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Old 4th November 2019, 09:14 AM   #1
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Assuming Nationality from Appearance - Racist or Not?

Mod Info This thread has been put together from posts split from this thread, in which it was alleged by some that Essex Police had identified 39 Vietnamese people as Chinese "based on appearance alone". Initially the posts went to AAH as a derail but I think there is value in the discussion of what is, and isn't, racism, and whether certain actions are perceived as racist in some cultures but not in others.
Posted By:Agatha


Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Aside from the obvious racism of it, there's no need for the police to conclude anything about their nationality from their appearance at that point. In fact, I doubt they did.
What racism?
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:36 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
What racism?
The racism of assuming someone is Chinese just because they look asian.
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:44 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The racism of assuming someone is Chinese just because they look asian.
That's not racism.
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Old 4th November 2019, 09:51 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
That's not racism.
Sure it is. Racial stereotype. Like assuming two black people must know each other because they're both black.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:15 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Sure it is. Racial stereotype. Like assuming two black people must know each other because they're both black.
No, that’s just ignorance, like when Americans assume I know their friend who lives in London because I’m also from England. Racism is generally prejudice based on appearance or ethnic background (for example) and driven by the fact one believes one’s own group to be superior. Thinking a group of people might be Chinese because they look Chinese (if that’s what happened, and it’s far from certain that it did) isn’t racist. If the police decided not to put much effort in because the victims were (or appeared to be) Chinese, that would be racist.
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:27 AM   #6
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If the Chinese police had said, after a tour bus crashes killing all 70 occupants, we think they might be English, but they turned out to be Scottish, I do not think anyone would be particularly fussed.

There are more English, than Scots, Welsh and NI put together. There are more Chinese (1.36 billion) than the rest of South east Asia put together (641 million).
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Old 4th November 2019, 10:30 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The racism of assuming someone is Chinese just because they look asian.
The police did not say they are Chinese, they said they thought they might be Chinese. I do not think they assumed they were Chinese, they believed it was a possibility.
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Old 5th November 2019, 02:43 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Sure it is. Racial stereotype. Like assuming two black people must know each other because they're both black.
It's nothing like that at all.
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Old 5th November 2019, 03:00 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
It's nothing like that at all.
Tell that to the Koreans' I worked with...Hell, tell that to ANYONE from (South)-East Asia who is not Chinese. (Sometimes the default goes to Japanese, like here in Düsseldorf, because there's a large Japanese community.)

Yes, they nod, and smile, and politely correct you... but they CORRECT you. Always. It bothers them. A lot. Even more so when Koreans are confused with Japanese. No wonder if you know the history. It's racist.

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Old 5th November 2019, 03:28 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by elgarak View Post
Tell that to the Koreans' I worked with...Hell, tell that to ANYONE from (South)-East Asia who is not Chinese. (Sometimes the default goes to Japanese, like here in Düsseldorf, because there's a large Japanese community.)

Yes, they nod, and smile, and politely correct you... but they CORRECT you. Always. It bothers them. A lot. Even more so when Koreans are confused with Japanese. No wonder if you know the history. It's racist.
Funny how you reacted to a post other than the one where I gave the demographic and historical context in the UK. What happens in Düsseldorf means squat.

My Chinese brother-in-law occasionally gets mistaken for Korean by Chinese, Japanese, and even yes, Korean people. It doesn't bother him.

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Old 5th November 2019, 04:16 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by elgarak View Post
Tell that to the Koreans' I worked with...Hell, tell that to ANYONE from (South)-East Asia who is not Chinese. (Sometimes the default goes to Japanese, like here in Düsseldorf, because there's a large Japanese community.)

Yes, they nod, and smile, and politely correct you... but they CORRECT you. Always. It bothers them. A lot. Even more so when Koreans are confused with Japanese. No wonder if you know the history. It's racist.
Is it racist to confuse a Swede for a Norwegian? A Kenyan for a Tanzanian? A Serbian for a Croat? I'm pretty sure almost everybody would correct you if you mistake them but I don't see why it's necessarily always racist.

And if you answered "No" then I don't see why mistaken nationality is racist when it's east Asia and nowhere else.
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Old 5th November 2019, 04:41 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
The racism of assuming someone is Chinese just because they look asian.
Then your own statement becomes racist, the "they look Asian". And in the UK (just to illustrate how silly and how much of a social construct most uses of the word "race" are) "asians" in the UK will generally refer to looking like someone from India or Pakistan not China or Korea and so on.
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Old 5th November 2019, 04:48 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Funny how you reacted to a post other than the one where I gave the demographic and historical context in the UK. What happens in Düsseldorf means squat.



