Do you find Darlie toothpaste labelled as 黑人牙膏 (Black People Toothpaste) as offensive? Would Colgate use this label in Europe or North America?

I am revisiting issues on ethnicity and race in Hong Kong for some research and I am surprised to see that despite media coverage and a very informative Wikipedia page on Darlie toothpaste (which includes a link to this youtube video) the brand still carries this Chinese slogan. 

Funnily enough the issue was raised in a blog post a year ago where a interesting debate of incredulity and astonishment too place. Many comments in Hong Kong simply don’t understand how this could be racist, while comments from outside of Asia can’t understand that this is real branding.

In an era where there are considerable efforts for Hong Kong’s ethnic minorities to achieve inclusive recognition in educational policies this provides a powerful example of how racial and ethnic difference is imagined locally. is a blog that aims to provide a lively documentation of the many facets of life and culture among our South and Southeast Asian residents and migrants living in Hong Kong. This pro…

Those of you interested in ethnicity in Hong Kong definitely want to bookmark this page. It includes a series of on going reports on news and reflection about ethnicity in Hong Kong. Topical and engaging issues, well investigated and reported.

Take a look.

Multiracial Korea

A posting this week on Korea Bang spoke of the rise of multicultural families in South Korea. One of the key aspects of this post was the alarm of such developments voiced by netizens. There is also a good piece on this via dissertation reviews which provides further context.

Last semester one of my students also wrote an engaging research paper on this topic.

What is particularly interesting about Korea is that, alike Japan, and to a lesser extent China, these are some of a handful of countries that have preserved a fiction of a singular ethnic group entirely congruent with the national identity of the country. Dru Gladney’s book Dislocating China does a superb job at challenging this idea within China and Jan Nederveen Pieterse also has a great book called Ethnicities and Global Multiculture that challenges the idea that anyplace was ever monocultural. A good compliment to these works in an anthropological perspective is Eric Woolf’s Europe and the People without History.

These discussion on ethnicity relate back to the idea of rhythm, places and times fluctuate between eras of standardisation and diversification. Korea is now in the spotlight.

34% of corrections officers suffer from PTSD. This compares to 14% of military veterans.

Guardian “Prison Guards Can Never Be Weak: The Hidden PTSD crisis in America’s Jails.

Further evidence of America’s prison problems. With over 2 million people in prison, and a further 4 million on probation, and 1 million on parole, the shadow of prison looms large on society in the USA. Further problems are the unfathomable racial disparity (Blacks make up 39% of US prison population whilst being only 13% of the national population) and ‘disenfranchisement’ rules which mean that Black votes are eliminated but rural jails and head counts which include prisoners end up augmenting white votes.

This article turns the focus to the staff working in corrections institutions, and let us be clear that corrections in the US employs more people than Walmart, Ford, and General Motors combined (see here and of course Michelle Alexander for more). There is indeed a crisis in public life where a huge part of the populations is employed solely to contain another part of the population largely for political and economic purposes. The David Graeber ‘Bullshit Jobs’ example comes to mind, as does my previous post.

Passing through Central this lunchtime and strolling through Chater garden I spotted this large Menorah. Celebrating the second day of Channukah you can see that two of the bulbs are lit along with the shamash bulb in the centre. The third will be lit tonight.

The Menorah is sponsored by the Chabad community in Hong Kong. You can visit their website here. 

So the Pew Research Centre has a new report on ‘The Rise of Asian Americans’, which includes this interactive map above. This highlights the distribution of different asian ethnicity across America.

It is a curious report as appears to be talking about Asian Americans as one cohesive group. It talks of how they are the most successful, content, and stable, minority group in the US. However it then goes on to break down the Asian American category by looking at the different ethnic backgrounds.

There are some interesting points. Japanese Americans are 73% US born for example, the largest group of American born Asians.

The religious demographics are also interesting from my point of view.

The religious identities of Asian Americans are quite varied. According to the Pew Research survey, about half of Chinese are unaffiliated, most Filipinos are Catholic, about half of Indians are Hindu, most Koreans are Protestant and a plurality of Vietnamese are Buddhist. Among Japanese Americans, no one group is dominant: 38% are Christian, 32% are unaffiliated and 25% are Buddhist. In total, 26% of Asian Americans are unaffiliated, 22% are Protestant (13% evangelical; 9% mainline), 19% are Catholic, 14% are Buddhist, 10% are Hindu, 4% are Muslim and 1% are Sikh. Overall, 39% of Asian Americans say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 58% of the U.S. general public.

Asian Americans find religion less important than the rest of the general US population.

Despite high levels of residential integration and out-marriage, many Asian Americans continue to feel a degree of cultural separation from other Americans. Not surprisingly, these feelings are highly correlated with nativity and duration of time in the U.S.

Among U.S.-born Asian Americans, about two-thirds (65%) say they feel like “a typical American.” Among immigrants, just 30% say the same, and this figure falls to 22% among immigrants who have arrived since 2000.

National Education for HK's Ethnic Minorities?

I can’t count how many times over the last 10 years I have read different articles in the SCMP on this same topic. The very same arguments come up again and again, the lack of inclusion for HK ethnic minorities, the language barrier, the poor advice on language study.

As many people have been noting over the last few weeks the issue is even more acute when contrasted with the idea of National Education. How are Hong Kong’s non-Chinese expected to integrate with a love for the Chinese Nation when they are “not-Chinese”? However the essential idea of “Chinese” need not be the barrier here. I have spoken to a number of Pakistani students in Hong Kong who have expressed some interesting notions of a Chinese Nationalism. Some wanting to become soldiers for the PLA, others feeling that there is no difference between China and Hong Kong, or even describing themselves as Chinese. This is not always the case and earlier this year we saw people demonstrating because they felt National Education had nothing to do with them and their lives as ethnic minorities in Hong Kong.

Certainly there are barriers for ethnic minority students in Hong Kong. And, absolutely some versions of a National Education curriculum would entirely marginalise non-Chinese students. But lets not choose for them exactly what they want.There is no reason why they cannot choose to identify as Chinese if they so wish. If we persist with the idea that ethnic minorities are by default not appropriate for National Education, by the same argument we would be able to push the notion that Chinese people in Hong Kong are best suited for National Education. This trivialises what people are trying to protect and foster, which is in my mind Hong Kong citizenship, devoid of nationalism and tolerant of ethnic and religious difference. The debate on National Education is not about essentialising who is and isn’t Chinese. 

Perhaps this is one of the developments that will encourage the Hong Kong Government to regard its ethnic minorities as “Hong Kong People”.  I stand by the need for this evolve and the need for all people to have the access to be inclusively taught Chinese and given realistic opportunities to succeed in accessing vocational and Higher Education.

From today’s SCMP

“Where do ethnic minority students fit in under the government’s moral and national education curriculum? There were many uncertainties surrounding the government’s now-suspended plan to make the subject compulsory in our schools, and this was one.

Parts of the subject are aimed at encouraging a Chinese identity and sense of belonging, yet how would that be taught to students who identify themselves as Pakistani Hongkongers or Indian Hongkongers? There was never a satisfactory answer. Obviously, the government was not being particularly culturally sensitive when drawing up the policy.

According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong’s ethnic non-Chinese population grew 32 per cent from 2001 to 2011, and the proportion rose from 5 per cent to 6.4 per cent. There are around 30,000 ethnic minority (South or Southeast Asian) full-time students in Hong Kong, but many of them are not informed about what is happening in the education system, as most school notices are in Chinese and some ethnic minority parents have difficulties communicating with teachers in Cantonese or English.”