Easy to suppress the bandits in the city but difficult to suppress the bandits in your heart

Personally speaking, as a Chinese I never encountered with racial discrimination in my daily life. Although I was reminded of this issue by my relatives and friends seriously before coming to the United States, I have not encountered any obvious racial discrimination. But this may be because I am lucky to be in Blacksburg, and in Virginia Tech—it is a peaceful, harmonious and friendly community which residents have higher levels of education and income. When I met with friends from other universities and regions in the United States, racial discrimination was a must-have topic. Although my friends have not suffered racial discrimination in class, those living in metropolitan areas have encountered some unpleasant things in their neighborhoods. Sometimes these behaviors are not invasive, bad or indifferent, they will make you feel treated differently. For example, I went to Georgetown University to attend my friend’s graduation ceremony. He told me that: “one driver of our school bus at night is an African-American. He never greets or speaks with the Chinese or people looks like a Chinese.” I take this bus with him that night, and he is right; The driver only said hello to blacks and whites. For the Chinese, it is just a poker face with silence. I don’t think this is discrimination, but obviously, it makes me feel uncomfortable unconsciously.

Before I came to the United States, racial discrimination is not a topic of concern. In my hometown, the Hui nationality (Muslim) is the most important ethnic minority in addition to the Han nationality. But the only difference in school you can feel is that they go to the halal canteen (no pork), not the ordinary canteen. Besides, they can get extra points in the college entrance examination. However, this situation has changed slightly in my college life. Just as Shankar Vedantam mentioned, “The Hidden Brain” may affect our thinking. In college admissions, universities will give preferential treatment to ethnic minorities such as Tibetans and Uighurs, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan students as well as foreign students. One consequence of this policy is that although they can enter China’s top universities easily, there is a huge gap in academic performance between them and Han students. This gives the Han students a feeling in the subconscious: THEY are not as smart as WE are. I can guarantee that I have never seen public ridicule, discrimination or any inappropriate behaviors toward them, but from everyday chat, you can feel that everyone regards it as a fact: they are counting down on the scores. In the qualifying exam for the doctoral student program in my school, if a student from Xinjiang or Taiwan fails, we will think it is normal; but if a Han student fails, we will think it is a shame. I think that is how “The Hidden Brain” works and it’s harder to eliminate, just as a Chinese philosopher Wang Yangming said: “It is very easy to eliminate the bandits in the city, but very difficult to suppress the bandits in your heart” (破山中贼易 破心中贼难).

Moreover, in my view, while racial discrimination is not a problem, the challenge of inclusive education is enormous, especially cultural differences between American and international students. When I do group work, presentations or papers, I usually work with other students from Asia—Korean, Filipino, Indian and Vietnamese. Well, this may be because there are too few Chinese in our department! But indeed, I don’t have much communication with the “native Americans”. The differences in values? The difference in living habits? I am not sure. Although I sometimes work with American students according to the mentor’s arrangement, I rarely take the initiative to team up with them. To be honest, I don’t have much feeling about the role of diversity in the classroom. At this stage, it is like a “politically correct” for me which is overestimated in the real world. I know it’s important, and everyone is talking about it, but I think I still need to experience it and feel it more in the future.

12 thoughts on “Easy to suppress the bandits in the city but difficult to suppress the bandits in your heart

  1. Being an international student I have to say that during my 2 years + in the united states I have never faced any kind of racial discrimination. However, I did notice that there is an big gap when it comes to inclusive education. Not between Americans and internationals, but between students as a whole. I remember in my undergraduate studies that I could name almost every colleague in my class. Now I enter most of my classes, watch the lecture, and then leave without talking or interacting with anyone. This phenomenon was really weird for me, it was like people were laser focused on their studies and did not give any importance to anything else. I was never really sure whether this is due to the culture here, to the student body being too diverse, or myself not interacting properly with my colleagues.


