|Cai's apology on his Facebook page.|
Due to criticism, especially my Chinese blog post, Cai A-Ga decided to retire his Black man mask, and posted an apology on his Facebook page. Roughly, the apology states he is sorry for making foreigners "uncomfortable" and therefore will not use the mask again.
Granted, I feel there is a sarcastic undertone to his response (he's a comedian after all), but he made a good decision and it is certainly a step in the right direction. He personally told me he will not use the mask in the future, but curiously felt the need to state the mask was from Japan. I told him that may be true, but he made the decision to buy it. I also suggested he use his popularity to tell his viewers in a fun way that discrimination is wrong:
Will Cai accept the challenge? I'm leaning toward "no", but I'm glad this issue has sparked a conversation that Taiwan desperately needs to have, especially as a country with a somewhat noticeable foreign population. The responses to Cai's decision run the gamut from bizarre to sympathetic. In this post, I share some of the interesting ones with you, as well as touch the recent media attention I have gotten regarding this issue.
Unsurprisingly, after Cai posted his Facebook apology, a slew of people voiced their opinions on the subject. Naturally, voices of disdain were prominent. Several people argued their points on why they feel the mask was not offensive, why Taiwanese people do not discriminate against others, why they don't believe the video should have been taken so seriously, etc.
There were a few particularly interesting comments. I picked out some to summarize here.
Paul Lin basically feels only Black people in America would feel offended by the mask, and Black people in Africa would find it quite amusing. According to his reasoning, the African American experience of slavery has strengthened their sense of self, thereby giving them a superiority complex whereas Black people in Africa do not possess a strong sense of self (no slavery), resulting in their inferiority complex. Has this man heard of imperialism? That was slavery for many people in Africa. This argument is so strange and inaccurate I'm not sure where to begin. Luckily Tristan Tu tried to set him straight. What's sad is many people "liked" OP's comment—including Cai.
Albert Liou expressed Cai's removal of the Black man mask from circulation is a discriminatory action because the mask is inclusive of Black people; therefore, no Black man mask = no Black character = discrimination. Additionally, he feels I spread a false view regarding the mask's discriminatory nature. He also thinks that Black people are generally portrayed in a positive light in Taiwan, and that I must be looking at Taiwan in a completely different light. Needless to say, I believe most people think it's better not to include a Black person than to include them in a highly negative way.
Mr. Xu believes there might be discrimination in Taiwan, but doesn't think it has anything to do with the video. Although I did explicitly in my last article, he asked that I point out which aspect of the video is discriminatory. He goes on to say that he did not discriminate against Black people when he worked in Nigeria. Furthermore, he states people tend to think Nigerians emit a strong oder because of their diet, especially the consumption of cassava. He thinks everyone in the world should try and respect each other, but that I'm going too far in stating the video was discriminatory.
I don't know where Mr. Xu got his information from. As a Nigerian American who grew up eating lots of cassava, I don't have a chronic body oder problem. Excessive consumption of cassava has resulted in Nigeria having the highest twin birth rate in the world (I don't think I know a Nigerian family without twins, there are sets on both sides of my family)...but not BO, sorry.
Some commentors decided not to give armchair sociology a try and succinctly expressed their disdain of the mask's retirement:
|The emoticons say it all.|
|"You don't have an English announcement for our|
foreign friends (offensive term used)."
|"When are you going burn some Roots [clothing] again?"|
|"Let's all go watch the most recent Black man video."|
Positively, some people attempted to explain the offensive nature of the mask to other posters.
Ms. Zhu: "If a white person from America wore a yellow person [Asian] mask with slit eyes, high cheekbones, a square face, and rotted teeth and spoke English only using [simple] words like "I", "you", and "thank you", while eating tofu, how would we feel? And, what if they said it wasn't discrimination? That's how this Black friend feels toward Cai's movie. We're now a cosmopolitan nation, so we need to respect and tolerate other opinions instead of attacking the voice of others. Right now, Taiwan has huge room for improvement."
|"If a white person made a video standing next to a person|
with a silly yellow person [Asian] mask, we'd be uncomfortable~
[Cai] made a good decision."
There was also great commentary on Taiwan Explorer's Facebook page:
There were some thoughtful Taiwanese commenters who expressed their opinions on YouTube. I especially liked Mr. Lee's POV:
"Concerning the critical responses, Taiwanese people still unconsciously racially discriminate, masked under a sense of humor. In showbiz there is discrimination against foreigners, people with disabilities, LGBT, and other groups.
Is this video deliberately discriminationing against Blacks? In my opinion, definitely not.
[But] from the many responses, most people think this isn't wrong, which is terrible. People get used to this form of discrimination, won't they form discriminatory behavior in their daily lives without noticing it? If this mask is easy to buy, it shows we've even commercialized discrimination.
Maybe this video could be a wake up call for Taiwanese people. If Cai can use this criticism to educate the public, I would begin to see him as a role model"
This was beautifully stated, but unfortunately, I don't think Cai will do as Mr. Lee suggested...
Ms. Chen had an interesting perspective:
"Thanks for promoting environmental protection Cai, but...although many people see the Black mask as funny, I have to say: Taiwanese people have no feelings [opinions?] regarding racial discrimination. When I was growing up in a foreign country, it was common for yellow people [Asians] to experience stereotyping like 'dirty', 'stupid', 'small eyes', etc. Some people laughed with them, but we felt very hurt and unequal to them. Eventually, more countries began to realize the exsistance and danger of racial discrimination, and teach people not to discriminate based on appearance and culture. When people say it's just fun, it's just a mask, I remember how I was ridiculted in a foreign country. If you replace [the Black masked man] with a man wearing a silly yellow man [Asian] mask, what would you think? A country's progress starts from the people. Don't you think this is discriminatory toward Blacks?"I think those two comments deserve a huge round of applause.
|The UDN article|
|The Yahoo! News article|
My comments made it into Taiwanese media through UDN and Yahoo! News Taiwan. Both articles summarized comments made by myself and Taiwanese posters who believed I was taking the situation too seriously.
The UDN article expressed concerns related to the Buddha mask as some people believe I'm being contradictory by stating the Black man mask is offensive, but not mentioning the Buddha mask. In the Chinese version of this post, I urge Taiwanese views to tell Cai their sentiments on the Buddha mask if it offends them. I don't like discrimination of any kind, but as I am unaware of whether the Buddha mask is offensive from a Buddhist standpoint, there isn't much I can say on the subject.
|A Facebook commenter asking whether the Buddha|
mask will be used in the future.
I appreciate that the writer of the Yahoo! article translated some of my initial English post and comments from YouTube. I'm particularly happy about this part:
The above section reiterates my comments regarding how it is difficult for Black people to find work in Taiwan because of discrimination, and my objection to the government okaying the film when most of Taiwan's allies are predominantly Black countries.
With that, I'm glad my 15 minutes of fame has resulted in sparking an important conversation in Taiwan, especially with the current foreigner-bashing fad going on there. Taiwan is a beautiful country with many kind people, but there is a palpable discriminatory mindset which will turn many away if change doesn't occur.