2015-11-16

Opinion: The Taiwanese Man on the MRT was wrong, but...

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Recently, an expat in Taiwan, Christopher Raymond Hall, was riding the Taipei MRT with his Taiwanese girlfriend when he was accosted by a local man who apparently disliked their interracial relationship, and generally, the involvement of White men with Taiwanese women. He approached them with harsh, insulting words as Hall's girlfriend recorded the incident on her phone. The video was posted onto YouTube, and has since received over two million views—whew! Additionally, the instigator was summoned by the Taipei police, and due to his foolishness, has lost his job.

Without a doubt, the instigator is not only foulmouthed, but is dangerous and possibly has anger issues. He and others like him would do well to keep their mouths shut next time they see strangers they dislike for any unreasonable reason in their backwards minds. 

On the same vein, I respect that all cultures are different, but I wish bystanders would stop ignoring negative situations happening around them in Taiwan when Taiwanese people and foreigners alike are under distress and need assistance. Regarding this particular situation, I believe a comment or two would have sufficiently embarrassed the instigator to the point where he probably would have either kept his mouth shot and gotten off the train earlier in shame.

That all being said, when you compare the treatment between White foreigners and POC expats in Taiwan, the man's belligerence toward Hall is, in my opinion, child's play. Furthermore, it is not an incident of racism.

No, I am not saying the attack was justified. Yes, I will adequately explain why my opinion is such below.


I think White expats in Taiwan (or anywhere, really) would do well to remember that incidents like this are Black or other POC's reality quite frequently, both abroad and often times in their home countries. As I've only walked in my Black female shoes, I will use some of my experiences in Taiwan as an example. 

Aside from my being yelled at by natives on the MRT and street a few times, the incident that will always stick with me would be getting hit by a motorbike while riding my bicycle. The guy, a native, hit me then left the scene. Either by a massive stroke of luck, God above, or a combination of both, my bike was mangled and I only had an abrasion on one leg and a gash on the other. It happen in a residential area with several security cameras, and a taxi driver saw the incident and recorded the guy's license number. I went straight to the police station and filed a report, excited when the police called me to say they tracked him down and summoned him to report to the office the following week.

Naturally, my excitement waned when, despite the video evidence and the witness, the police claimed I should at least be responsible for his broken light on his "new, expensive" bike, as the motorist felt the need to tell me. Pay up or drop the case, the police said. Refusing to pay that idiot, I was forced to walk away with nothing...and deal with inappropriate comments made by police officers about my nationality and appearance. 

Knowing what I've been through in Taiwan, I find Hall extremely lucky, and dare I say it, privileged to have his case garner so much media attention and scholastic examination. I hate to use hypotheticals, but if he were a Black man, I can't be certain this would be the case.

At the end of the day, although Hall had this extremely unpleasant experience, White people, specifically White men, are still the top of the totem pole when it comes to being a foreigner in Taiwan and several other countries. Most Taiwanese people do not feel like the man who accosted him; most would much rather be in the presence of a White person than a POC, including their compatriots. 

And trust me, many White foreigners know this. In fact, I have experienced aggression firsthand on a few occasions from a White man, Taiwanese woman couple. 

Ironically, one incident took place on the MRT. There I was with my friend, who is a half-Black girl from France. We were chatting away when a large White man came entered the crowded car with his Taiwanese girlfriend (possibly wife? I don't know). He proceeded to insult our looks in English, calling us ugly among other ridiculous insults in a low, insidious voice, egged on by his girlfriend's uncomfortable laughter. I brought it to my friend's attention, but as a woman, I was honestly uncomfortable about confronting the man. I felt small and disappointed that the man felt the need to bring his racism with him to Taiwan.

The second incident caught me completely off-guard, yet hurt just the same. I was waiting for the bus when a White man, Taiwanese woman couple was walking by. The man loudly insulted my appearance, then enjoyed a loud, obnoxious laugh with his woman as they waltzed down the street holding hands. Spending a night on the town, having a great meal, insulting Black expats—all the makings of a lovely night for some White foreigners in Taiwan.

Samba Diop of Diary of a Black Man in Taiwan summarizes this phenomenon beautifully:
"We all know racism is by definition"white" meaning here,if we were to draw a picture of racism. It wouldn't be far from one that materializes itself from the lighter you are,the chances increase with how more or less racist you are going to be to those darker than yourself. 

Well for the few whites in Taiwan that I got to ask the question: if there are ways that white people can potentially become more racist in Taiwan or Asia in general because of the culture of hatred towards blacks mostly, most of them denied it except a quite aged lady married to Taiwanese person. 

She told me,quote and quote: it's remotely possible. 

Well I have been living in Taiwan for more than three years and my experience has been that European white people have more prejudice towards blacks versus North American whites either Americans or Canadians. 

For South African whites I can't say much for the only one I do really know is a nice guy. 

