Saturday, September 26, 2009

Does she look "Chinese"?

Take a good look at this photo.

Many foreigners who come to Taiwan are often fixated on "the Chinese." They will describe Taiwanese people as "Chinese" this and "Chinese" that. They are the ones that find the name "China" Post much more attractive than a "Taipei" Times or a "Taiwan" News and so can be found almost exclusively reading it. With their China-colored spectacles, little do they know how politically charged, insensitive and ignorant they are.

The above photo is very typical of young beautiful women from Taiwan. Doubtless this type of foreigner will label her "Chinese" without a second glance. Just because someone has "Asian-looking" features in no way means that person is "Chinese." Koreans are not Chinese. Japanese are not Chinese. Taiwanese are not Chinese. This photo is of an up-and-coming recording artist from Taiwan named Naomi Yohani. Uh-oh, are you noticing her name is not "Chinese" at all? She is Austronesian -- half Sakizaya Austronesian, half Amis Austronesian from Hualien. She considers herself a native Taiwanese. So how can she look so similar to lots of other young Taiwanese girls out there if Taiwan is populated by "Chinese" as so many foreigners carelessly say?

She does look typical in many ways because the vast majority of Taiwan's people have Austronesian ancestry in addition to the Hoklo or Hakka ancestors that came from China several hundred years ago. Yes, Naomi speaks Mandarin, a "Chinese language," and perhaps does not speak as well the language of either of her parents, but that is because she along with everyone else in Taiwan has been forced to learn Mandarin and use it almost exclusively in the school system.

In the United States, we do not call Native Americans "English" -- or any American for that matter -- just because they speak English. We do not call Ugandans "English" just because they speak English.

Foreigners in the habit need to stop using the word "Chinese" to describe people from Taiwan. You should rather say of a recent Chinese immigrant who look like most people in Taiwan, "Oh, you look Austronesian, like the rest of the Taiwanese."

Incidently, her first name "Naomi" is not the Hebrew name, "Naomi" found in the Bible. It is Nao-mi, pronounced "now-me," and is a name handed down from her ancestors.

If you'd like to hear her music, please go to her website. She also has a Facebook fan page if you want to join.