My Chinese brother-in-law occasionally gets mistaken for Korean by Chinese, Japanese, and even yes, Korean people. It doesn't bother him.
Because I have red hair nearly everyone I've met from the USA and we've had a general discussion of where we are from assume I'm Irish or sometimes Scottish. That is wrong I am English. That mistake and assumption is not racist, unless they had treated me sub optimally or just differently because they thought I was Irish or Scottish.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:23 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Information Analyst View Post
Not sure how you work that out. There are around 450,000 people of Chinese descent living in the UK, of whom around 200,000 were born in China. In contrast only around 30,000 were born in Vietnam. More to the point, the last time a large number of people were found dead in a lorry, they were all Chinese.
Now that is very silly, isn't it, because lorryloads of Afghans and Iraqis and who knows what have also been discovered. Unless you're assuming the Chinese ones are the ones who have a special propensity to die.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:24 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by elgarak View Post
Tell that to the Koreans' I worked with...Hell, tell that to ANYONE from (South)-East Asia who is not Chinese. (Sometimes the default goes to Japanese, like here in Düsseldorf, because there's a large Japanese community.)

Yes, they nod, and smile, and politely correct you... but they CORRECT you. Always. It bothers them. A lot. Even more so when Koreans are confused with Japanese. No wonder if you know the history. It's racist.
You don't even need to be from Asia to understand that.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:32 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Is it racist to confuse a Swede for a Norwegian? A Kenyan for a Tanzanian? A Serbian for a Croat? I'm pretty sure almost everybody would correct you if you mistake them but I don't see why it's necessarily always racist.

And if you answered "No" then I don't see why mistaken nationality is racist when it's east Asia and nowhere else.
Definitely. I know a couple of Finns who got very angry at being mistaken for Russian. One of them, who attended Kingston Polytechnic for a year, got really pissed off at being called 'Merger' (her name is Merja' [soft 'j']). When I first made acquaintance with her, she introduced herself as 'Merger' which I called her for a long time because she assumed I was another ignorant Brit, so she saved me the trouble of anglicising her name.

I do think it is racist for other people to tell you what you are based on their own ignorance. So if you are not Chinese, who is anyone to tell you that you are?


AIUI the Vietnamese like to be buried in their home village when dead, so they could have been buried in a far away country by accident.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:33 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Now that is very silly, isn't it, because lorryloads of Afghans and Iraqis and who knows what have also been discovered. Unless you're assuming the Chinese ones are the ones who have a special propensity to die.
Who's being silly now? Afghans and Iraqis typically don't look like Chinese people.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:36 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by Darat View Post
Because I have red hair nearly everyone I've met from the USA and we've had a general discussion of where we are from assume I'm Irish or sometimes Scottish. That is wrong I am English. That mistake and assumption is not racist, unless they had treated me sub optimally or just differently because they thought I was Irish or Scottish.
There you go.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:37 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Definitely. I know a couple of Finns who got very angry at being mistaken for Russian. One of them, who attended Kingston Polytechnic for a year, got really pissed off at being called 'Merger' (her name is Merja' [soft 'j']). When I first made acquaintance with her, she introduced herself as 'Merger' which I called her for a long time because she assumed I was another ignorant Brit, so she saved me the trouble of anglicising her name.
None of which is racist.
Quote:

I do think it is racist for other people to tell you what you are based on their own ignorance. So if you are not Chinese, who is anyone to tell you that you are?
What does any of that have to do with the current case?
Quote:
AIUI the Vietnamese like to be buried in their home village when dead, so they could have been buried in a far away country by accident.
Do you think there was any danger of the victims being buried before they were identified? On the other hand, pragmatically, if they hadn't been identified and were buried in the UK, and Vietnamese customs are as you say, who would be upset by that?

(Leaving aside the fact that, yes, most people prefer to be dead before they are buried...)
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:37 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Who's being silly now? Afghans and Iraqis typically don't look like Chinese people.
No but Information Analyst said perhaps it was thought they were Chinese because there was an occasion previously.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:38 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
Definitely. I know a couple of Finns who got very angry at being mistaken for Russian. One of them, who attended Kingston Polytechnic for a year, got really pissed off at being called 'Merger' (her name is Merja' [soft 'j']). When I first made acquaintance with her, she introduced herself as 'Merger' which I called her for a long time because she assumed I was another ignorant Brit, so she saved me the trouble of anglicising her name.

I do think it is racist for other people to tell you what you are based on their own ignorance. So if you are not Chinese, who is anyone to tell you that you are?


AIUI the Vietnamese like to be buried in their home village when dead, so they could have been buried in a far away country by accident.
Really. Mistaking a Canadian for an American is racist. Mistaking a Belgian for a Luxembourgian is racist. Mistaking a San Marinoan for an Italian is racist.

Does it only apply to national boundaries? If a South Carolinian is mistaken for a North Carolinian is it racist?
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:39 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
There you go.
So you're agreeing it's not racist to initially mis-identify someone based on probabilities?
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:42 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
Do you really think he was saying that was only thing being taken into consideration?
It is a sweeping generalisation.
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Old 5th November 2019, 09:26 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
That needs answering.

Even if it is correct, it is a racist as mistaking a Scotsman for an Englishman.
Not the mistake, the assumption. If you assume that someone is Scottish because they are white, that's racist. If you assume that someone is Chinese because they look "Chinese" that's racist. Etc.

