What's black and white, and Chinese all over?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/06/20 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/06/20/8624039.aspx

Charles Riley (a Unicode colleague from Yale) posted a link to In South Africa, Chinese is the New Black.

As I went through the ups and downs of the article, I didn't know what to think.

I wondered about the notions that came into play -- being able to be considered an "honorary white", being able to be considered black if you happened to be "retrospectively black" there at the right time.

Of course most of the Chinese living in South Africa don't qualify as being black (only the 10-12,000 or so who were there before 1994 do). The rest of those who are Chinese in South Africa are still honorary whites.

The lawsuit was (according to this report) targeted to try and create this situation.

But if you are Chinese how do you establish that you an "honorary white" or a "reclassified black" exactly? And is this a status you have to hang onto for all of the time you are there?

Do you have to self-identify for jobs irregardless of whether you want to qualify under the post-apartheid benefits?

And I wonder how diverse does the workplace feel if you don't know the status that everyone is there at the job under. Come to think of it, I wonder how diverse does the workplace feel if you do?

I have friends, both white and black, in the USA, and some of them have strong feelings about affirmative action. But beyond a Law & Order episode or two, I don't think any of them ever talked about the idea of folks being classified as having a skin color based on circumstances that have nothing to do with one's skin color.

Don't even think I am going to wonder about whether this needs to be an Active Directory attribute or something like that. I'm going to pretend that this thought did not even occur to me, but are there any consequences that would affect software like bookkeeping programs that have to keep track of quotas to ensure compliance?

I'm really having trouble getting my head around this one....

Remember that old Bloom County where Michael Binkley asked Steve Dallas whether Adam and Eve had navels, to which Steve said something like "Well you can just rock me to sleep!".

Now you know what I'll be saying to friend Riley next time I see him. :-)

This blog brought to you by(U+25a3, aka WHITE SQUARE CONTAINING BLACK SMALL SQUARE)

# John Cowan on 20 Jun 2008 10:34 AM:

Well, my new grandson Dorian (born on Tuesday) is looking pretty pale still, but social construction plus genetics will ensure that he is called "black" when he gets a tad older.

In S.A., it sounds like "black" is a technical term of the law for someone who was discriminated against for racial reasons by the former government.  That means that in a hundred years there will be no "blacks" in S.A. at all, although persons of dark skin will of course continue to abound.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jun 2008 10:58 AM:

Looking at Wikipedia and elsewhere, I suspect that the reality will outlive the designation, though the Chinese bifurcation may pass given its time-sensitive nature....

# Ramon Ortega on 21 Jun 2008 3:03 AM:

Hi MichaelK

Being in the localization business I can think of an extra spec for this "color coded" Active Directory attribute: In Guinea and most African countries I would be white but, ages ago, when talking to a friend of mine, black and from the States (now Afro-American), I referred to myself as "white", to what he replied that I wasn't so.  

When filling up some US forms I'm asked to tick a check box regarding my race, or whatever euphemistic expression is in use at the time. Five billion people fall into only a handful of categories--decisions, decisions. Plus, further down the form I'm asked to sign in oath that my statements are true--what a burden!

So, for the sake of internationalization, this new AD should rely on an updated NLS so when I tick "white" on an Angola locale settings it would read "neither black nor white" or whatever elsewhere.

PS (or to be deleted): Long time no talk! I've got fond memories of those loc collaborations. I still remember I own lunch and how upset you got on the "sub" tester for a bug raid'ed by me ;)

# Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jun 2008 3:10 AM:

I remember too. Good times!

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