Chinese as “honorary Whites” in Apartheid South Africa

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apa...

“For use by white persons” – sign from the apartheid era Español: “Sólo para blancos” – letrero de la era del apartheid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Krishna Vanstraelen

If assimilation theory seems to oppose the general trend for first generation Chinese migrant in recent years, it however sheds light and corroborates segmented assimilation theories for the second and third generations. The first wave of Chinese migrants in South Africa in the early 1900s has followed a so-called typical way of integrating a culturally foreign society. Though what drove Chinese migrants in South Africa to follow classic segmented assimilation theories is the succession of two distinct historical events, their entrepreneurship and desire to access the higher sphere of South African society, which is striking and somewhat unusual, given the political and social nature of the host country.

Much like current Chinese migrants to South Africa, first generation migrants tended to send their offspring to China, both to learn and preserve Chinese tradition and culture and to receive what parents viewed as a “proper” education. However, in the early 1950s, the Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act enacted by the newly established Communist Party, along with the strengthening of institutionalised apartheid in South Africa, made it increasingly difficult for Chinese to travel in and out of China, hindering thus education in the home country.

When examining the case of first, second, and third generations, Yoon Jung Park, the most cited scholar in this specific field, refers to them respectively as shopkeepers, fence-sitters, and bananas. Shopkeepers because these children born in the 1920s and 1930s usually received Chinese education, had little to no English proficiency, and typically ended up helping their parents as shopkeepers or working in unskilled or semi-skilled positions in factories, retail shops, or offices. Though second generation children as well, fence-sitters were born from the 1940s through the early 1960s, and were labelled as such due to an ambiguous identity.

Although growing in a climate separating whites and non-whites, Chinese migrants and their children were given concessions and privileges as their social status shifted progressively towards “honorary whites”. Hence, most Chinese children born during this time period attended private white church schools by means of a progressive loosening of discriminatory rules and heavy financial sacrifices made by their parents. Ineluctably, as children were gradually losing their Chinese language ability and increasingly conform to western culture, their identity and place in the South African society became equivocal.

Lastly, the bananas refer to the physicality of the fruit; yellow on the outside, white on the inside. Born in the late 1960s through the 1970s, these children had little to no experience of Apartheid-era discrimination, as Apartheid and its institutionalized rules were gradually fading away—at least for Chinese residents/citizens, who enjoyed a full primary and secondary education alongside white children in government and private white schools. As a result, most children of this generation developed a strong affiliation to western culture, low relations to China and its language, and an ever-growing number completing tertiary education allowing them to climb the social ladder (Park, 2009).

The crux of Chinese assimilation that trails segmented theories is found in the early 1950s, when regulatory rules hamper Chinese migrants to follow customary patterns in regards of their low integration and their offspring. When returning to their home country became less of an option, Chinese migrants generally estimated that providing their children with better/white education will facilitate and increase their social mobility. Through massive financial sacrifices and the withstanding of discriminatory rules and societal norms, parents of children born from the 1940s through the early 1960s (and onwards) were able to send them to white schools, allowing these children to access tertiary education and gain a foothold and recognition in the South African society.

Reference

Park, Y. J. (2009). A matter of honour: Being Chinese in South Africa. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Advertisements

Marketing lighter skin in South Africa

by Yusuke Shiga

Lots of cosmetic companies have globalized their markets by using ingenious marketing strategies, and the number of consumers of these products has proliferated. Especially skin whitening products are purchased in many countries and the inclination for whiter skin is so prevalent, yet the causes of this social phenomenon are complicated. In this writing, I’d like to focus on this trend in South Africa.

In this complicated discourse, there are two main factors, social structure and marketing strategies, specifically advertisements. First of all, as for advertisements, companies have sold the products by highlighting their great effects on the skin with pictures of consumers who successfully achieved the whiteness and nice skin condition, and also emphasized that having whiter skin improve their dating and marriage prospect. In fact, the winners of beauty competition were chosen for the models of many advertisements and encouraged people to buy the products. Moreover, these ads stressed the healthy aspects, the commodities protect your skin from the harsh rays of the sun and make your skin smooth or brighten. Most importantly, these ads said “manufactured for black by their brothers/sisters in U.S.”, this phrase tremendously encouraged them to use cosmetic products.

Concerns about social structure, racial hierarchy, and apartheid have played significant roles on seeking whiteness. The social stratification/class were determined by one’s racial category, and lower class, colored had limited access to occupation, education, housing, and so on. Therefore, for them whitening skin tone means racial uplift and getting chance to become wealthier. Within the society, white skin implicated modernity and progress, because during that time, not only wealthier people and whites but people who looking for better jobs migrated from rural area to urban area.

However, in the 1960s, an anti-skin whitening movement occurred, because black politicians and nationalists criticized this trend as “betraying the race.” They insisted to be proud of their skin color. Plus, the fact that scientists proved that ingredients in skin whitening products were harmful to skin fostered this anti-movement.

While after it was proven that using these products might cause serious skin troubles like “chubabas,” which are purpled patches of skin, some continuously put these chemicals on their skin. The struggle black Africans faced is depicted in the film “Skin” by Sandra Laing. This movie is based on a true story and shows the strong impact of the skin color in everyday life in South Africa. The ironic scene is that parents who are both white rejoiced to hear their child who had been recognized as colored before was authorized as white.

In my opinion, the main reason why these issues still persist is because there is possibility that you can move to higher class after using these products, even though you also have possibility of having “chubabas”. Especially, lower class tend to become addicted to cosmetics, due to the strong racial hierarchy in the society, and this “high-risk high-return” ideology has a powerful effect on whitening products addicts, I think. Yet, various elements are connected to this social matter, we need to analyze more from different perspectives.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Skin Whitening as Social Uplifting and Achieving the Ideal “beauty”

by Moe Miura

There are many skin-whitening products in global markets today. One can easily purchase skin-whitening products even without knowing it, because whitening one’s skin tone is already a big phenomenon in the 21st century all over the world. However, South Africa has significant story about its history of the phenomenon of skin whitening.

In Evelyn Nakano Glenn’s Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters (2009), author Lynn M. Thomas focuses on the history and the use of skin lighteners in South Africa. Today, 35% of the South African women are said to be using the skin-whitening products. Then these questions pop up: why do South African women try to whiten their skin tone? Is there a history behind it?

South Africa is widely known for its history of apartheid, where black and colored people did not have the same political or economic rights as white people, and also were forced to live separately from white people. This policy led to the further discrimination of black and colored people, segregation, and the skin color preferences influenced by the European colonialism (Thomas, 2009). Thus it created the idea of lighter skin equals more liberty and less/no discrimination. Historically, the use of skin whitening products had a lot to do with the fact that there was a significant racial discrimination against black and colored people.

pictureAnother reason of using the skin lighteners was “technology of the self”, meaning people decorate themselves to transform themselves, so that they can achieve happiness or perfection. This can range from concealing blemishes to bleaching their faces. Advertisements have played a big role in informing people about this idea that whiter is more beautiful, using musical stars and beauty contest winners. Capitalism also pushed this idea because the more difficult the thing to achieve, the harder people try; concealing flaws and having lighter skin was difficult thus people would purchase more stuff to achieve this “ideal beauty”. The market of skin lighteners had become multimillion-dollar-per-year endeavor.

As it can be seen, reasons of South African women purchasing skin whiteners ranged from racial uplifting, capitalist commerce, to making themselves look better as a “technology of the self”.

Reference

Thomas, L. M. (2009). Skin Lighteners in South Africa. In Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters, edited by E.N. Glenn. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Enhanced by Zemanta