Especially when it's gratuitous. There's no need to make an early determination about nationality, from appearance alone. It's totally okay to wait and get more information before saying one way or the other. It's the gratuitous stereotyping of nationality, based on physical appearance, that is racist. "I can tell from your epicanthic folds and burnt-honey skin tone that you are asian, and therefore probably Chinese"... Is racist.
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Old 5th November 2019, 09:32 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Really. Mistaking a Canadian for an American is racist. Mistaking a Belgian for a Luxembourgian is racist. Mistaking a San Marinoan for an Italian is racist.

Does it only apply to national boundaries? If a South Carolinian is mistaken for a North Carolinian is it racist?
As Prestige says, it's to do with ignorant assumptions, rather than 'making a mistake'.
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Old 5th November 2019, 09:34 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by zooterkin View Post
So you're agreeing it's not racist to initially mis-identify someone based on probabilities?

I said, there you go, because Darat appears to have informed them he or she was English and not -heaven forfend! - Scottish or Irish. The implication of feeling insulted is not lost.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:06 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
As Prestige says, it's to do with ignorant assumptions, rather than 'making a mistake'.
Racist or not, was the question. Can you answer it?
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:12 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Sure it is.
That's not what racism is.

Quote:
Racial stereotype.
See above.

Quote:
Like assuming two black people must know each other because they're both black.
Ooh! An analogy! It'd be better if you said "assuming two black people are from Africa."
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:15 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
Racist or not, was the question. Can you answer it?
It depends on whether or not they look hillbillies.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:16 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Not the mistake, the assumption. If you assume that someone is Scottish because they are white, that's racist. If you assume that someone is Chinese because they look "Chinese" that's racist. Etc.

Especially when it's gratuitous. There's no need to make an early determination about nationality, from appearance alone. It's totally okay to wait and get more information before saying one way or the other. It's the gratuitous stereotyping of nationality, based on physical appearance, that is racist. "I can tell from your epicanthic folds and burnt-honey skin tone that you are asian, and therefore probably Chinese"... Is racist.
Scottish and English white are from the same race. To mix up one with the other or make assumptions is not racist.

Are the Chinese a separate race from the Vietnamese? Are all Chinese people the same race? I know China has numerous ethnic groups, but ethnicity and race are not the same.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:17 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
It depends on whether or not they look hillbillies.
I'm assuming that's simultaneously a "no" to the racism and a "no" to whether you can answer a straight question. Thanks, I don't believe we need trouble you further with any attention.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:21 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Nessie View Post
If the Chinese police had said, after a tour bus crashes killing all 70 occupants, we think they might be English, but they turned out to be Scottish, I do not think anyone would be particularly fussed.

There are more English, than Scots, Welsh and NI put together. There are more Chinese (1.36 billion) than the rest of South east Asia put together (641 million).
That's a poor argument. So it's OK for Scots to be labelled 'German' just because there are 120m of them and only 5.6m, of you?
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:24 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
That's a poor argument. So it's OK for Scots to be labelled 'German' just because there are 120m of them and only 5.6m, of you?
Going by the numbers for an early hypothesis is wrong. You heard it here first!
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:27 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Vixen View Post
That's a poor argument. So it's OK for Scots to be labelled 'German' just because there are 120m of them and only 5.6m, of you?
It depends on the circumstances. If a Chinese police officer finds a German tour bus and assumes those inside are German, but they were Scottish and a correction is made straight away, no harm done. If a Chinese state official refers to visiting Scottish dignitaries as German and then claims they are all the same anyway, then there is an issue.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:28 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
That's not what racism is.



See above.



Ooh! An analogy! It'd be better if you said "assuming two black people are from Africa."
I keep giving you opportunities to prove me wrong about analogies, and you keep proving me right.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:32 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by TragicMonkey View Post
I'm assuming that's simultaneously a "no" to the racism and a "no" to whether you can answer a straight question. Thanks, I don't believe we need trouble you further with any attention.
You asked about North Carolingians versus South Carolingians.

Ask a silly question...
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:33 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I keep giving you opportunities to prove me wrong about analogies, and you keep proving me right.
Great. How about the other points?
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:45 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Belz... View Post
Great. How about the other points?
I disagree with them, but don't see any reason to keep arguing about it. Go right on believing that it's not racist to gratuitously assume someone is Chinese because they "look Chinese", if that's really what you believe.

Last edited by theprestige; 5th November 2019 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:56 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I disagree with them, but don't see any reason to keep arguing about it. Go right on believing that it's not racist to gratuitously assume someone is Chinese because they "look Chinese", if that's really what you believe.
How is it racist to mistake or make assumptions about the nationality of people who are the same race, but have different nationalities?
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Old 5th November 2019, 10:58 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I disagree with them, but don't see any reason to keep arguing about it. Go right on believing that it's not racist to gratuitously assume someone is Chinese because they "look Chinese", if that's really what you believe.
It's not a belief. It's the definition of the word. If you want to call it ignorant, fine.
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