us merely “walking” or “biking” for exercise?）
We’re able to eat meat.
Our escalators don’t breakdown. (If you’ve ever ridden the Shenzhen subway as relentlessl y as I have, you’d know what I’m talking about.)
So I try a little too shamelessly to use the advanced state of our society as an excuse. Problem is, even I can’t buy what I’m saying.
I remember when my wife came back to China a few years ago. It was in August and by the 2nd or 3rd day she was back to her usual bitchy self. The weather, the “why are we walking so much!” snarl on her face. She had totally forgotten what China was like, (or about?).
Bottom line, these are legitimate reasons. But not legitimate enough to explain away self responsibility, either. Walmart has Greek Yogurt. It has whole wheat bread. I think they also have veggies. A bowling ball gut doesn’t develop overnight. The Chinese are right to mock us and laugh in unison. Yes, the Chinese are getting fatter, too. Wealth does that. But they eat veggies, too. And that white stuff.
White-Black relations in America.
Do we even have to bring this up?
One would think that electing Obama would’ve been enough. Even Chris Rock would shut up. But alas, it apparently isn’t.
True observers of American culture will immediately understand we do not talk much about Hispanic-White relations, or Asian-White relations, or anyone else. But the whole “Black thing” is still sensitive, and is still forefront to our perceived progress as a Nation. It is a barometer for the Social Progress we’ve made.
Now I need to stop here, and aloud state that there can be no question that in my view America is the least racist country in the world. We’re doing pretty damn well for a society where only half of us are WHITE. Thus this article is in itself an exercise in Irony. We don’t have race riots. We don’t have slums packed with immigrants constantly fighting with the Police. Interracial mixing of the populace is highly visible and commonly seen. And it is acceptable.
Rather, the biggest problem, I’d argue is the reluctance of 1st generation parents to get with the program, and allow their offspring to…well, to mix. The Chinese mom and dad….the Korean, etc. One of America’s biggest challenges is the vast majority of new immigration from homogenous countries. Quite frankly, I have to wonder why they even show up in America….? All they do is make a beadline for the nearest ethnic suburb. They don’t even have to learn English! In California especially. The driving test is in Chinese, the grocers, etc. Seriously, why are you here? It is the poor kids of these offspring who have it rough. The “world within a world” lifestyle they have comes to a shattering end when they go to school. (Sorry your teacher doesn’t speak Mandarin!)
Enough with the segueway….back to Black and White America.
How does someone in the USA even begin to talk about this to a non American?
The ironic thing is that the Chinese are a racist people. Not a knock on China. Homogenous societies just are. Yet all attention is on us. Life for a black man in China is hell. I won the lottery. A white man born and raised in America. I get treated better purely because of my skin. The fact I speak Chinese helps….alot!
Yet one would think with all the other minorities in America that the emphasis on Black America would go away. But it doesn’t.
Why does the world(and the American media)still put it’s spotlight on how Black America gets by?
Maybe it’s because Black America plays a very dominant role within our society. Music, sports. America is a much better place because of our Black People. How can any reasonable person deny this? Yet the Chinese, and others all think we hate each other. That’s not the case at all.
When one can see a mixed couple walking the streets of Memphis, or Atlanta, without a stir, that says a lot. Black White relations are a lot better than they were when my mom was a teenager. There are no Jim Crow laws. No lynchings. No policies designed to “contain” and keep the black man down. The black man in America is an almost extinct creature within our society. Black men kill black men everyday, and they do so in droves. White people kill black people, too. And vice versa. A black man even killed my brother.
Yet all it takes is one public, and controversial incident to take place, and the whole world thinks America is abt to go up in flames.
The older I get the more I truly realize how Blacks were legally shit upon within America from before the Revolution up through at least the 60’s. Lynchings in the South were commonplace. And no one cared. Think about it. You could be pulled from your bed, for any reason, including none, and hung from a tree, without penance, in the American South, ever since the first slave landed, until only recently.
“You lookin’ at my daughter, nigger?”
“You getting’ uppity with me, boy?”
