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Petition for a Less Racist chinaSMACK Comments Section

Jiong

I received the following email…

Dear Fauna,

We are a group of people from different countries and different walks of life. We are both Chinese and non-Chinese, in China and overseas. We are all fans of the website you created that allows us to see many things about Chinese society that we would not be able to see otherwise if we cannot easily read Chinese. We are all thankful for your hard work, including your other translators and moderators.

However, we are submitting this petition to ask you to please reconsider your policy of allowing blatantly racist and derogatory comments on your website. Attached is a list of our names, email addresses, and where we are from. Everyone who has signed this petition agrees with the below concerns and supports more moderation of the comments section.

We understand you allow these comments by commenters as a mirror to the racist Chinese comments found on Chinese websites that you translate. We understand that you allow this because it is the reality of both Chinese and foreign netizens. We understand you believe people should be allowed to see that these attitudes and beliefs are still common. We understand you also think people who see this will be motivated to fight them.

This is very idealistic of you but it is not realistic. It is also hurting the potential of your website and your work because the bigotry and hate speech is overwhelming everyone who enjoys your work and wants to have more meaningful and productive conversations.

There are already more than enough examples of foreign racism and bigotry to mirror the Chinese examples. Your website doesn’t have to be another collection of them. We also know from your own comments that you find the racist comments personally distressing. There is no need for you to masochistically put up with the insults and disrespect from these people. You do not need to prove to any of us that foreigners are just as racist and hateful as Chinese people. More importantly, the people who don’t already know this will never accept it anyway.

Instead, your website is increasingly becoming a poisonous environment where educated and reasonable people are either crowded out or shouted down by the ignorant and irresponsible. It has gotten to the point where most of us and many others who are capable of discussing China critically without being careless and immature will no longer bother discussing the actual issues because of the consciously derogatory and juvenile behavior by a large group of regular commenters on your website.

Many of your readers are ethnic Chinese people from overseas, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and the mainland. Some commenters treat your comments section as a private discussion forum forgetting that there are many ethnic Chinese people who are present. Many of these people would never say the things they write on your website in real life with a Chinese person around them and without the anonymity of the internet. Your Chinese readers should not be subjected to this.

Many of your non-Chinese readers are also embarrassed and ashamed of these people although we are not afraid of you misunderstanding that we are all like them. We know you are an intelligent woman who is also unafraid to show the negative side of your own country and people. However, your blog is supposed to be a bridge-blog but there are too many disrespectful commenters who threaten to sabotage any constructive conversation between Chinese and non-Chinese. It is a waste of time and energy for those of us who have a genuine interest in learning about and from each other with mutual respect.

Your website is the most popular website of its kind. Your comments section could be an incredible forum for intelligent, insightful, and valuable discussion instead of a toxic forum for ignorance, hypocrisy, and insecurity. The opinions of some Chinese people cannot be changed with the truth in front of them. The same is true for some foreigners. It does not make sense to provide a mirror to people who are incapable of looking at themselves.

You can fight racism more and encourage greater mutual understanding by moderating the comments and filtering out the neverending stream of the same old bitter rants and destructive stereotypes that are already present on so many other websites. This includes rants and stereotypes targeting both Chinese and non-Chinese. Make your website more conducive to higher quality discussions. You say you want to show us that Chinese and foreigners are not so different after all. You’re successful in doing that every day. We already know foreigners are not so different from Chinese, so we don’t need foreigners proving that to us every single day.

Instead of a comment policy that specifically allows racism, adopt a comment policy that specifically requires basic human courtesy and respect. The comments section of the most popular blog about China deserves better.

Sincerely and respectfully,
The undersigned.

Please discuss.

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Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.

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