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Pet Sins July 2005

African Americans in Asia - always seen as lower than Europeans?

In the past, the ColorQ webzine has published many stories of Africans and African American expatriates in Asia being treated by the natives with disrespect while white Westerners enjoy the welcome and favor of the natives. Fortunately, such incidents are not without exception. The European 'monopoly' over the 'favor' of Asians may not be unbreakable.

An African American experience in Iraq (2004)

A US Serviceman who served in Iraq noted that the Iraqis he encountered always always prefer to speak to black soldiers. He believes it might be because many African Americans resemble the people of Samarra, a region in Southern Iraq. "I've had an Iraqi man tell me that he likes to talke to black soldiers because we're nicer," he says. [Brooke Kempner "War Comes Home" ColorsNW magazine, December 2004]

An African American in Asia (1950s-1960s)

P, a retired US serviceman, relates, "I served in the United States Air Force in Japan during 1958-1960. Off-base we Black GIs were welcome in many of the Japanese bars and Whites were not. There were also some bars that no Americans were welcome in as well. I encountered similar behavior in the Philippines while assigned to Clark Airbase between 1966-1968."

Blacks vs Whites in Asian Movies

In the Hong Kong action movie A Man Called Hero (based on a comic book), a posse of angry, racist whites interrupt a Chinese New Year celebration in Chinatown by challenging the leader of the local Chinese association to a fight. When the Chinese man triumphs, both black and white onlookers in the background are seen cheering him. Blacks get additional focus when the camera lingers on a group of black spectators rejoicing as the racist whites flee the scene.

The internationally successful Thai martial arts film Ong Bak also presents blacks as more ready to celebrate the triumph of the brown man than whites are. In Ong Bak, the Thai hero enters in night club which an illegal fighting tournament is being conducted. Although he originally had no intention of entering the tournament, he was drawn into the fray when he sees a white Australian battering a Thai woman and a Thai man.After he defeats the Australian, he is attacked by yet another white man, a monster who stops at nothing to kill and injure others. He manages to knock the white man unconscious after a grueling battle. As the Thai hero stands in the middle of a circle of shocked and silent spectators, a black man steps forward towards him with an outstretched fist. The Muay Thai fighter eyes him warily, fearing he might be a third challenger looking to do more violence. But the black man holds eye contact and then smiles. On the top of a black man's fist is a coin. He throws the coin down in front of the boxer as a sign of his appreciation for a job well done. The moment the black man breaks the silence, other spectators begin to cheer and clap, and the hero is showered with coins. The camera pans the faces of expatriate and local bar-goers, and shows the black spectators clapping wholeheartedly while sour-faced white males join in the applause grudgingly.