Niggas in Shanghai: And they’re going Pandas!

I normally pride myself on being the objection of everyone’s attention with my impeccable smile, smooth face and (although slightly loosening) solid body. Now, while many may reserve such egotism, I ardently embrace mine and profess it proudly to the world… Let’s face it, I’m vain. However this narcissistic sentiment quickly changed to uneasiness, perhaps frustration as I unremittingly endure awkward smiles, confused glances and uncouth rubbernecking by 上海人 (Shanghainese), and it’s not just because I am 老外 (foreigner). To put it simply, I’m Black in the city of Shanghai, and even though China is experiencing an unprecedented rise in foreigners, visiting Blacks (any and all kinds) add little chocolate to the endless yellow sea of Shanghai.

This is the second consecutive semester where I once again label myself as the anomaly and I once again I find myself inquiring on the Black Identity in the international scene. With more fervor, I look, listen, and live the ever-changing regional media to catch glimpses of anything reminiscent of Blackness. Discounting the one billboard that we saw in Tianzifang, I was immediately mortified (and oddly humored) by the other discovery in the Wanda Plaza shopping center: two stiff, choad-shaped manikins personifying what I assume the media depicts about Black people; and apparently we’re Cyclopes! Henceforth, those two will be known as Bonquiqui and Tyrone and this unique pair can be seen on display at a little boutique called Devilnut,

To be forthcoming, the images of the pistol, the unreal incisors and thug living passed on as a la moda fashion in the Black community is asinine; and the two Cyclopes’ attire of sagging jeans, bandanas and gaudy jewelry passed on as modern and cosmopolitan is a lie. All of these would have been acceptable if they weren’t coupled with the superfluous use of menacing tattoos, in particular the overt inscription of the word “NIGGAZ” on Tyrone’s chest, which is both ignorant and offensive. As if the three eyes and distasteful attire weren’t enough…

Whether by divine intervention or happenstance, I find it very enlightening to have discovered these two just hours after Fuji’s foretelling condemnation of my router’s name. The juxtaposition of those two occurrences allowed me to decipher Black images in the local media more clearly and rationally – couldn’t have me getting ghetto in China! Having seen Bonquiqui and Tyrone, I was immediately overwhelmed with more than one gut reaction, but due to both Fuji’s earlier objection and many of the China Urban articles on modernization in post-Mao China, calling the society racist was no longer one of them. Instead, I will say that this Chinese quest for modernity and cosmopolitanism has revealed to me two things: (1) there is an international image for Black people and it has infiltrated Chinese culture (so much that it is at the point where the word “nigga” in not only known, but has become a socially accepted term) and (2) they’re not at fault for adopting these images… we are.

I wouldn’t conclude by saying that when I am gawked and giggled at that the 上海人 are subconsciously (or God forbid, consciously) categorizing me with Bonquiqui and Tyrone because I don’t think that I embody anything that the mainstream media depicts about Blacks. (Plus with my high sex appeal and metrosexual tenets, I am undoubtably classier than those two monstrosities… but I don’t judge.) Confronting the transnational image that I’m compared to and thus competing against only reinforces my sentiments of being black abroad. As I informed Shanel, since the preconception of Black is skewed, it is our responsibility to serve as the iconoclast of the vulgarities that we’re associated with and create a new definition for Black.