The recent furor around China concerning the inexcusable behavior of a drunk British tourist assaulting a Chinese woman has me asking a question I've often thought about in my 20 years here - am I Chinese?
I was shocked and sickened that a supposedly respectable figure like Yang Rui, the CCTV host, would recommend "cleaning out the foreign trash, arresting foreign thugs and protecting innocent girls," and suggest that many expats were snakeheads and spies. If a US journalist said something like this about Chinese nationals, they would be fired.
There are an estimated 3.6 million Chinese living in the US. In my hometown, Chinese people work at the post office, the hospital and in city government. They are my mother's neighbors, not outsiders.
When I read that one of the security guards, who helped beat the British tourist, remarked that he knew he had to punish the man because he was a foreigner committing this act against a Chinese, I instinctively knew something about this local sentiment.
It's not always spoken aloud, but often it is. The phrase that "this is China" also implies the ending, "and you are not Chinese." And sometimes that last line is said more explicitly. It's used in any public discourse, especially in a disagreement between a foreigner and a local resident.
It is said so commonly and so often that it almost seems reasonable. Except that I would never assume the same right in the US.
Some Asians living in the US may still be told "you are not American," although I have never personally witnessed it. If I witnessed an ugly American saying this to any Chinese, I would tell them they're wrong.
I have lived most of my adult life in this country. My friends and loved ones are Chinese, I like being a part of the community and helping it in a positive way.
China is my home every bit as much the US is for many first-generation Asian-Americans. But I know that although I may see it that way, I may still be regarded as "one of those foreigners" in a society that still hasn't learned to really let in others.
The author is a history and science buff who's been living in China for more than 20 years as a professional sports consultant. email@example.com