Offensive Stereotypes In Hong Kong Textbooks Are Ridiculous

A grade level textbook used in some Hong Kong has sparked controversy because of its ridiculously offensive use of stereotypes. 

Activist and blogger​ Tom Grundy posted pictures of the textbook to his blog, Hong Wrong. In the post "Hong Kong Textbook Tells You To 'Know Your Place,'" Grundy highlights the textbook's use of racist stereotypes to help students match up different nationalities with particular professions. The lesson, ironically titled "Racial Harmony", perpetuates the idea that all Filipinos are domestic workers, that all Japanese own sushi restaurants and more. Wow. 

The textbook, published by a Singapore company called Educational Publishing House, Ltd., is geared towards students in grade three. Another book by the company, titled "The Wonderful World", asks grade four students to identity the "race" of a person based on their physical characteristics. There are four categories of people -- white, black, brown and yellow -- classified by the following traits: 

  • White: Light skin, tall, flat/narrow nose, thin/thick lips.
  • Black: Very dark skin, tall, flat and wide nose, thin/thick lips, curly hair.
  • Brown: Dark skin, big/small nose, thin/thick lips.
  • Yellow: Yellow skin, blue/dark brown eyes, high cheek bones.

C'mon, now. Do we really have to remind them that people of different ethnicites and races comes in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors? Perpetuating stereotypes about what a "black" or "white" person should look like is destructive to the children learning these lessons -- and to society. 

According to The Huffington Post, the Hong Kong Equal Opportunities Commission responded to the controversy, saying, in part: "Educational material should reflect diversity, cultural values, customs, lifestyles and the social realities of Hong Kong. It should not reinforce stereotypes of any kind. We believe that ethnic stereotypes must be viewed with caution."

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