“I’m black so what? My skin is black since I was born. I don’t like it and stop teasing me.”
I usually don’t know exactly what the things written in our notebooks are about, but in this case I do. During a lesson, a teacher made a joke about a student’s dark complexion, which greatly annoyed the girl.
I think in all cultures, there is a lot of emphasis on beauty, but one criticism I would make about Hong Kong culture is that the concept of beauty here is very narrowly defined. To be considered beautiful, a girl should have a fair complexion (the paler the better), be slim and preferably have long hair, an oval face and a noticeable crease in the upper-eyelid (called a ‘double-eyelid’); and she should not have an epicanthic fold and definitely not have ‘slanted eyes’ (sorry, I know this term can be offensive, but I haven’t been able to think of a better term to use).
And what is an epicanthic fold? This is another eyelid characteristic. It is an additional fold in the upper eyelid that gives eyes a narrower and/or almond shaped appearance. This, combined with single eyelids gives eyes what people in the West would call an exotic or Asian look (a look which is considered unattractive in many Asian countries).
So that’s one problem—it is very difficult to be considered attractive here as there are so many criteria to meet. If the girl who wrote the above complaint goes overseas, instead of being derided because of her ‘black skin’, she would likely get complimented on her great tan or her beautiful coffee-colored complexion.
Another problem is that people are generally very open and direct when commenting on appearance. It is quite common to hear overweight boys being addressed as ‘Fei Tzai’ (Fat Boy) by . . . well everyone—family members, friends, teachers, strangers. So-called unattractive girls are routinely called ‘Pork Chop’ by their male schoolmates. I’ve heard the girl who wrote the diary entry above being called ‘black girl’ several times.
The defense for this kind of name-calling is that the person being criticized doesn’t really mind or that it’s acceptable because it is part of the culture. I would argue that both of these assumptions are mistaken.