A scene on China’s biggest Lunar New Year television show with Chinese actress Lou Naiming wearing blackface and a comically giant fake bottom to depict an African mother character, accompanied by her sidekick, a monkey, played by a black performer has caused anger online.
The scene was lambasted as “disgusting” and “completely racist” online after it aired on Thursday night.
The skit, which was apparently intended to celebrate China’s relationship with African countries, came during the 2018 edition of the CCTV New Year’s Gala – also known as the Spring Festival Gala – an annual variety show broadcast for the Lunar New Year that gets as many as 800 million viewers.
The scene opened with a performance by African dancers and an appearance by a group of black women who were staff on the new Chinese-built Kenyan fast train – but it was the following mini-play that caused uproar online.
After the performers departed the stage, the host – standing in front of an African veld backdrop – was approached by his friend, played by a young black woman, who asked him to help her out with a problem by following her lead.
He agreed and was introduced to her mother – who was played by Chinese actress Lou Naiming wearing blackface, with what appeared to be a comically large fake bottom and a basket of fruit on her head.
She was accompanied by a monkey, apparently played by a black performer.
The host then discovered that he was supposed to be playing the part of the young black woman’s boyfriend, so that she could get out of a blind date – only for the host’s Chinese bride to arrive on the scene.
Web users also complained about what appeared to be a comically large fake bottom worn by the actress, and her sidekick, a monkey. Image: CCTV via YouTube
After much farcical wordplay, the mother – in perfect, unaccented Chinese – said she can’t be angry because China has done so much for Africa, shouting: “I love Chinese people! I love China!”
The depiction of the mother character and the stereotypical imagery came in for criticism on social media.
CCTV’s racist show during Spring Gala shook me and made me so ashamed of China and my people. They literally had blackface on stage, had an African actor to play a monkey and a African actress yelling “I love China!” Racism is global y’all…
— Huizit (@iamHuizit) February 16, 2018
Twitter user KT Parthepan wrote: “Ugh the sketch on Africa during the @CCTV Spring Festival Gala (possibly the most watched show in the world) was cringeworthy at best, completely racist at worst.
“It’s Africa, so bring out tribal dancers & animals? And was that a Chinese woman in blackface with a fake posterior?”
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Ben Armstrong responded: “It looked a lot like blackface to me …”
Another Twitter user, Jeremy Webb, responded: “More Geopolitics on glorious display at this year’s CCTV #CNY Gala. This love story resolved as the enlarged-a** African mama proclaims her love for China and the building of railways.”
“Really disgusting,” replied Twitter user Maroon.
The skit involved the host pretending to be the boyfriend of a black woman, only for his actual bride to arrive. Image: CCTV via YouTube
The sketch also received a strong response on Reddit, with user “iforgotmyidagain” writing “Not sure which one is more disgusting, the blackface itself, or the fact that the propaganda machine thought it was fine.”
on the cctv spring gala: this is 2018 how is there still blackface on national tv in china gdi
— s (@duckchael) February 15, 2018
User TheDark1 wrote: “There’s gonna be a hella funny backlash to this tasteless propaganda. I cannot believe that sketch got greenlit. Most cringeworthy thing I’ve seen in months, Trump included.”
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“Imagine if the US state of the union event had a white guy with yellow face, a rice farmer’s hat, buck teeth, and speaking in stereotypical Chinese accent,” user probablydurnk wrote. “Think the Chinese internet would leave that one alone?”
However, some defended the sketch.
The show also featured African dancers, which the host joined in with. Image: CCTV via YouTube
Reddit user 1989slover wrote that it was “a comedy praising the relationship between China and Africa, so there’s not any intent of racism. And yes the way they express the idea is a bit wrong, but I think that’s mainly because people don’t really know a lot about racism in China because the race here is not so diverse.
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“China has always been a friend with African countries so there’s no reason for us to ruin the relationship by putting a discriminational show in the gala, but I do hope there would be a official explanation for this whole thing.”
