Confronting 'Chinaphobia' challenge

Confronting 'Chinaphobia' challenge
A graduating Chinese student (right) says goodbye to her professor at the University of Havana in Cuba on July 16.

CHINA - "Quick to judge, quick to anger, slow to understand. Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand," the Canadian rock 'n'roll band Rush sang in the mid-1980s.

Nearly 30 years have passed and, thanks to the Internet, the world is more interconnected than ever. But the fight against prejudice, irrational fear and ignorance continues.

In 2012, Kesho Scott, an associate professor of American studies and sociology at Grinnell College in Iowa, began to notice a kind of fear-induced isolation between Chinese and non-Chinese in the United States.

Discussions with her college students led her to want to understand the social phenomenon.

"I had been doing a project on the Chinese Diaspora when a student asked me, 'Where are the Chinese in the world and why are there so many Chinese in Africa today?'Then another student said, 'It's a new form of colonisation.'"

Scott, 60, is an African-American diversity trainer who has been a college teacher for 25 years. In 1988 she won an American Book Award for Tight Spaces, a collection of autobiographical stories she co-authored with Cherry Muhanji and Egyirba High.

Given her background and training, Scott decided to set up workshops to combat what she considers to be an evolving racism that is becoming global.

Her two-hour workshop, called Challenging Chinaphobia, consists of introducing the concept of Chinaphobia, recognising how it is "learned" and organising activities through which participants can "unlearn" it.

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