Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be black in China? Probably not. Don’t worry though, we can assure you that you’re not alone. While the chances of us finding a community in China are slim, the probability of us experiencing the same types of racism, prejudice and discrimination we see in the west is very high. So high, that members of one of the China’s top political advisory bodies, recently issued a report citing that Africans not only travel in droves, but that they harass women, engage in drug trafficking and disturb law and order. Sounds familiar, no?
We still have some major challenges to overcome when it comes to addressing the negative stereotypes associated with our Blackness, however for some, these challenges present more of an opportunity than anything else. That brings us to our feature, Dr. Alphonso Buie, who dares to be great while simultaneously being black, gay and gifted while teaching abroad in China.
Dr. Buie is a native of Chicago Illinois and has done everything he was supposed to do. He attended the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, completed his undergraduate studies and master’s degree at Missouri’s Lincoln University and, because he was probably bored, went on to complete his doctoral degree in business administration.
But how does that place him in Beijing, of all places? According to the good doctor, living in another country has been something he’s wanted to do since watching National Geographic as a child. After finishing his doctoral degree, Dr. Buie began searching for opportunities to instruct abroad on a collegiate level and was drawn to China Agricultural University where he teaches at the Nongye Daxue (Nounge-Yay Dah-Shway) School of Business. Dr. Buie was gracious enough to answer a few of our questions regarding his experiences in China to give us an outside in look at what its like to being Black in a sea of yellow.
RBX: How has the experience of teaching in China been, so far?
DR. BUIE: The experience has been unimaginable, in Chinese culture professors are treated with so much respect in the society and are considered part of the upper realm of the social construct. It feels good to know I can walk down the street and nobody bothers me. I meet fascinating people from all walks of life, from all different countries, and just so many different beautiful contexts to their history and developments as a culture.
RBX: What differences have you noticed between Chinese and American students?
DR. BUIE: In America, some of my students had little to no context on understanding you must do the work to get the grade. In China they will do the work and even read….the….book. Now that’s crazy talk right there. In the States you have to trick your students to open the book most of the time. In American culture, a vast majority of students have free thought as an engraved philosophy with little philosophy based in that free thought to provide critical thinking, Chinese students have a philosophical base but have not given to [sic] much free thought to critically think as to question the philosophy. The question becomes how do you create students that have a philosophy that critically think about that philosophy to formulate their own opinions and analysis.
RBX: How has your Blackness been received in China? Have you had to address any stereotypes about African Americans, or Black people in general since you’ve been there?
DR. BUIE: My Blackness has been received with inquisition for the most part, people are curious. There are stereotypes but it is not racism but just a lack of knowledge of different people and cultures. A lot of times I am the first Black person people may have ever seen. They ask if I play basketball, if I a rapper, and they are really surprised to find I come from America. I redirected this challenge by challenging myself to help share a different narrative, letting people know I have my Doctorate’s Degree and instruct at one of the top universities in the world. I get to shape Black Culture within another culture, how awesome is that?
RBX: You’re a man of many talents, and apparently writing children’s books is one of them. Tell us about your book “My Two Dads”.
DR. BUIE: My Two Dads is an e-book available on Amazon Kindle and Google Books that is about a young boy and his experiences with having two dads. He is raised in a loving household and the boy explains how life is like with having two fathers. I was inspired by my God-Son to write the book. When he was around 3 years old he told me I was smart and should write a book. So I did. Ultimately, I wrote the book because I wanted a book that depicted how non-traditional households taught love. Sometimes when people get to experience concepts from a visual perspective at a young age, it can create non-hostile contexts for future conversations and the acceptance of diversity.
RBX: What is do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
DR. BUIE: My greatest accomplishment, to date, is being a God-Father. Seeing my God-Kids grow up is such an amazing experience that I take seriously. I really try to push myself and share my experiences with them visually and verbally so they can position themselves to be greater than me in whatever manner they choose. I have no choice but to be better than my yesterday because of them, and so many others that believe in me.
RBX: What is your ultimate goal, Buie?
DR. BUIE: Inspiring people. Inspiring people inspires me to go further and become greater than any limitations put on me by society. My only goal in life is to help people help themselves, we all live in this world together so why not make life sustainable for one another.
W.E.B. DuBois used the term “Talented Tenth” to describe the likelihood of one in ten black men becoming leaders throughout the world through teaching, writing books and participating in social change. Dr. Buie has met and almost exceeded almost all of the criterion DuBois deemed necessary to become a part of this cadre, which is why we are beyond thrilled to feature him in this month’s Black Gay & Gifted . Dr. Buie has placed himself in an integral position that allows him to shape and redefine the image of what a Black man is, what he isn’t and all that lies between. While teaching abroad is a goal he’s set and accomplished for himself, his exploits will serve the community as the impressions he leaves upon his students will give them a small idea of how potent Black Boy Magic can truly be.