One of the most frustrating things about living in Taiwan (or anywhere as a minority) is all of the racism one sees. One of my good friends when I first showed up, was a black guy. He graduated from a school pretty much equivalent to mine, had good grades, and a degree in linguistics. Neither bŭxíbāns, nor high schools would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Seeing that his work opportunities were so terrible here, he left. Friends have told me not to buy clothes at Hang Ten, because “That’s where Thai people shop.” On one occasion, I was kicked out of my apartment for being white. The landlady wanted to “get rid of the foreigners”, but the Asian-American guy and the Asian-Canadian gal could stay. Stuff like that happens. It’s part of life. Most frustrating of all, is that nearly every Taiwanese person I’ve met is convinced that racism doesn’t exist here; it’s just a “western problem”.
One area in which I’ve seen particular prejudice is in hiring practices. When I first moved to Táibĕi and was looking for computer jobs, I was turned down for my whiteness on a number of times.
We’ll hire ABCs as programmers, but not lăowài. Would you like to do some editing on English versions of our technical manuals?
It was often the same story. Interestingly, the situation is frequently reversed in bŭxíbāns, where it’s an advantage to look obviously white (preferably blue-eyed). The Sesame Street and Joy branches where I worked only hired Asians and whites, no blacks. Kiki did the same thing, but took it further by only hiring Asians and whites, and keeping an all Asian (including ABC) management. At both Tomcat and Modawei, blacks were hired, but no Asians. I guess it’s because those schools require that the teachers can speak Chinese. Maybe it worries the parents to see Chinese-looking people speaking Chinese in an English class when there’s no fresh off the plane blond haired Canadian there to back them up. Since my school also requires that teachers explain things in Chinese (in lower level classes), I figured we had the same rules. But we don’t! Yesterday, I saw a new interviewee visiting our school. There were two things special about this teacher.
- She’s female!
- She’s Asian-looking!
I’ve never seen any women working at HFRBs, and all of the ones where I’ve previously worked also had “no Asian” policies (to the best of my knowledge).
I asked Ron about it today, and was really pleased with what he had to say. He won’t hire “Fake ABCs”- the Taiwanese people who study abroad for 4 years and then come back saying they’re from Los Angeles. He will consider any native English speaker from north America, who has the Chinese skills, the teaching skills and the stability to stay long enough to take classes from the basics to graduation, though. “Even black people?” I asked. “Yes, even black people,” was his response. I guess his local partner leaned on him pretty hard to NOT accept any black, Latino, or S.E. Asian looking applicants, but he stood his ground. There’s no way he can guarantee that applicants will be able to overcome the racist stereotypes of the parents to the degree necessary to open classes. But, anybody who’s qualified has a shot at the job, regardless of race. I know it may not sound anything to brag about to some of my friends back home, but believe me- it is here.