Friday, 9 September 2016

Why I Think AirChina's Advice on Safety in London is not Racist


As usual, I have been the last to know of some of my fellow Londoners' reaction to the above photo. They say that it's racist.

Well, my fellow Londoners who think it's racist, what you are all seeing is a mistake and a mis-translation, and AirChina, you should find out who greenlit this translation, and sack them.

I write this with confidence because what the bit in Chinese actually says is this:
                'Although London as a whole is very safe to travel in, some areas where Indians and Pakistanis congregate, and some areas where black people congregate, are relatively more disorganised. It is best not to travel alone, and women especially should travel accompanied, in London as a whole at night.'

Note where I have put italics, and emboldened the italics. The beauty of the Chinese language is that it is a completely different language to the English language. Take it from this bilingual British Chinese/British East Asian: I'm telling you, my fellow Londoners who think this is racist, that what I read in Chinese does not match the English translation, which is a piss-poor translation.

Having said that, Mayor Khan, AirChina is right to give their advice to Chinese travellers. Although I find London a much nicer city than, say, Manchester or Vienna (Vienna, one of the low points of my life in travel, a place where someone I can only describe as a 'tosser' actually exposed himself and spanked his monkey in front of my mum, so I had to point her in the direction of a giant bronze of a two-headed eagle, and thankfully, she got too engrossed by the two-headed eagle to give a toss about the tosser), I wouldn't walk in London as a whole alone at night, especially with my Chinese face.

As a Londoner, I find the catcalls, lunges and shouts ignorant and annoying at best, but as someone who has friends who are Chinese/East Asian and/or not proficient in English (or even a particular British accent), the catcalls, shouts and lunges can be threatening at the worst.

This feeling of being in a place, and of feeling wary that the calmness I see in the non-East Asian (of every colour, I am sorry to say) across me or next to me will suddenly escalate into something else (and this is not an if, but when) despite keeping to myself, is a feeling that I think someone who has a non-East Asian face in a Western country, or an East Asian face in an East-Asian majority country, will never understand. I have found myself in situations where I'm just walking past someone, and they will change into a monster at the snap of the fingers, simply because they don't like my face. I have learned to spot the signs of the monster's appearance, and defend myself, but I hope you, my reader, will never experience what I have sometimes felt, because it does put one on a knife-edge.

The question we should be asking isn't how such a lousy translation got published, but why AirChina felt it was right to give this advice in the Chinese language in the first place. Sadly, I agree with what AirChina has done, but I do hope that Chinese visitors will not be put off from visiting London, or the UK, as London's actually quite a great place to visit :-)