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Interview with Taiwan's Warren Fox

Posted Feb 2 2010

Taipei-based, Seattle-bred renaissance man talks about martial arts, hip hop, and being Black in Taiwan. (Martial Arts photos courtesy of Justine Wang)

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Game Changer

Warren and I initially discussed doing an interview back in 2004 and we were finally able to make it happen. The five years since that initial discussion have been a period of tremendous growth and we discussed a range of topics, including his passion as a martial artist, as a contributor to the local hip-hop scene, and life as an immigrant, particularly his experiences as an African-American male in a city not particularly known as being a mecca for Black folks.

So how’d he end up in Taiwan? While studying abroad in China in 2001 he was exposed to the baguazhong style of martial arts and later relocated to Taiwan to study with Master Wu-Guozheng, making a mark promoting baguazhong in both Taiwan and the U.S. At the same time, he’s been making a name for himself as an MC, in both Chinese and English, working with a who’s who of Taiwanese artists and opening for big name American acts such as Ciara and Fatman Scoop. While working as an English teacher still pays the bills, Warren has big plans for the future and has his hands in a variety of projects, including an appearance in last year’s Chinese film “Gasp.” 

Before we get into martial arts and hip hop, can you give some background on living in Taiwan as a foreigner? Was it difficult moving here from the States?

I think because I speak Chinese it wasn’t as difficult as it could’ve been. Being Black, you deal with racial issues everywhere you go and I think that kind of gives you a strength do deal with whatever you run (in) to. I think the racial things I’ve run into out here have been related to ignorance, whereas the racial issues I’ve run into in the States have been related to hatred. So here it’s a lot easier to deal with.  I say a word or two in Chinese and that completely changes perspective about what he thinks of Black people.

What would be an example?
I met a girl and I think I asked her what time it was. She flinched away from me like she was disgusted. She said  “I don’t talk to Black people.” I was like, “Just how many Black people do you know?” and she said, “I’ve never met any. My sister said they were all bad. She had a (Black) boyfriend a long time ago.” I had to keep speaking loudly to this girl because she had been hit before in the ear by a guy. She was partly deaf. I asked, if the guy who had hit her was Black and she said he was Taiwanese. I responded, “you don’t think all Taiwanese are bad?” Her rationale was that he was an individual, to which I responded, “Black people aren’t individuals? What one person does is the whole group?” She said she had never really though about it. And I was like you’ve never really had the time or reason to think about it, but now that I’m talking to you and you do talk to Black people, could you tell me what time it is?” I could see that her eyes really changed. It seems like something that would be obvious, but it’s not.  

In terms of jobs…
Jobs are definitely a problem because when you’re teaching English they want somebody who “looks” like they’re from England or wherever. They don’t realize that Black people are from America too so a lot of times they think you’re African or even that Africans can't speak good English. It’s going to be harder, but it also acts like a filter. The schools that are gonna be that ignorant also have a lot of other problems. Just look at it like a filter. The job you actually get, aren’t going to have that many problems. Whereas if you get a job at one of those places that only hires White people, there’s going to be a lot of other stuff you’re not even going to want to deal with. It works in your favor if you want a job MCing. If you have any skills at all, you can pull it off. Or if you want to play basketball or sports. It’s stereotypical, but it works against you, it works for you. It just depends on what you want to do. Obama becoming president has changed some mindsets though.

How about housing?
If you speak Chinese, you can work some things out. I think if you’re a foreigner, Black, White, whatever, they’re gonna try to get you more on the housing. They’re going to try to get you to pay a little bit more because they think all foreigners are rich. So usually what you got to do with that is you gotta have a friend, a Taiwanese friend, go and apply for the house first. And when he makes a deal with the landlord you walk around the corner and say, “thank you very much.” You gotta kinda trick them into it. You gotta hustle them. Otherwise, they’ll hustle you.

And dating?
Dating is one of the biggest problems you could ever have out here. There are so many women out here who are just gorgeous. They’ll love you if you know how to talk. If you have any common sense at all, you can make a lot of really good friends here. The real trick that foreigner runs into out here is they try to date too many girls and they ruin our reputation. They make it hard on anyone who wants a relationship. You gotta be assertive, like at home, but you don’t have to play as many games. I had to fall down the stairs once to get a girl’s number in the States.

The dating situation is different as there’s so much emphasis on studying here. Girls don’t start dating until later here so they don’t know all the games. A 25 year old might have the mentality of a teenager when it comes to relationships. Having said that, that can be dangerous. Some do know the games and you can still get in trouble. Some love foreigners, or even brothas. But that’s a problem. We’re not individuals. They’re looking for a story or an experience. I’ve dated women who were like that. It can be hard if you’re looking for a relationship.

I’ve noticed a lot more Africans have been moving to Taiwan and was wondering what was the relationship between Africans and African Americans as I know it’s been tense in other places.
I’ve seen some Africans do some cold-blooded things like knock glass out of a girl’s hand for not dancing with them. They don’t see how individual behaviors affect all Black people. I know some real cool ones too. It’s complex. Some make a bond, but some hate on us. I’ve met a few other brothas out here. Ron Stuart does a radio show. My first boss was a Black guy from New York. He was a former cop and I’ve had a number of co-workers. One guy had an African wife. She was real sweet. We saw Boyz II Men together.

Comments

1. Mike palmer said at February 5, 2010 2:48 pm:

Awesome interview, I really agree with warren's stance on tw culture and thought patterns

2. Jason A. Harvey said at February 6, 2010 8:48 pm:

Word!Game Changer...that's what's up! I appreciate reading about your trip to Taiwan and your interactions with the people there!

3. Daniel said at February 12, 2010 3:56 pm:

Mike and Jason, thanks for the words. As Warren and I talked I'm really glad that he was open to doing a formal interview. Great insights and reflections. Having said that, I have both of you down in my queue, if you're open to a future sit down!

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