Given the fact that whites have always benefited of what we call here"white privilege" I kinda thought that could be the reason why some whites do not want by any means associate themselves with blacks or if they do so it's more with African Americans."
-"White Racism in Taiwan", Diary of a Black Man in Taiwan
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If you are a White expat in Taiwan or any other country, and you're angered by my post thus far, I entreat you to calm down and avoid shedding the infamous White tears. Not all White people do these horrible things or have these feelings, but you must understand that anywhere on this globe, White people—again, especially White men—are the most privileged. Yes, even in countries where they are the minority.

Racism is only possible when a member of the privileged class is being prejudice toward a member of a more disadvantaged group within a society. How is Hall and other White people in Taiwan and similar countries part of a privileged class? Well, on the surface, this is a sociological quagmire, but it's quite simple to explain. 

Oftentimes, White people in Taiwan are able to operate motor vehicles without a license, claim to police that they do not know Chinese when they're caught, and get away with it. They often get paid more than locals for the same jobs (but sometimes still complain about the terms and hours, ignoring the fact that work culture in Asia is different than that of the West). Regardless of whether or not they are well-educated or took a "C's get degrees" approach to earning a BS in Insert Random Science Here, they are still hired for jobs more than POC or even Taiwanese people who lived abroad and returned. 

I could go on, but I will not.

These things make White people the privileged class in Taiwan. So, although the chauvinist who insulted Hall and his girlfriend is Taiwanese, he was being prejudice, not racist. Someone not wanting to sit next to you on the MRT is not racist, they're prejudice. Someone who thinks you can't eat spicy food is not racist, they're prejudice. It's annoying like racism, it hurts almost as much as racism, but IT'S NOT RACISM!

Moving and living abroad comes with both joys as well as trials and tribulations. Enjoy the good moments and deal with the bad as it comes. But I would like to let White expats know, it would be much, much worse for you if you were a POC. Remember that.

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16 comments:

  1. This is a fantastic article. I've had so many discussions of this issue with white friends of mine who live in Taiwan in South Korea. Most of them were very receptive and accepting of this; however, I was confronted with some hostility when I discussed this with a few white expats. As a Mexican-American, I cannot recall how many times I've overheard white expats mocking or insulting a POC expat after that expat exited from the MRT.

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    1. Thanks! I think there's a power trip some can't resist when they realize they're on top of the food chain. For others, I believe they feel uncomfortable when there's a discussion about their position. They might not discriminate against others, but they don't want to recognize that they're privileged.

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  2. Social Justice16/11/15 4:00 PM

    africa grow like cancer-AIDS south africa softly sings slaughter of whites kill the boer thug mentality brute culture parasitic promiscuity disease genocide now

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  3. Umm, I'm not going to argue that black people aren't treated awfully in many circumstances (and probably on average much worse than white people), but your definition of racism is wrong. There's no socioeconomic characteristic that validates or invalidates the act. The guy was accosted because of a belief about his persona based on his racial appearance -- that's racism, plain and simple.

    I'm a white dude, and I get what you're saying, but the dictionary is the dictionary... Otherwise though, you sound like a smart, cool chick. Hopefully I run into you one day here in Taiwan! :)

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    1. I don't believe my definition is wrong. Only the most privileged race in a society can be guilty of racism; others who discriminate based on race are prejudice. Whites are, albeit ironically, the most privileged group in Taiwan. Hall was ultimately confronted because he is, generally, a foreigner. I don't validate the man's actions of invalidate Hall's hurt feelings.

      Thanks for the compliment, though I'm no longer in Taiwan.

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    2. Why don't you just look it up? Nowhere anywhere does it say that only the most privileged race can be guilty of racism.

      http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism

      And since you brought it up, umm, whites are absolutely not the most privileged race in Taiwan either. For that to even begin to be true, whites would have to outnumber other races as Taiwanese citizens.

      And finally, how exactly did anyone know that Hall was a foreigner? Hint: they didn't. They saw he was white and made an assumption about who he was. That in fact is racism.

      (posted in the wrong spot earlier, apologies)

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    3. I am not a racist person, or a least I consciously attempt to have o unfounded bigotries of any kind. You should have titled it "I don't want to be racist against white people but...." I do find this article a bit anti white men, and in particular white European men. I am from the UK and we have a thriving multi cultural society, with a fair share of racism from idiots of every colour and creed, to victims of every colour and creed. However, generally the UK has a lot to be proud of. Your quoted text from this diary of this gentleman, I do not agree with at all. He says he has issues with white Europeans, I am sorry he has had these, but then he generalizes about all of Europe, and the US, and another country based on the one person he knows from there. Great argument that, very insightful. It is exactly the kind of comments I would try not to make about whole races of people. Obviously this is not a moral problem you are having using it whilst using it to support a very flawed argument about white men. I wish you luck, and hope you don't run into too many idiots in life, try not to become one yourself in your struggles against these people.

