Sophie Haas

Sophie Haas is a longtime former resident of Hangzhou and Beijing who is now back Stateside

Posts by Sophie Haas

Death by White Chocolate

On white privilege in China – by Sophie Haas



The realization struck on my very first day in China, when I was 17: during the 14-hour plane trip from New York, I had somehow become a tourist attraction. I’d landed in Beijing the night before, and my host family had decided the way to welcome me to China was a sunrise trip to Tiananmen Square to watch the raising of the flag.

Apart from eating a cucumber and drinking overly sweet green tea from a bottle, I hardly remember anything about that day or Tiananmen itself. But one memory has always stood out as clearly as if it happened yesterday: many, many people wanted either to take my picture or to have their picture taken with me. At first I tried to refuse, but soon I started to get into it, putting a friendly arm around someone’s daughter or copying the peace sign that everyone else seemed to be making in pictures. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t flattered, or that I really minded the picture taking. I’d never been considered exotic in my life and that day I began to understand what it was to feel like a model.