Many are now aware there are 56 different nationalities in China. There is another lesser known community, however, that sometimes refer to themselves as the 57th nationality. (Some in the community actually hate that term… but we’ll get to that later.) These are the Minkaohan (民考汉), ethnic minorities raised in Han-language schools alongside Han classmates. The term Minkaohan literally means “minority testing using Han”. With their perfect grasp of putonghua and numerous Han Chinese friends, Minkaohan are often the best economic achievers in their community, and a successful model of the Chinese government’s policies towards minorities. But with their non-Han faces, and with their inability to read/write their own language, they often find themselves uncomfortable in both communities.
Their fate, their experience is critical in understanding the future of multi-ethnic China. Their support, their contribution is critical in building a China that lives at peace with itself.
Don’t indulge our “racial complex”
I’ve been silent for several days; I’ve maintained my silence out of doubt.
These few days, I’ve been thinking a lot. I’ve been thinking of my childhood; at the time, I was the only minority student in my class, and all of my friends were Han. We went to school together, went home together, and played together. In the alley where our home was, the left side was entirely Han, while the right side was entirely Uygur. During hot summer evenings, everyone sat together cooling off in the courtyard, talking about every day things. The alley was filled with harmonious laughs and chatter.
The couple across the street were both teachers, “old Xinjiang” (usually Han who have lived in Xinjiang since the ’50s). Our families had excellent relations. During the summer, when our fruit was ripe, we’d carry over some. When they had vegetables they couldn’t finish, they’d bring it over…. later on, we moved away. Although we never sold our home in that alley, we rarely went back. After my parents retired, in recent years they’ve been spending their summers in that old home. During the May 1st holiday this year, I also went back. The couple across the street had moved away long ago. The alley still had Han on the left side and Uygurs to the right, but, all of the Han were strangers. My mom said, the old neighbors were all rotated back to their ancestral homes (inland China), and all of these were new emigrants. The neighbors weren’t interacting any longer, we were all strangers to each other… what changed?
An incident let me understand the answer to that question. That day, I had just gotten home, and were all in the courtyard. Suddenly, a Han girl pushed the door open and came inside, asking, “Did anyone see a chicken? Our chicken ran away.” My dad was busy digging a drainage ditch said, “Sure, saw it.” The girl paused for a second out of confusion, and then said, “Yesterday we forgot to close our front page, the chicken ran away… I’m asking door to door.” She kept explaining. My dad said again: “Sure, I saw it.” Haha, I know my dad’s got a sense of humor, loves to make fun of people… so I said: “Dad, stop teasing, she’ll think you’re serious.” My dad said: “I wasn’t teasing, I really did see it.” The girl stood there, not knowing what to say… so she kept explaining what her chicken looked like. My dad laughed, and said, “I told you I saw it, your family’s chicken wandered into our home last night. We were afraid it would eat from our little garden, but if we pushed it out, we were afraid someone else would eat it. So, we put it in our chicken coop, and were waiting for its owner to come fetch it.” Wow, he really had seen it!
The girl called over her husband, and they carried the chicken away. As she left, she just muttered “that’s our chicken, we’re taking it!” I was a little unhappy: “Not a word of thanks! As if we were intentionally trying to hide their chicken?” My dad said: “As long as they don’t suspect we actually stole their chicken, that’s already pretty good. Who cares about thanks?” I said: “Why’d you keep it! You should’ve shooed it away last night.” My dad said: “If that chicken really was lost, everyone in this alley would be a suspect, is that any good? It’s good enough if they’re happy.” Today, people and people no longer have that mutual trust. They grabbed their chicken left; even if they ran into my dad later on, they probably wouldn’t even greet him… how could there be any neighborly feelings left?
As a Minkaohan, for a long time I’ve been in an environment where I work and live with Han. I’ve never had any sort of hatred towards any other race. I’ve also never had any sort of racial emotion… but I’ve found that both in life and work, only those “old Xinjiang” are really close to us. And instead, those young Han who’ve just arrived, they’re all very arrogant, very aware of their racial identity. They only interact with people from their own race, and don’t really interact with those from other races. They also have a tendency to look down upon us, even if we make a minor mistake. The sort of harmonious unity between races that used to exist in our work units? That atmosphere has become history….