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    4. I don't know why you believe I'm trying to be anti White men here. As I stated in the article, what happened to Hall is deplorable, but there is also tension between different groups of foreigners.

      I find it especially interesting that you think I have an agenda against White European men as I'm describing behavior that I've come across personally (thus, it's an opinion piece) from other people who I actually didn't know; I have no clue if they were European or American or from another place, so I think you're arbitrarily taking it personally (which I warn against in the article). I actually have a quite a few more personal anecdotes than this, but my goal was to show a taste of my experience, not whine, rant, and rave about every micro-aggression.

      Like myself, the author of the quoted blog piece was speaking from his experiences and expressing his opinions. No everyone's opinion is going to align with yours, but we are all entitled to express our opinion. Again—like I said in the article, which I hope you read to completion before commenting—I am not trying to generalize here, I am only stating my opinion and what I have noticed.

      With that, thank you for your (albeit contrary, which is perfectly fine with me) opinion.

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  4. Why don't you just look it up? Nowhere anywhere does it say that only the most privileged race can be guilty of racism.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism

    And since you brought it up, umm, whites are absolutely not the most privileged race in Taiwan either. For that to even begin to be true, whites would have to outnumber other races as Taiwanese citizens.

    And finally, how exactly did anyone know that Hall was a foreigner? Hint: they didn't. They saw he was white and made an assumption about who he was. That in fact is racism.

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    1. Why are you assuming that the semantics behind a concept or term are ridged? Not everything is defined by what the dictionary says or doesn't say, and I think (well, hope) you know that.

      Like I said in the article, privilege is not only defined by strength in numbers. And I'm sorry, you're last point is a bit laughable. Taiwan is a homogenous society where the biggest non-native population is Han Chinese, so it wouldn't be outrageous in an environment like Taiwan to assume that Hall is a foreigner (which, being British, he is).

      Now, if the context was Hong Kong, it might be reasonable to call a person prejudice for assuming a White person isn't a native as many White people were born and raised in Hong Kong speaking fluent Cantonese.

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    2. LOL okay. Well if you get to define things based on arbitrary bullshit you pull out of your ass, then I guess you're never wrong. Nice way to live. Good luck.

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    3. Well, that escalated quickly.

      Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion on a situation based on their perspective. I don't agree with your opinion, you don't agree with mine. I'm sorry you had to resort to rude, hostile language. Good luck to you too!

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  5. Yeah this is common in Taiwan and my Taiwanese wife and have experienced this before. My wife was also called a whore, pretty much just like in the video.

    We also frequently get unfriendly stares. It's not just the men. Taiwanese women frequently tisk and shake their heads at us in disgust. Now my poor wife gets nervous and agitated whenever someone even looks in our direction.

    We've even had racist comments at me at religous places of worship. One time as we were entering Longshan temple in Taipei (ironically a tourist attraction) one of the little temple workers (an elderly lady in blue) hissed at my wife "I shouldn't come in". Confused my wife stuttered "this is my husband" to which the lady retorted "disgusting".

    Verbal abuse to whites, blacks and Indians is common, physical violence less so. However, South East Asians have it particularly bad (my wife's brother's wife is Philippine and like most South East Asians in Taiwan she has it worse). It wasn't that long ago restaurants in Taoyuan were banning Philippine (or anyone who looked Philippine). Why? Because of an incident in Phillipines where a Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed when they were illegally poaching fish in the Philippines.

    We have personally known an Indonesian maid who was verbally and physically abused. Ironically, when she tried to report it (there is actually a "department" in Taiwan with a phone number who deal with this type of abuse), she was deported....

    As usual, Taiwanese will either:

    1) deny racism exists in Taiwan

    2) justify it because foreigner xyz or country xyz is more racist

    3) assume the incident was caused by the "loser" foreigner causing trouble

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    1. Many valid points, especially concerning the attitude toward South East Asian. Until Taiwan stops thinking this sort of attitude is widely accepted by people from the West (which, to a degree, it is) or that being prejudice is somehow cosmopolitan, things aren't going to change.

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  6. Hi Nicolette,

    Most people are inclined to comment when they disagree so I'm chiming in to lend a little support. I mostly agree with what you've written here, speaking as a white man in Taiwan (and not the most politically progressive one either).

    Of course, I would like to think that international media would have paid as much attention to the story had Hall been a person of colour. Actually, I think the main reason it was so viral had to do with how the video was produced and uploaded to YouTube... but I could be wrong.

    Anyway, don't agree with everything here but I'm reading with interest and learning something, so thanks for throwing your 2 cents down.

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    1. Thanks. That's the beauty of sharing thoughts, opinions, and experiences. No everyone has to agree, but I think everyone should at least listen.

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