    1. Thanks for your comments! I can’t comment on your experience, but from my personal experience, the relationship between undergraduate students is closer than it between graduate students because they have a lot of required courses that enforce them to be together every day, and don’t mention that they have a lot of group activities. Even in the United States, I as a PhD student chose some master’s courses. I have good interaction with some master students, such as attending their party after class and holidays. Is this probably because of my social science background? But inclusive education can promote communication between students, which is not a bad thing.


  2. A so disappointing fact. That is so extreme and unfortunate if he is doing it to discriminate others. I am afraid though that that guy might be among those who have experienced or heard of about unpleasant facts. Recently while discussing with people (both white), I have heard things like “don`t believe that the Chinese are less racist” and a few days after that I have watched a video in which the guy was talking about racial issues and have mentioned places in China where black people do not have access to. I am a black person, I believe on myself and I do want to give hate a place in my heart that is why I do not judge necessary to change my attitude toward any human being after hearing such things. But I cannot say that the individual who have experienced racism or who have a single story would not be animated by other feelings after hearing all that

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Oumoule, “don’ t believe that the Chinese are less racist” because you can’t make a hypothetical situation when there are no native blacks in China. I believe that this kind of discrimination is rare in universities because African students account for a large proportion of foreign students in China. The irony is that Chinese students often feel that they have been discriminated against because foreign students are generally assigned to better dorms, and scholarships are more than three times that of Chinese students. Discrimination in society is most likely to occur in Guangzhou, known as the “third world capital”. There are more than 500,000 Africans in Guangzhou. Some people feel fear when they pass through the black community because blacks are generally taller and stronger than Chinese, and American movies and news make many people unconsciously link “black” with “criminal.” which very bad. And still, there is some warm and good news, such as that “Shanghai woman and her black grandson”, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2014-05/29/content_17551728.htm.


  3. Hi buddy.
    I think It is racism that treats differently by their race. It is a just society to treat all people equally and give equal opportunity. I think the bus guy should not qualify for an opportunity to earn money by driving a bus.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Ruixiang,
    I appreciate you sharing your experience of being an international student and for talking about biases in China and behaviors you have experienced in the classroom. The thing about implicit bias is that it rests in our unconscious and we aren’t aware of it until we are provoked. It sounds like you have had mixed experiences with bias and recognize it around you in life. Thanks for the thoughtful reflection. Maybe after class on Wednesday, you will have more thoughts on diversity in the classroom after we’ve had an opportunity to talk about it as a group.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I feel that unconscious prejudice is a huge challenge for people with higher education, and many times we think that noble behavior is more like a disguised discrimination in others view.


  5. Hi, Ruixiang, I’m happy to read that you find the Tech community a healthy place in which you can live and study. Although you say you don’t have memorable experiences of witnessing racial discrimination here, according to your accounts here, you’ve certainly witnessed a divide. The first semester I taught here, I began letting students choose the groups they split up into for projects, presentations, discussions, etc., and I witnessed similar occurrences. My international students tended to group with international students from the same regions, and my American-born students tended to spend time with their American-born peers. What’s important is that we ask (and that we encourage our students and peers to ask) why this is so. Diversity is what feeds this university’s community. International students have the power to greatly and beneficially affect the education of domestic students simply through conversations between the two parties. But the trick there, of course, is to encourage these interactions. As a facilitator of discussions, I now mix up my groups all the time to encourage students to meet each other; later, when I let students choose their own groups, I see international and domestic students consistently working together. We need to be having more of these conversations; the first step to doing so, is initiating the interaction.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for sharing your post Ruixiang. I have noticed similar dynamics between US and international students when it comes to in-class interactions, group projects, etc. It’s definitely “easier” to stick with what’s familiar, and associate with people who appear most similar to you. However, as stated in the Scientific American article, diverse groups are better suited for generating more successful/interesting/creative work. As teachers/facilitators in the classroom, we have the opportunity to setup our classes to prevent our students from falling into these “comfortable” situations, and push them to seek out diversity and inclusion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! Unfortunately, I have made a group with American students before, but well, you know, it is arranged by the teacher, so after finished the group works, we didn’t connect with each other at all, maybe what the article mentioned is right, but I do not have the same feeling. Perhaps what Leslie mentioned above is a good method!


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