Ding Hui, a 19-year-old volleyball player, has become the first Black athlete to be asked to play for China in the Olympics, reports London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. The athlete was named as one of 18 men on the national team’s training squad and would make his Olympic debut in London’s 2012 games.
Hui, warmly nicknamed Xiao Hei or “Little Black” by teammates, was born in China to a South African father and a Chinese mother. Although his selection is making headlines, Ding would rather people focus on his athletic abilities.
“People seem to care more about my heritage and appearance, but all I want to do is to play good volleyball,” he told a local newspaper.
Another member of the volleyball team also expressed frustration at the media attention.
“I had hoped the press would not dig out the boy’s African heritage or his family details, but instead focus on his skills and performance,” said team captain Li Shiping.
China has a small Black population, but the demographic is steadily growing due to new African immigrants. In fact, in Guangzhou, a city referred to as “Chocolate City” by the Chinese, there are an estimated 100,000 African immigrants, mostly from the western part of the continent, reports the Telegraph. The number is increasing by at least 30 percent each year in that area.
Some would argue the nation has a long way to go in terms of racial justice, though. Shortly before last year’s Olympic Games in Beijing, police held many Blacks in custody because they were believed to be drug dealers, the paper reports.