African children exploited in racist online videos from China

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AFRICAN CHILDREN are being exploited in racist online videos for sale across China, a BBC Africa investigation has revealed.

A shocking video circulated on Chinese social media in February 2020 which showed a group of young African children being told by a voice off-camera to chant dehumanising phrases in Chinese such as “I am a black monster and my IQ is low.” 

The young children, who are seen on camera smiling and appearing enthusiastic, are unaware of the racist language being inflicted on them.

Following an investigation by BBC Africa and BBC Eye in a new documentary, it revealed that heartbreaking scenes like this are being filmed as personalised videos and distributed on Chinese websites and social media to laughing and mockery from some viewers.

The racist video sparked outrage in China and around the world, prompting famous Ghanaian vlogger, Wode Maya, to slam the footage on his social media platform and stir new debate about the prevalence of anti-black racism in China.

DEHUMANISED: Young African children are being exploited across Chinese websites and social media (Young boy has not been featured in any videos)

The video left difficult questions unanswered as to how vulnerable African children could end up being exploited in the Chinese video-making industry.

Runako Celina, the BBC journalist who fronts the documentary, had studied and worked in China for several years and says she couldn’t get the video out of her once the internet “had moved on.”

She says that she experienced “first-hand” the anti-black racism geared towards black people in the country.

Following analysis of hundreds of similar videos and cross-referencing them against satellite imagery from Google Earth, Runako and her investigation team discovered that the 2010 video clip was recorded in a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. 

Malawian investigative journalist, Henry Mhango, and another Chinese journalist later joined her and eventually tracked down the man who held racist views on Malawians and black people as a whole.

In China, personalised videos like this of African children can start from $10 to up to $70 US dollars as it becomes more popular to send greetings video and social media messaging of this nature. 

The journalists at the heart of the investigation go on to meet some of the families involved in the filmmaker’s discriminatory practices and explore how cultural misunderstandings, rural poverty, and racist exploitation underpin the video-making industry. 

One grandmother of a child featured in the shocking ‘low IQ’ video told the BBC that the Chinese producer was “profiting from the poor.” 

The prolific Chinese video-maker is later confronted by Runako and Henry for his outward racist attitudes and beliefs. 

The heartbreaking investigation shone a new light on the exploitation of African children across the continent, but more work needs to be done to stamp out the racist practice for good.

Racism for Sale – BBC Africa Eye documentary is available to watch now.

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