In the midst of the lockdown chaos in Shanghai, one bizarre and disturbing WeChat exchange from one of the now-common building groups that have been set up went viral. In it, a man suggested eating his black neighbor.
We reached out to the man at the center of it, an American international teacher from Chicago named Jacobie Kinsey, to get his take on the incident.
Did you know ‘504’ before he posted about eating you in the group?
Not really, I only had brief interactions with him (2 or 3 times) when my community were doing nucleic acid tests for everyone.
What was your initial reaction when he suggested eating you?
To be honest, a part of me thought it was a joke and another part of me thought that he could be serious, especially during this time in Shanghai.
How did you take the comment?
I took the comment being moreso ignorant than being racist. Unfortunately, in China, some people do not know that comments like this have racist undertones.
Did you address that with ‘504’?
I addressed the situation with him and my building’s group chat.
And how did those conversations go?
I think the conversations went well; he was understanding about my opinion regarding the situation.
How would you say your relationship with ‘504’ is now?
I think the relationship between us is a mutual respect type of relationship. No ill/hard feelings towards each other.
Do you know how the screenshots started getting shared about?
I suspect a person from the group chat shared it with a friend of theirs, and that friend probably shared it to another friend.
How did you feel once you found out it had all gone viral?
I didn’t how to feel in that moment. I was surprised about it.
What do you think about the memes that have been made?
I think they are hilarious; the people that made them are creative and have a great sense of humor!
Have you received any support for how you handled the situation?
Yes, I have received tremendous support about my response from loved ones, friends and strangers via text messages, WeChat messages, Instagram messages, LinkedIn messages and Facebook messages.
Have you received any criticism at all?
No, not really
Is it you selling the #DontEatMe t-shirts?
Hahaha, no it’s not me.
Reflecting on the whole incident, is there a message would you like to get out there?
This incident has given much relief to many of us during this lockdown. I loved that people found laughter and joy from it.
I am also conscious that this has created conversations about race relations here in Shanghai and China as a whole. I would like for EVERYONE to continue to grow and learn about others that are different from them.
Remember, humans have more similarities than differences with each other. Let’s continue to spread positivity, peace and love.
Watch Jacobei Kinsey's video message about the incident: