Teaching racist rhetoric in Africa

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"Racism for Sale – BBC Africa Eye documentary" (6/12/22).  The film is 49:05 long, but you only need to watch the first 15 seconds to get a graphic idea of what it's about:

BBC News Africa description:

In February 2020, a shocking video began to circulate on Chinese social media. A group of African children are being instructed, by a voice off-camera, to chant phrases in Chinese. The kids repeat the words with smiles and enthusiasm — but they don’t understand that what they’re being told to say is “I am a black monster and my IQ is low.” The clip ignited outrage in China and beyond.

But no-one ever answered the crucial questions: Why was this filmed? Where was it shot? Who made it?

These questions send #BBCAfricaEye and #BBCEyeInvestigations reporters Runako Celina and Henry Mhango on a journey into a Chinese video-making industry that exploits vulnerable children across the continent.

Comments by Conal Boyce:

Mainland Chinese trick African children into making demeaning videos, such as the one that begins this post, where they stand behind a blackboard gleefully chanting "Wǒ shì hēi guǐ, zhìshāng dī 我是黑鬼, 智商低" ("I'm a n*gg*, low IQ").  Apparently on the mainland, the many videos of this type are considered hilarious — a big hit on social media (of which I've seen hints in the past but didn't realize how really ugly it can get). I learned of this craze via a Spanish language BBC report on youtube called Los polémicos videos racistas que youtubers chinos graban en África para ganar dinero (The controversial racist videos that Chinese youtubers record in Africa to make money). Two BBC reporters went to Africa and actually tracked down one of the guys who makes these videos. (And, as a bonus, the black lady from the UK who interviews him actually speaks better-sounding Putonghua / Mandarin than the creepy Chinese guy himself!)

This slur is not accidental or incidental.  It is intentional, mean-spirited racism.


Selected readings



  1. Cervantes said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 8:12 am

    Of course mockery of black people was once a standard form of mainstream entertainment in the U.S. You may recall that racist caricatures of Barack Obama were published in big city newspapers. It's mostly gone underground now to social media, but there's still plenty of it.

  2. Dwight Williams said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 9:04 am

    Bigotry-enforcement videos…this is an unhappy development. Probably not as new as it looks, either.

  3. KeithB said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 12:19 pm

    I would think that China would clamp down on these since they are trying to use development diplomacy in Africa to improve their standing.

  4. Dan Milton said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 5:11 pm

    A few days ago the filmmaker was arrested in Zambia and extradited to Malawi.

  5. D said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 5:23 pm

    Various news stories can be found by googling "Lu Ke Malawi" or the like. He was charged Monday with five counts of child trafficking. It'll be an interesting case to follow.

  6. AntC said,

    July 21, 2022 @ 9:26 pm

    Thank you Victor, I was going to watch just the first few seconds, but that was compelling documentary.

    Given how tightly CCP controls social media, and that they're trying to ingratiate themselves in Africa, how was this material allowed to stay up on Weibo for so long?

    Respect to the reporter (Runako Celina) for keeping her cool and continuing to speak very clear Putonghua, with every question on-point as 'Su-su' compounded lie upon racial insult. She must have been boiling inside — as was I.

    The irony is that if Su-su turned up in a village in rural China and started filming cute kids, he'd be immediately arrested, no matter how innocent the purpose.

    Thanks @Dan for the news he has now been arrested. He's probably begging to be clapped in jail in Malawi, not deported back to China. "This is libel" he says at one point. Try that defence in China!

  7. anonymous said,

    July 22, 2022 @ 6:12 am

    Nothing new here.

    When I was a kid children on a snipe hunt were encouraged to entice the animals by chanting: "Owa tana siam".

  8. ~flow said,

    July 22, 2022 @ 8:08 am

    German history informs us that a society that has given itself over to psychopaths will turn into a society of psychotics. A society that allows its leaders systematically oppress and detain members of the society on the basis of opinions, confession and ancestry will very quickly churn out vicious bloodthirsty minions. Such a society will produce nothing but pain, death and destruction to its neighbors and ultimately to its own people. The extermination campaigns that are waged and glorified in the open and carried out in the secret-but-not-so-secret hushed silence of unspeakable horrors will and must turn against those who have allowed them to happen in the first place. But first fear, destruction, pain, death must be carried as far as possible by any means conceivable to as many as imaginable. First society kills its own heart, then anything that is good, beautiful or alive must, seemingly by some inevitable terrifying law, be exterminated with utmost brutality.

    I am not sure why I am thinking so much about history these days, or whether these lines are appropriate.

  9. David Arthur said,

    July 22, 2022 @ 3:10 pm

    anoymous: Ronnie Barker presented this as the Siamese national anthem.

  10. AntC said,

    July 22, 2022 @ 5:29 pm

    @anonymous Nothing new here.

    I see nothing at all comparable.

    These kids in Malawi are being made to speak a language they don't understand. Whereas the Barker sketch shows the audience 'got' what they were saying pretty quickly.

    And 'Siam' is there for its sound in English. There's no racial slur on people from Siam or on the colour of their skin. (Did you watch even the first 20 seconds of the BBC doco?)

    @~flow: no, not appropriate here. Has your account been taken over by a spammer?

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    July 23, 2022 @ 5:12 am

    ~flow — they seem totally appropriate to me. In the past, AntC has accused me of trolling; now he suggests that your account is being used for spamming — in neither case was the accusation justified, so I would ask AntC his motive for making these unwarranted accusations.

  12. Sanchuan said,

    July 31, 2022 @ 11:19 am

    I for one think that ~flow must be a beautiful person (other descriptors fail me) for the sensitivity and eloquence and audacity displayed in their comment, which I think was an appropriate enough reaction to the sensitive nature of the topic raised in the post.

    Politics is literally all about governing people's behaviour, norms and morals. And yet we're rarely allowed to note any of this out loud, distracted as we are by constant talk of leaders as dei ex machina or nations aa disembodied GDPs and deaf to the vast human tragedies and comedies that happen in between as a result. Here's a comment that's calling out the worst of it and waxing 'philippic' against it. And I'm here to applaud it.

  13. Sanchuan said,

    July 31, 2022 @ 1:05 pm

    I for one think that ~flow must be a beautiful person (other descriptors fail me) for the sensitivity and eloquence and audacity of their comment, which I judged an appropriate enough reaction to the sensitive nature of the topic raised in this post.

    Politics is all about the continuous process of shaping people's behaviour, norms, communication and morality. And yet we are seldom allowed to note as much out loud, distracted as we are by the constant talk of leaders as party-political dei ex machina and nations as disembodied GDPs and hence deaf to the vastness of human tragedies (and comedies) that happen in between. Here's a comment that calls it out for what it is. And I'm here to applaud it.

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