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Teaching in China and Racism


cjbaker
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[note - the original title was "translation of 'cultural sensitivity'?"]

Can anyone think of a good translation for "cultural sensitivity" or "cultural awareness"? I've talked about it with several Chinese friends, who know what I'm talking about but can't think of a way to say it easily. "文化敏感" doesn't really make sense, people say. It's part of my resignation letter which I translated with the help of some friends, here it is if you're interested:

---

December 1, 2005

XXX,

This is a formal notice of our intention to terminate employment at XXX under the 30 day period stipulated in the contract. We are unwilling to take on the additional work proposed by the Employer. This, however, is subject to negotiation pending a satisfactory agreement on employment conditions.

The employer is already aware that we are dissatisfied with our current schedule. Although the class time is relatively short, we are not provided with a 2-day weekend as indicated prior to our arrival, and our single day breaks do not coincide between the two of us, which prevents us from ever traveling together. Also, the 20 class periods per week proposed to be added to our schedules are kindergarten-level classes, rather than the older students to which our skills are better suited.

In addition, we have become aware of an advertisement for foreign teachers placed online by the Employer which explicitly discriminates against potential teachers without "white skin". This shows the blatant lack of cultural sensitivity that further makes us wish to discontinue employment. Although parents of potential students at the school may claim skin color to be a consideration, believing it to be related to English ability or accent, the Employer should not condone these groundless attitudes, but should instead defend the value of non-discrimination held as essential by most Westerners, despite the potential loss of revenue.

Awaiting your initiative for discussion and negotiations,

XXX

------

XXX:

这是我们正式提出辞职的通知。我们可以按合同里规定的提前30天告诉你们我们要辞职,这是因为我们不愿意接受更多k班的课。但我们还可以再商量一下,争取得到一个大家都满意的合作条件。

你已经知道我们现在很不满意你们的安排,虽然现在的课程时间安排的有些短,但我们现在没有像合同里所说的有2天的休息时间,这是你当时承诺的,但你却没有兑现。而且我们俩也不是同一天休息,所以我们就没有办法一起去出游。再说了我们不习惯带这么小的孩子,我们更适合带大孩子。

另外,我们在网上也看到了你招聘外教的广告,明确提出只要白皮肤的,其它肤色的一律不要。我们觉得这是一种肤色歧视,虽然家长会认为白皮肤的外教口音和能力比较好,但作为校长的你不应该这样认为,大多数西方人我们是很明感的,尽管你会少一些收入。

我们期待你们能来和我们商量一下。

XXX

[edit: 明感 -> 敏感]

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it is 敏感 (min3 gan3), not 明感 (ming2 gan3).

I think cultural sensitivity might be translated to 對文化差異的敏感度。

I have read many resignation letters, but have never read one that said "I hereby submit my resignation, but hey this is still negotiable". And all of them were very formal, thanking the organisation for the opportunity etc etc. I guess it has to do with our thinking that 凡事留一線,日後好相見. So I find your letter very interesting.

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I don't think 敏感(度) is quite right for this sense either.

I think taking the first half of skylee's translation, but replacing 敏感度 with 理解 (or 了解? can never remember which is appropriate where - wait for another native speaker's comment) gets pretty close to the English meaning:

对文化差异的理解(了解??)

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cjbaker: what right do you have to lecture the Chinese? Your letter is insufferably arrogant. Chinese employers don't have to abide by the cultural sensitivities of America, a country thousands of miles away. It is simply a commercial decision to employ whoever the parents of the children want. What gets me about these "anti-racist" types, such as yourself, is the typical assumption of superiority of Westerners, who are entitled to lecture China and bring its culture into line with that of America. Cjbaker - it is you who are being culturally insensitive!

I have read many resignation letters, but have never read one that said "I hereby submit my resignation, but hey this is still negotiable". And all of them were very formal, thanking the organisation for the opportunity etc etc. I guess it has to do with our thinking that 凡事留一線,日後好相見. So I find your letter very interesting.

Skylee, you are right! This letter is just an attempt to blackmail the school into accepting cjbaker's political agenda. It is much better, if cjbaker is going to leave, to do so on a nice note as Skylee said. My overall reaction to the letter: Yuk!! Translate that into Chinese.

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Hi everyone, thanks for your suggestions. Obviously this is a very difficult type of word to translate exactly because of "cultural differences", which I think "对文化差异的理解" captures well. I will run these by a few friends.

Skylee, I realize that this isn't really a "by the book" resignation letter, but I more wanted the 30 days notice to be made early just in case, while beginning discussion in writing. The school doesn't usually do much "by the book" either, for example trying to white out our 2 day weekend from our contract with correction fluid and a pen after we signed it. I have practical reasons to prefer negotiation to simply leaving.

Hakkaboy, are you kidding? The Chinese people I know mostly agree that putting a requirement for race in a job advertisement is discriminatory, racist, and unacceptable. I have made no judgement of the "Chinese people", I am protesting the behavior of my boss. Is it a "political agenda" to protest unfair discrimination against yourself or the people around you? Also, this school does need to "abide by the cultural sensitivities of a country thousands of miles away" to some degree if they expect foreign teachers to apply, as I think most people would be turned away by this type of ad. I can understand the students' parents suspecting my boss of hiring non-native speakers, but I think they would easily accept a teacher of any race once they knew their background (they did for us).

I believe that the reason many Americans may be more "sensitive to" or "aware of" racial discrimination is that they have experienced it first-hand in America, whereas it is not something many Chinese ever encounter, and thus not a very "culturally sensitive" topic here. That doesn't mean that Chinese don't know about racism, or have opinions on it. However, I don't propose to "lecture China" about racism, because I believe it is a non-issue in China. Believe me, I much prefer to lecture America because I know better what the real issues are there.

