“I am a black monster and I have a low IQ”: the controversial racist videos that Chinese youtubers record in Africa to earn money


“I am a black monster! I have a low IQ!”

In February 2020, a denigrating video appeared on social media in China showing a group of children living in poverty in different parts of Africa repeating in Mandarin the racist insults dictated to them by an anonymous cameraman.

The format of the recording is one that has become popular in recent years in China: personalized congratulations videos, in which people somewhere in Africa, many of them black and underage, send greetings in one language. that they themselves often do not understand.

All this while they dance and “have fun” around a black board, on which the congratulatory message is written with different colored chalk.

Reporters Runako Celina and Henry Mhango, from the BBC Africa Eye team, decided to investigate the video with racist content from 2020 for try to reveal the history in back of your recording.

“After the controversy faded on the networks, I could not forget about him. As a black woman living in China, the video had stuck in my head. Where was it recorded? Why was it done? Who is this person who took a group of happy and excited children and made them scream something so demeaning?” Runako wonders.

After months of painstaking investigations and forensic video analysis, our BBC Africa Eye team managed to find some answers.

The video

“I am a black monster,” children are heard saying.

The “IQ video,” as Runako and Henry refer to it, is just one of a multitude of racist videos found on social media in China.

But for Runako, this video had a different impact. One of the factors that generated the most controversy when it was made public in 2020 was the use of a term that children repeat during the recording.

“The word that the children are using [en el video] it’s ‘heigui’”, explains Runako, which could be translated as “black monster” or “black demon”.

“But actually,” he adds, “it’s the Chinese equivalent of the N-word in English, which is one of the worst racial slurs,” he says.

As a starting point for her search, Runako decided to contact experts in forensic video analysis to try to find details that would help identify the location of the recording.

Through geographic, topographic and signaling elements, the experts were able to identify that the IQ video had been recorded in a small rural town in Malawi, in southeastern Africa.

field investigation

Understanding that she would need someone who knew the ground, Runako decided to team up with Henry Mhango, a local investigative reporter who has worked with the BBC Africa Eye uncovering cases of human rights abuses, corruption and violent crime in Malawi.

Malawian journalist Henry Mhango
Malawian journalist Henry Mhango.

“When [Runako] He showed me the IQ video, I was shocked: the children shouting those demeaning phrases were from Malawi. It had happened right under our noses, hidden in plain sight,” explains Henry.

Armed with nothing more than geographic coordinates, Henry headed to the site where evidence indicated the video had been recorded.

“The town is located in a perfect area to do business discreetly. It is hidden in the rural area and is only connected to highways through deep roads.”

It was there that, for the first time, Henry heard a name. Or rather, a nickname: “Susu”, which means “uncle” in Mandarin.

a secret recording
Secret recording of “Susu”.

The journalist discovered that Susu had come to live in the area some years ago and had recorded hundreds of videos with the local population. According to some people in the town, she had received him believing that he had come to teach the little ones to speak Mandarin.

Furthermore, reporters say, it is not uncommon to see Chinese nationals in Malawi today: due to Beijing’s growing drive to expand its influence in Africa – through investments in infrastructure and the presence of Chinese companies and technology – local residents have begun to get used to the presence of foreigners in the country.

This also led some residents to believe that, through the videos, Susu was going to be able to bring economic aid from China to improve the conditions of the impoverished population.

the deception

Villagers interviewed by the BBC Africa Eye team said that despite the hours the children spent with Susu, they never learned Mandarin. They knew how to say some words, because they learned them while recording the videos, but they never learned the meaning of what they were saying.

Even worse, according to local people, many of the children filming videos with Susu had stopped going to school.

A man offers French fries to children in Africa
Many of Susu’s videos contained disparaging content, making fun of the poverty of people in Africa.

“Instead of becoming the leaders of tomorrow, they will grow up uneducated. They will end up asking for money or stealing, ”said a mother to BBC journalists.

But even though Runako and Henry knew they were getting closer to Susu, they still had no clear picture of what the man actually looked like.

“Selfies and blogs gave us a first image of who could be the owner [de los videos], a twentysomething. Among the posts, we found a single photo of a national ID card, and we finally had a name: Lu Ke,” Runako explained.

“But is this man Susu, the same one I have been following on the web? And more importantly, is he the one who made the IQ video?

Xiao Gulah, the image of the videos

Bright is a 6-year-old boy who lives in the small rural town of Kamwendo, in western Malawi, near the Namibian border.

Bright, a 6-year-old boy

At 4 years old, he was one of Susu’s favorite subjects for her videos.

But it was not only Susu’s favorite subject, but also that of the audience: Bright went viral on social networks in China, and became a kind of “unofficial image” for this type of content.

In these circles, Bright is known as Xiao Gulah.

