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
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.