Chi­nese, African Amer­i­cans have tribu­la­tions in com­mon

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chen Wei­hua WASHINGTON JOUR­NAL Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

It would be hard for peo­ple to un­der­stand the re­ac­tion or over­re­ac­tion of African Amer­i­cans if they haven’t stud­ied the his­tory of slav­ery and racial dis­crim­i­na­tion in the United States. Like­wise, it would be im­pos­si­ble to cor­rectly in­ter­pret the ac­tion, re­ac­tion and over­re­ac­tion of Chi­nese if they haven’t stud­ied the his­tory known as the “cen­tury of hu­mil­i­a­tion”.

Just in the past few years, African Amer­i­cans have taken to the streets in droves across US cities fol­low­ing the fa­tal shoot­ings or other bru­tal­ity against black peo­ple by po­lice of­fi­cers.

The shoot­ing to death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida by neigh­bor­hood watch vol­un­teer Ge­orge Zim­mer­man in late 2012, for ex­am­ple, gave rise to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. The move­ment gained mo­men­tum across the na­tion fol­low­ing the deaths of Michael Brown in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri, and Eric Gar­ner in New York City, both in 2014, all by po­lice of­fi­cers.

Marches or­ga­nized by the move­ment also were quite no­tice­able dur­ing the re­cent 2016 Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Phil­a­del­phia on July 25-28.

Many African Amer­i­cans lived as slaves in the 18th and much of the 19th cen­tury un­til slav­ery was abol­ished in the 1860s by Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln. How­ever, African Amer­i­cans still suf­fered from se­ri­ous dis­crim­i­na­tion and unequal rights un­til the pass­ing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, which legally bans racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and seg­re­ga­tion.

The sit­u­a­tion to­day is en­tirely dif­fer­ent from the 18th cen­tury or even the 1960s. African Amer­i­cans have taken im­por­tant po­si­tions in the gov­ern­ment, Congress, the Supreme Court and the US mil­i­tary. Barack Obama has be­come the first African Amer­i­can pres­i­dent in the US.

But it can­not un­mask the fact that African Amer­i­cans still face dis­crim­i­na­tion, as ev­i­denced by the low in­come and poor ed­u­ca­tion in their com­mu­ni­ties and the much higher in­car­cer­a­tion rate than the na­tion’s av­er­age.

Clearly, to many African Amer­i­cans, the strug­gle for equal­ity and against racial dis­crim­i­na­tion is far from over. That ex­plains why they tend to over­re­act if cer­tain words and ac­tions re­mind them of the bit­ter his­tory of slav­ery and the con­tin­u­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture, set to open on Sept 24 in the Na­tional Mall in Washington, is likely to help peo­ple bet­ter un­der­stand that men­tal­ity.

For Chi­nese, the “cen­tury of hu­mil­i­a­tion” started in the First Opium War (1840-1842) and lasted un­til 1949 when the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China was founded.

After de­feat­ing China in the First Opium War, the Bri­tish forced the Treaty of Nank­ing on China. Un­der the unequal treaty, China ceded the is­land of Hong Kong to Bri­tain and opened treaty ports. A sub­se­quent unequal treaty granted Bri­tish ex­trater­ri­to­ri­al­ity, mean­ing Bri­tish were im­mune from the pun­ish­ment of Chi­nese laws.

Such unequal treaties were later im­posed on China by other West­ern pow­ers such as France and Ger­many.

The Sec­ond Opium War (1856-1860) al­lowed the Bri­tish to force more opium trade on China and opened more treaty ports. The loot­ing and burn­ing in 1860 of the Old Sum­mer Palace, known to Chi­nese as Yuan­ming Yuan, by the Bri­tish and French troops have left in­deli­ble marks on the Chi­nese col­lec­tive me­mory.

Same with the First Sino-Ja­panese War (18941895). China, which was de­feated, was forced to sign the unequal Treaty of Shi­monoseki in which China ceded Tai­wan and part of the Liaon­ing penin­sula to Ja­pan. China was also forced to pay a huge war in­dem­nity that was sev­eral times Ja­pan’s GDP at the time.

While China was among the vic­tors of World War I, the Ger­man con­ces­sions on China’s Shan­dong penin­sula were trans­ferred to Ja­pan as a re­sult of the 1919 Treaty of Ver­sailles, in­stead of re­turn­ing to China.

There has been no doubt that when Chair­man Mao Ze­dong de­clared in 1949 in the Tian’an­men Rostrum that the Chi­nese peo­ple have stood up, it res­onated so strongly with ev­ery Chi­nese who re­mem­bered the bul­ly­ing by West­ern pow­ers, or the “cen­tury of hu­mil­i­a­tion”.

Un­like the US, whose his­tory in the last 150 years has been seiz­ing land and ex­pand­ing ter­ri­tory, for China, it has been a bit­ter me­mory of ced­ing ter­ri­tory and bul­ly­ing by West­ern pow­ers.

That ex­plains why Chi­nese took to the streets in mas­sive num­bers to protest against the US fol­low­ing the EP-3 spy plane col­li­sion in April 2001 and the bomb­ing of the Chi­nese em­bassy in Bel­grade in May 1999, and that is also why Chi­nese took to the streets when the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment in 2012 na­tion­al­ized the Diaoyu Is­lands in the East China Sea, ter­ri­tory the Chi­nese be­lieve be­longs to China.

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