On web pages that offer these videos, it is common to see content accompanied by a photo in which Bright appears with a thumbs up, as a gesture of approval.

A promoted video with Bright's image
Bright’s image went viral in China.

What Runako and Henry discovered behind the boy’s sweet and innocent image as Xiao Gulah was a sad and shameful story of child abuse.

“[Susu] he pinched us when we made a mistake and when we did something wrong, he hit us with a stick,” the little boy told our reporters, as his mother looked on sadly.

“When I tried to take him away, the man would come back and take him away. It is very painful for my heart. We never saw any benefit to it,” the woman explained.

Susu, the racist

Our journalists had more and more information about the videos, but there was a key point to clarify: was it Susu who had recorded the IQ video?

In order to find out, the BBC Africa Eye team contacted a Chinese journalist to pose as a businessman looking to hire Lu Ke’s services. He would carry a hidden camera with him.

In one of several conversations they had, Susu began to talk about her work with black people in Africa.

“Don’t treat them as if they were your friends,” the man told the journalist. “Never pity them, you have to remember that. Never feel sorry for them. No matter their family situation, never feel sorry for them. This is how you should treat black people,” Lu Ke is heard saying in one of the videos.

A picture of Susu on the hidden camera
“Don’t treat them as if they were your friends,” the man told the journalist.

With phrases as explicit as those caught on video, BBC Africa Eye reporters decided it was time to seek answers about the IQ video.

They summoned Lu Ke again to show it to him and ask him if it was his.

“Yes, that’s mine,” the man is seen to respond naturally.

But after a few seconds, as if she had remembered something, Susu retracted: “No, wait, that video is not mine. my friend did it […] I suggest you don’t have that video on your phone. Don’t let black people see that.”

Susu surrounded by children
Some videos show Susu as the center of the boys’ attention.

According to Runako, it seemed that Susu had let a secret slip, an idea that took hold a few seconds later when the man mentioned the controversy that had been generated with the original publication of the video.

getting rich

Our team discovered that Susu was making huge amounts of money from her videos.

In one of the secretly recorded conversations, he is seen boasting of recording more than 380 videos in a single day, something that would represent earnings of at least $11,000 dollars in less than 24 hours.

When Runako asked Bright’s mother if she had received any kind of profit from her son’s work, the woman said no.

Fausika and Bright

“It is so painful for me, because my son has suffered a lot. She made him scream until his veins popped out [del cuello] for three days in a row and on the fourth, he came back sick. On the fourth day, the Chinese man would come with a piece of chicken, share it with him, and take it to work again.”

Relatives of other children who appeared in the video also reacted with pain.

The grandmother of one of the boys, almost in tears, said that Susu had “made profits on poor people”.

Relatives of children who appear in Susu's videos

the confrontation

After months of investigations, and loaded with evidence against him, the journalists finally decided to confront Lu Ke at his home.

Runako, accompanied by Henry, and before the curious look of the locals, approached with decision.

“All the local boys call you Susu, right?” Runako asked.

Runako confronts Susu

“Yes Yes”

“What is the reason for making these videos?”

“I want to spread Chinese culture, music and dance. Even the Chinese words, the Chinese language.”

“Our sources say that you hit the boys”

“I did not do it”

“We saw the video where he makes them say ‘I’m the black devil.’ Did he do it?”

“I didn’t make that video”

“This is considered exploitation, did you know that?”

“I did not exploit them”

Susu during the confrontation
The man defended himself.

The BBC investigation drew a comment from Malawi’s internal security minister, Jean Muonaowauza Sendeza, who said that Susu had violated child protection laws and would have to answer to the authorities.

As the minister told journalist Henry Mhango: “The child protection and justice act has been violated and we will use this act so that this individual faces the law. We will not allow foreigners to insult our children, our citizens.”

The police of the African country also announced the beginning of an investigation.

A bittersweet investigation

runako and henry

Tired of a fruitless conversation, in which Susu denied everything the BBC Africa Eye team had managed to verify, Runako and Henry left the town with a “bittersweet” feeling.

“I spent so much time going through Susu’s videos, worrying about what was going on behind the scenes. Now, I knew the truth,” says Runako.

“But as I prepared to leave Henry, this discovery felt bittersweet: sweet because together with Henry we had managed to discover one of the worst examples of the racism that all [las personas de raza negra] we face, both on the continent and in the diaspora.”

Runako

“But bitter, because we both knew this was bigger than Susu: yes, we had disrupted a man’s activity. But this industry is still growing, with real children like Bright being exploited daily to entertain people far, far away…”

Henry agrees.

“When I look at my country, I think of all the people who still face poverty […] Susu took advantage of his good faith. She came to Malawi and betrayed our children…”

This story is adapted from the BBC Africa Eye documentary Racism for Sale. You can see it in full here.

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