Has a White Man ever been convicted of killing a Black Man in the South, and gone to prison for it, before 1970? So, yeah, the Black Man had it’s reasons for getting pissed, and being pissed off. (though not for killing my brother)
Now…could you ask what if China was that way to us?
“you like Chinese girl, white boy?”
“You got a problem with using Chopsticks, Big Nose？”
If China was like America back then, I’d have died a thousand deaths already. Just last night in the club a European was all over a girl at the bar, and I was just certain he was gonna get his ass kicked. ( And they all would’ve thought he was an American!)
But our relations with Black America aren’t abt to explode into the streets anytime soon. No matter what they ask you here in China, whenever the news breaks of another incident back home.
Now does that mean we’re all angels? The Black Man knows damn well his car better not break down in a white suburb in the South anytime soon, because he’s probably not gonna get any help from a passerby. (that’s the real reason you need a cellphone) How would the USA fare compared to other countries, though? I tend to think we’d come out ahead of most, in terms of tolerance. That’s the irony: thx to the Media, the world thinks Americans are at each others throats.
What if we took 10 million black people and dumped them in say….Finland? Or Sweden? These so called tolerant societies gonna fair well when they have large groups of people unlike their own in their midst? It’s hard to live with people that are different from you. I’m sure it’s much more difficult for a Chinese to live in America than it is for me. Maybe he’s a bit anxious. However, he has to realize that just because he doesn’t have white skin doesn’t mean people don’t think he’s not American.
When I’m in Shanghai buying something, believe or not, I would upon occasion have the cashier give me the price in Shanghai Hua. WTF? Aren’t you looking at my face? Same think in Guangzhou….
Well, maybe they were just sleep walking that day, but in America people still think that just because you are different doesn’t mean you aren’t one of them. I would think that would make a lot of folks a bit more comfortable within our society. Trust me, it’s totally the opposite for a laowai in China or a Gaijin in Japan.
Otherwise, why wouldn’t have these words for us to begin with?
I’d get fired from my job if I called someone a chink in America.
These ancient civilizations lose a lot of their sheen when you consider how deep rooted their words are for us, within all levels of society. Am I the only one winking at the irony here?
When’s the People’s Daily gonna start a campaign on that?
And I never even brought up our Hispanic population. For a nation has heterogenous as we are, I think we’re doing ok, and certainly not on the societal edge of a cliff. We all fairly much get along….well, because we have, too. None of us are going away soon. None of us.
Which reminds me of what we’ve done to “address” things.
Which brings me to……
Oh my, now I’m really at a loss here. I’ve heard China has such a thing, too, you might be a bit shocked to hear. For peasants taking the Gaokao, or for a few of their minorities, but I’m not sure in which context, or even of the accuracy of the above. (I’m too lazy to research this, today, I admit. I’ve been on this article for 2 weeks already)
In true form and in relation to our penchant for “being fair”, we feel great shame for past deeds done wrong.
There have been historical grumblings before: let’s pay them reparations(never gonna happen, where’s it gonna come from?), to “apologizing”…..(ditto…that would just open a can of worms)
So we instituted the above instead, to correct the latent injustice that has taken place. That is, the practice of giving a job or promotion to someone based on race, when everything else is even. It has been good in thought, but not necessarily in practice. Until a White Man get’s jobbed of a promotion it’s all good. We all support the attempt to give a Black Man a good job until he deprives ME of one?
What to do?
But it’s obvious that Blacks were pissed on, and never given an opportunity to obtain anything worthy of feeding his family and buying a house for a rather long time. The above is better than nothing, and it’s not perfect. I just hope I don’t get penalized for it one day, though.
But have you ever even attempted to explain this system to the Chinese? ( What, America isn’t a meritocracy? )
The Chinese are a bit puzzled by this whole thing. Oh how citizenry from homogenous societies live such sheltered lives…!
Do I wonder what would happen if our society was run like the Military, ie a merit based organization? Yeah, I do. But we’re too big for that. And if you want to see the effects of banning such a practice, just take a look at the California University System. Once AA was declared illegal during the admissions process, the acceptance rate for non Asian minorities into this prestigious school system plummeted into I think single digits. Not sure how denying blacks or Hispanics a college education at a prestigious school helps the rest of us, though.