I used to never think about the past this way. With work pressure and the constant competition in society, I don’t have the time to relax and really chew over these issues. I came to this forum just to relax, have fun, be myself. I’ve also heard friends introduce “Uygur Online” (ed: internet forum for Uygur just closed by the government, more details below); I logged in once, and I was scared away by the dark smoke (ed: it has a reputation for being heavy on angry racial rhetoric) in there, and I’ve never been back. But now that forum has been closed, a bunch of characters from that forum have migrated here. Our forum has been filled with Uygur Online topics for several days now. Many have expressed their unhappiness at “Uygur Online”‘s suppression, and this leads to a battle of tongues…. I normally don’t care about these either, but after stumbling into these heated topics, I found myself quickly sucked into the discussion. Only then did I realize that I had such a deep “racial” complex.
Looking at the forum, no matter what the topic of debate is, it always ends up being an issue of race. When I see Han and Uygur debating, and then some excessive language… I grew really angry. Some people are recklessly dragging in various conflicts, and endless debate around the topic of “Uygurs are so and so… Han are so so so… Koreans are so so so…. Because Uygurs are this way so Han are that way… Because Han are that way so Uygurs are this way…” This kind of debate can have no conclusion, but quickly draws up hostile emotions on both sides. To tell you the truth, for a few days, I was really angry at those Han debaters. Their arrogant speech, repeatedly claiming they represented the Chinese government, that they’re the real masters of China, completely ignoring the feelings of all other minorities with the same legal rights as masters of China.
One person kept emphasizing: “If you’re anti-China, if you stir up trouble, if you curse Han people, I will … something something…” An attitude as if he was China’s bodyguard, a sense that we had all become separatists, all supporters of Xinjiang independence. I participated in some debates; although I knew I wasn’t much of a debater, but I have the same blood and flesh, and I felt a need to defend my own race, I couldn’t let others insult and curse at my race. I wasn’t that extreme, and could only use my typical warm style to extinguish the fierce fires held by those extremists… but in doing so, I hurt myself. I don’t deny that I have a “race complex”. I’ve just discovered it these few days; seeing my compatriots cursed, I wanted to help. When I saw my own race being cursed, I really couldn’t take it. And at the same time, I realized every race has a race complex!
We can all calm down, and turn back and look at our own words and actions.
That way, in one of my short posts, I mentioned an idealistic world, an innocent online platform. I have no interest in emulating Uygur Online, but I really hope for a fair environment where everyone can say their piece, say what’s in their hearts. But that kind of environment can only be realized by thousands of users joining together… and now I realize how childish and immature that hope was.
These days, I’ve been silently thinking of many things. All of this heated debate are all borne of one thing: all of us are indulging in our “racial complexes”.
All of us can reflect and reconsider.
Here, no one is anyone else’s enemy. There are no Xinjiang-independence seekers here; there is no one looking to inflame racial emotions; and absolutely no one here threatening our motherland’s safety. We’re on a platform where there are no class divides; no one is better than anyone else, no one is anyone else’s master Don’t randomly accuse each other of crimes, and don’t push all problems onto race. We should discuss issues on the basis of facts; we shouldn’t defend or protect perspectives that aren’t right; we should all try to be objective. Don’t type without thinking. Otherwise, we’ll all accumulate anger, and then we will become real enemies. Can we all stop and think about what we’re doing? Control your mouths, and control your keyboards. Otherwise, we’re all criminals.
Don’t indulge your racial feelings. Try to think about problems from the perspective of others. Good and bad, how many of us can really clearly understand it? Don’t think of yourself as an internet policeman; there are already professionals on the job. Don’t hurt the feelings of other minorities; it’s not just you and me that are hurt, but our country will also suffer. If you really love our country, then please don’t let your passions flow out in a flood; just maybe, the sentence you’re about to type without thinking could bring disaster to the country. Everyone, let’s be more low key.
All of us, we don’t need to “take care” of each other. We aren’t enemies. We are just people of different races living in China.
Watch our speech, manage our “racial complex”, think before speaking, and then write what is in our hearts. None of us represent anything, none of us are citizens above anyone else. No matter which side you are, I ask that you forgive the extreme speech of others… just think of it as a black bubble that can’t survive in an atmosphere full of oxygen.