Friday, August 15, 2008

Spanish Eyes

A couple of friends and I have been wondering about the reaction in China to the Spanish ad with their national basketball team doing the slit-eye gesture. I haven't read much about it in Chinese blogs.

I think to Chinese-Americans, it is associated to anti-Chinese racism, though mostly of the playground taunting type. Growing up in Canada, I've had kids running up to me, pulling their eyes in a slit, and calling me a Chink. To be fair, I haven't had that experience in a long time.

Even though racism exist to some extent in every country, it probably takes different forms in multicultural societies (US/Canada) versus more mono-cultural societies (China/Spain). I'll need to ask around when I'm in China next month but my sense is that they do not attach the same significance to the slit-eye gesture as we do here in the US/Canada. It's mainly a taunt by non-Chinese people, usually kids, and I can't see how that situation would be common in China. Likewise, there's probably not enough Chinese people growing up in Spain for the gesture to be associated with anti-Chinese racism.

An article in The Guardian said that no one involved with the ad thought the gesture was inappropriate which is probably true. Maybe no one in China was offended by the ad but they ended up offending a whole bunch of oversea-Chinese/Asians.

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