The class period is spent talking about Chinese musical technique and how superior it is to that of Western countries. You remind yourself of all the superb musicians you know back home, but feel a little less confident in your own abilities. One kids piped up "yeah...I mean, if Americans were such good musicians, there would be more of them in the music honors classes here!"
Every head in the room turns to you. They want to know what you will say, how you will react, if you will lash out in anger or get on a soap box. The teacher asks you “what do you Americans think about these issues?” Like you can speak for the whole country.
You want to reminded them that there are only ten American kids in the whole school, that six of them ARE in the honors classes. But the discussion moves on before you can fully articulate your arguments. Do you feel like raising your hand to answer any more of the teachers questions? Do you feel you will have the motivation and confidence to do well on the upcoming exam? Do you feel it will be graded fairly?
Next, an add for shampoo “to bring out your deep black natural color and emphasize straight beautiful hair.” Your hair is blonde and curly. The next commercial finally has white people in it. They are advertising good old American pie, but the actors on the screen are dressed in overalls and say things like “aint that there a mighty fine piece o’ pie.” Who actually talks like that?
"aint that there a mighty fine schnoz." She wants to touch it. She gets offended when you don’t want her to: “I was just appreciating your heritage.” And even though you think the lady might have meant it as a complement you can’t help wishing you could hide behind a scarf.
This post isn't trying to rag on China, in fact most of my time there was wonderful and I was welcomed and treated well. But those moments when you are reminded of how different others think you are can become exhausting. All the rules seem tailored for someone else and you feel out of place.
I have never had to know what it is like on a daily basis to live in a system of discrimination. A short trip isn't that big of a deal when you know you can retreat back to your comfy white American middle class home at the end.
Follow more conversations about racial justice and Christianity through email or RSS feed.