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Pet Sins June 1999

A Chinese woman's hidden attitudes towards Indians

I met K, a woman from China who is dating one of my acquaintances. K's boyfriend is a white American who is quite fond of boasting about how many foreign friends he has, and is rather critical of Americans whom he considered to be less 'open-minded' than himself.

Anyway, one day, I gave some Chinese medicine to an Indian friend who was having a minor but persistent ailment. Not seeing any expiry date on the packaging, the young man from India had asked me why there wasn't any expiry date, and how would he know if it was still good.

Not being familiar with Chinese medicine, except for that one brand that was recommended to me by friends, I went to ask K about the expiry date. On hearing of the enquiry from the young Indian man (who is known to K), K exclaimed, "What does he mean by asking about the expiry date? In India they don't even have enough to eat!"

I was taken aback, and did not know how to interpret her outburst, except to surmise that she means that people from countries with allegedly underfed populations have no right to ask about the quality of their food. So presumably only people from the so-called "First World" have a right to quality control, in her opinion?

I didn't want to jump to conclusions about the woman based on one incident alone, but some time later, I heard her remark that Indian and Chinese mixed children may be good-looking, but it is definitely better for such a child to be classified as Chinese, because being classified as Indian was "not good".

I didn't ask her to elaborate on what she meant by "not good", but I was not very comfortable with what was being said. In a way, I was both disappointed and surprised by her because I got to know her through her boyfriend, and she never expresses opinions like that in front of him, trying to stay in tune with his "open-minded" image, I supposed. So I was not previously aware of this side of her. She was probably hiding her intolerance of other people of color from her white friends to please them and keep them, but, with less reserve, she shows her ugly side to other people of color.

JY