CHINA WHYYYYY. i’m watching the cctv spring festival new year’s gala and there’s straight up blackface, i just don’t know what to do with this level of offensive oh my GOD — (@yuxisushi) February 15, 2018
The sketch drew a mixed reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, with some viewers praising the segment as the highlight of the entire gala, but others questioned how the segment could pass content screening as it promoted colonialism and displayed Chinese arrogance about Africa.
“I have never seen more awkwardness and blatant discrimination than this,” said a Weibo user identified by the screen name Rockstar 101.
One user noted the African mother was played by a Chinese actress, but their post was censored.
“Am I wrong to have spotted it was a Chinese playing an African role?” questioned the commenter, with a captured screen showing the deleted post.
Multiple articles on mainland social media commenting about the incident have been removed by censors.
Blackface – that is, non-black performers wearing face paint to portray black characters – is a sensitive subject in much of the West.
That is particularly true in the United States where minstrel shows featuring white performers using blackface to depict black people emerged in the 19th century and remained on television until as recently as the 1970s.
Awareness of blackface and its dubious connotations in the West are low in China and other Asian countries.
EARLIER: Spring Festival: Chinese Welcome Year Of The Dog – The fifteen-day Chinese lunar new year – spring festival – celebrations, commences, Friday, February 16, this year and will end with the Lantern Festival on March 2. The longest and most anticipated of all of China’s festivals welcomes the year of the earth dog.
The spring festival which is associated with customs meant to ensure auspicious beginnings is observed in China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh and other nations with large Chinese communities, especially in Asia.
Before the festivities begin, homes and businesses undergo rigorous cleaning to sweep away bad luck and make room for good fortune. The fun kicks off with fireworks and a family reunion dinner on New Year’s Eve. Since red is believed to promote good luck and ward away evil spirits, it is the chosen color for everything, from clothing to the lanterns that decorate homes and streets. For children, the Spring Festival means more than a break from school and enjoying fireworks and traditional lion dances: they also receive red envelopes of “lucky money” from elders.
As with all festivals, food plays an integral part and the carefully selected menu items are as tasty as they are symbolic. Delicious dumplings are assembled to look like Chinese silver ingots and represent wealth, while sweet rice balls, which are very popular during the Lantern Festival, represent togetherness. Long, uncut noodles symbolize longevity, and those wishing for prosperity may choose to eat fish. While wealthier families will prepare eight or nine dishes, representing success or infinity, respectively, don’t expect to find a meal with four food items. In Cantonese, the number “four” sounds like the word for death and is avoided.
With schools and universities closed for an entire month, and most workers off for at least a week, the holiday also results in the Earth’s biggest human migration. Experts estimate that Chinese residents will take over 3 billion trips via public transportation during the Chunyun travel period that goes on from February 1 until March 12. The festival is also one of the most profitable periods of the year for local businesses. In 2017, Chinese residents spent over $47 billion (213.1 billion yuan), during the New Year week.
Every Chinese year is characterized by one of twelve animals that make up the Chinese Zodiac, as well as one of five elements: metal, water, wood, fire or earth. The sign and element are believed to affect the fate of individuals born in that year, as well as the world in general. 2018, the eleventh in the twelve-year zodiac cycle, is the “Year of the Earth Dog” and includes those born in 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and anyone born after February 16, 2018. People governed by this animal and element sign have many good qualities; they are independent, responsible, loyal, and communicative. However, they are also known to be sensitive, stubborn, and emotional.
Chinese astrologers predict that 2018 will be a positive year financially for both — individuals affected by the zodiac sign and people in general. However, they caution that health may be an issue and recommend everyone to eat better, exercise, and abandon all bad habits.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave his warm wishes to the Chinese people in Chinese on Thursday, the day before the Spring Festival. He wished the Chinese people “good health, happiness and success” in the upcoming new year