News Flash: Chinese are Black

In South Africa anyway.

On June 18, 2008, BBC News reported that Chinese citizens of South Africa have "become black."

Although readers of the American national media might be forgiven for thinking that government-mandated race-based programs such as affirmative action are strictly an American phenomenon, government-sponsored racism is found all over the world.  Between 1948 and 1994, the famously racist apartheid Government of South Africa divided people into four racial groups: black, white, coloured and Indian (or Asian).

Whites were at the top of the racial hierarchy, then Asian, then colored, then blacks.  "Colored" referred to people who had some degree of sub-Saharan ancestry, but not enough to be considered Black.  Thus, people who were nearly black, but not quite black enough, lived one rung up from the bottom of the social pecking order.

Although the "Asian" category would seem to be straightforward, it wasn't.  During the apartheid years, mainland China was a relatively poor country with limited international presence whereas Japan and Taiwan were major economic and political powers.  Native-born South Africans of  Chinese ancestry and Chinese immigrants from Mainland China were classified as colored whereas Taiwanese, Nationalist Chinese, and Japanese were classified as white and had the same privileges as whites.  This illustrates the economic basis of all racial preferences.

Time passed and the great wheel of karma revolved.  Nelson Mandela was released from prison, he and the white leadership negotiated an end to the civil war between the whites and the non-whites, and life went on.

In due season, the Black government instituted the race-based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) laws to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving previously disadvantaged groups such as black Africans, Coloreds and Indians economic opportunities which had not been available to them.  BEE includes Employment Equity, skills development, reverse racism, ownership, management, socio-economic development and preferential procurement, much like "affirmative action" in the United States.

The black government had the opportunity to simplify the system by reducing the number of racial classifications, but although the BEE states that "black people" is a generic term which means Africans, Coloreds and Indians, the final regulations ended up preserving the existing classifications and simply reversed the order.  Instead of being at the top of the pile, whites were now at the bottom and so on.  Instead of being one rung up from the bottom, native-born Chinese who were classified as Colored were now one rung below the top, whereas Chinese from Taiwan and Japanese were now at the bottom along with the whites.

The fact that the native born Chinese had been near the bottom during the apartheid years but had not been restricted as badly as blacks led the law to exclude them from the benefits now promised to blacks.  Being near the top wasn't enough for the Chinese, so they went to court.  The BBC explains what happened:

The High Court in South Africa has ruled that Chinese South Africans are to be reclassified as black people. It made the order so that ethnic Chinese can benefit from government policies aimed at ending white domination in the private sector.  The Chinese Association of South Africa took the government to court, saying its members had been discriminated against.  The association said their members often failed to qualify for business contracts and job promotions because they were regarded as whites.  The association said Chinese South Africans had faced widespread discrimination during the years of apartheid when they had been classified as people of mixed race.

Strictly speaking, the Chinese had not been classified as "white" under the BEE, but since they weren't black, they couldn't qualify for the benefits of racial preferences.  So thanks to the stroke of a legalistic pen, the Chinese have accomplished what all Michael Jackson's surgeries have failed to do: changed conclusively from one color to another.

The article doesn't say how, exactly, the bureaucrats are to distinguish the black Chinese from the white Japanese who are, in point of fact, genetically almost identical.  Maybe they should consider painting stars on their bellies?  We're confident that the new black racial bureaucracy will be happy to hire enough workers to amply ponder all these subtleties.

How Black is Black Enough?

The question of the hour, then, is what if a South African of Chinese ancestry who was "legally black" migrated to the US and went into politics?  Would he be "black enough?"  Or would he, like Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who is of Indian descent, be an honorary white person?  Perhaps it depends on his party affiliation most of all.

Read other articles by Hobbes or other articles on Bureaucracy.
Reader Comments
Your last sentence is the most important and accurate of all. Party affiliation is all that matters anymore. You can be racist - really, truly hardcore racist - but if you're a Democrat no one cares. On the other hand, you can be a very loving, kind person but if you're white and have an opinion about a black person, you're Hitler incarnate.
July 12, 2008 10:07 AM
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