I would like to praise you for a job well-done with your book Black in Taiwan. Many of the passages moved me to tears. As I am not black I cannot imagine the plight your race endures in our world. I cannot experience the same hardships and hurt. All I can do is be aware of it and understand and try to help out.
I am an American citizen but grew up in Europe (both England and Germany) as my parents' jobs moved us around. I attended an international church in Munich, Germany where many Africans attended. I got to know a lot of people there over the years whom I came to love like family. But one thing I learned and was constantly made aware of was their unfortunate condition being Black in Europe. Numerous occassions we showed up in church to learn that one of our brothers had been attacked and had been sent to the hospital, and we would all pray. I would cry because I didn't undestand why it happened.
I grew up in and around an international community and I learned many stories of people
from various backgrounds. What this has caused me to feel is a "loss of face",
if you will, in front of people of other races. I feel guilty and ashamed at times for
being white because of what my people have done and continue to do.
I returned to the US to study in the university and my parents moved back as well. But even though I'm an American citizen, I feel so alien in America. I could not relate to other white Americans and their views nor the African-Americans nor the Asian-Americans. During my time at the university my friends were all international students, and I was around them the most since my department was linguistics and I worked in the international center. But I really grew to hate all these things considered American and American culture. What I saw was an ignorance and closed mindedness towards people not like themselves. The thing I hated most were the assumptions made basically because of skin color.
I'm white, so all other white "hicks" at my university expected me to be like
them, and laugh along with their racial slurs, but it made me sick. And African-Americans
assumed I was white like the rest of them, but at least they got used to me and liked
seeing me around. And the Asian-American clubs I tried to help out at thought I was trying
to deceive them in some way.
Money ran out and I wasn't able to finish my degrees. I had a strong interest in Asia
and its languages, a place I'd never been to, and knew little about except for the classes
I took in college. I couldn't possibly bear living in America any longer. I felt like a
foreigner in my own country. And I'm also a foreigner in Europe. So I worked an unbearable
summer at home and made enough money to come to Taiwan at the beginning of September with
no job and no plan in mind. I thought since Taiwan is small, it would have a lot of
international prestige. I was hoping to find Taipei as an international city. But I still
find a lot of naivete and assumptions not unlike what I found in America here among the
After reading your book, I guess you've pointed out to me more directly that the Chinese really do look up to American culture. But I had thought the opposite, that they would see it the way Europeans see it, from all the bad influences through movies and such. But when I taught a class of high school students a lesson on Europe a few weeks ago, I was very taken aback as to what their impressions were, such as bad manners, pride and arrogance, poor lifestyles, etc. The children weren't even interested in Europe and couldn't even find England on the map.
I believed that Europe had its great history, culture, artists, and thinkers that these
students would at least have some thing good to say. I didn't ask, but I know that their
perceptions of Africa would be even worse.
When I saw your book yesterday afternoon, I picked it up out of curiosity, and I bought it right away. An excellent read and very touching. It sheds light on the situation here in Taiwan. I have already experienced different kinds of racism here. In some cases it can be an exalted kind, because of their infatuation with everything American, which I can't appreciate, and in others it's the "because you're not Chinese" kind. But even being white, people comment on how pale my skin is, or the amount of hair, or facial features, or whatever.
C'est la vie. I try to tell myself; my life is not as difficult as others'. I
don't know if their intention is to point it out and cause shame or if it's their first
time to ever see a foreigner, or if they just can't control their thoughts being processed
as words immediately. Sometimes the first things out of their mouth when you're first
introduced to them is your appearance, and I don't mean clothing. "You're too short
for an American" or "You're too thin for an American." I just joke back and
ask them if it ever occurred to them maybe I'm not American, and that's just the way I am.
Well, then they just get all plain confused. But they never seem to realize feelings.
It's a horrible situation. It's almost as if you're living in fear here. I at least
have never reconsidered walking through a crowd of police here for fear that they would do
something to me. But if they did, I don't know how I would deal with it.
James Campbell, a white American in Taipei December 23rd, 1998