It will likely come as no surprise to our readers (particularly our non-white, non-Chinese readers) that racism is a problem in China. We’ve reported in the past on the Chinese media’s less than PC approach to race, and the repugnant strain of racism and xenophobia that generally floats just beneath the surface on the Chinese web. One focal point for situations of racism, even in comparatively multicultural and liberal cities like Shanghai and Beijing, is gaining entry to a nightclub.
In 2008 there was uproar that bars in Beijing were deliberately barring black patrons during the Olympics, allegedly on the instructions of the Public Security Bureau. Fan Huang wrote on this very site last year of bouncers at The Room turning away black patrons. Last week we were made aware of a similar incident at Shiva Lounge:
I am in total shock right now. I got to Shiva Lounge tonight and the doorman tried to refuse me entry. He actually said the words “No black people allowed”. I thought he was joking and persisted and possibly being with a white friend he ended up letting us in. I went back to him to ask him about his comment and he said that he had been instructed by his boss. When I told him that this was not good, he replied that I was not his boss. Evidently this is a place that I am not welcome in Shanghai and in no way could I recommend.
We reached out to the management of Shiva, who were kind enough to provide us the following statement:
For the record, everyone is welcome to Shiva and we have no policy whatsoever refusing admittance according to race. We have however, a problem with drug dealers, who just incidentally mainly come Xinjiang and Nigeria and we may limit these individuals from entry.
Some of these guys can be pretty nasty and just to give an example, a couple of them recently got into a fight in our bathrooms that tore off the stalls and left it in shambles.
We have instructed our doorman to limit some of these dealers but we have also made it very clear to him that he is not supposed to refuse entry to anyone who is not a dealer. He generally does a pretty good job but he is Chinese, his English is very limited and he may not be able to distinguish with complete accuracy whether a black person is from Nigeria or Montreal.
Unfortunately, this can lead to the occasional isolated incident such as what the below customer ran across. I would be very grateful if you could pass an apology on to him from the owners, Blaine and Weila, and tell him he is welcome any time at Shiva.
Also let him know that we will have a talk with the doorman to first understand the incident from his point of view and secondly, which will lead to a discussion and guidance about his entry decision making skills.
For what it’s worth, this incident does seem to have been caused by overzealous door staff rather than any instructions from management. However, as our tipster points out, photos could be taken of troublemakers and then given to door staff, rather than risk an arbitrary policy that bars entire races or nationalities.
We guess no “N-Words in Shanghai” song is gonna be on and poppington in the future.