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Hakkaboy, are you kidding? The Chinese people I know mostly agree that putting a requirement for race in a job advertisement is discriminatory, racist, and unacceptable. I have made no judgement of the "Chinese people", I am protesting the behavior of my boss. Is it a "political agenda" to protest unfair discrimination against yourself or the people around you? Also, this school does need to "abide by the cultural sensitivities of a country thousands of miles away" to some degree if they expect foreign teachers to apply, as I think most people would be turned away by this type of ad. I can understand the students' parents suspecting my boss of hiring non-native speakers, but I think they would easily accept a teacher of any race once they knew their background (they did for us).

Cjbaker: people can hire who they like in a free society. China is in many ways freer than Western countries. It is wrong to bring this agenda into China.

I believe that the reason many Americans may be more "sensitive to" or "aware of" racial discrimination is that they have experienced it first-hand in America, whereas it is not something many Chinese ever encounter, and thus not a very "culturally sensitive" topic here. That doesn't mean that Chinese don't know about racism, or have opinions on it. However, I don't propose to "lecture China" about racism, because I believe it is a non-issue in China. Believe me, I much prefer to lecture America because I know better what the real issues are there.

It sounds like you have a problem with the USA. I have no sympathy with your political agenda in the USA, let alone in China. Freedom must override all forms of egalitarianism: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to hire or not to hire.

I hope your school shows you the door.

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Hakkaboy, not hiring someone solely because s/he has the wrong skin color is racism. Surely you are not in favor of racism??

In the beginning of the 20th century, the US forbid the immigration of Chinese. You could be refused entrance to the country just for being Chinese. That was the freedom of the American people to let only people they wanted into their country. Are you in favor of this too?

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Hakkaboy, not hiring someone solely because s/he has the wrong skin color is racism. Surely you are not in favor of racism??

In the beginning of the 20th century, the US forbid the immigration of Chinese. You could be refused entrance to the country just for being Chinese. That was the freedom of the American people to let only people they wanted into their country. Are you in favor of this too?

Lu, people do like/dislike other people on many grounds, many of them arbitrary. Fat, thin, tall, short, good looking, ugly, and many others. You clearly don't believe in a free society. Should the government make every single decision for us? In a free society people are free to think whatever they like. In this case, the decision to look for a white native speaker of English is much more innocent that you try to imply. No one suggests that the school principals have a visceral and irrational dislike of people based purely on their skin colour - rather, they just want someone who look "Western", defined in whatever way is likely to meet the children's parents' perceptions. The more Dashan-looking the Westerner, the better, I expect, in the eyes of the parents.

I've got news for you: every country has the right to control its borders. China does NOT allow free immigration from the developing countries for the purpose of taking up jobs. How many Bangladeshis and Nigerians did you meet in China's manufacturing sector? That is China's right. Yes Americans in the early 20th century exercised their right to control their borders in order to meet whatever objectives they saw fit.

No, Lu, I do not believed in forced egalitarianism, but in freedom of expression and freedom of association - which means freedom to hire and fire without having to meet the government's political goals. Society is inherently stratified. There will always be people richer and more powerful than others, and every attempt to get around that has failed (Communism!!) People of genuine ability need no government programme to get on in life.

Cjbaker - you should just have asked how to say "culturally insensitive" and left it at that.

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There will always be people richer and more powerful than others, and every attempt to get around that has failed (Communism!!) People of genuine ability need no government programme to get on in life.

I don't hear cjbaker talking about a government program. Why are you objecting to his free choice not to work for a racist employer or to file his complaint?

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Chinese employers don't have to abide by the cultural sensitivities of America, a country thousands of miles away.

Yes, of course it seems that Chinese employers don’t have to abide by the cultural sensitivities, but can we say that Chinese employers don’t need to respect foreigners and foreign cultures, especially in the part of values价值观. In an employment relation, the employer and the employee are equal, and their mutual respect and understanding is very important to their cooperative relationship. Do you think foreigner talents will feel good, when their values are rudely trampled?

It is simply a commercial decision to employ whoever the parents of the children want.

How about think of it one more time? Does whoever the parents of the children want can really teach their children well? Can we say someone with a more western look means he / she has better English level or teaching level?

Freedom must override all forms of egalitarianism: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to hire or not to hire.

Indeed? Thereby, I think I have the freedom to doubt! I remember very well that there is a traditional Chinese proverb says, “过犹不及 What is over done is just equal to it is less done.” According to the word, “Freedom must override all forms of egalitarianism: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom to hire or not to hire”, can we say, “Freedom is beyond any kinds of limits”? I still think freedom must be kept within some limits, which everyone in the society can accept. On the ground of everyone’s acceptance, freedom can be still under the rule of law, morality and culture.

China is in many ways freer than Western countries.

In my own opinion, in China, the higher governmental rake you have or the richer you are, you are “freer” than your counterparts in Western countries in many ways.

This letter is just an attempt to blackmail the school into accepting cjbaker's political agenda.

Well, it should be confessed that the language in the letter is really not so pleasing and it sounds a bit “over-frank”. In psychology, we say that there must be some reasonable causes behind those behaviors seem unreasonable. If possible, can we just sometimes forgive others’unreasonable behaviors and try to find out the causes that make them behave like that?

Thanks!

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If I were a student in an English school in China, I would want to see *more* people who look like me and are native speakers of English. I think that would improve my confidence. The problem is that many people immediately think that anyone with a Chinese face claiming to be a native speaker is faking it (and I'm sure there are those too), so that ironically there are many more people with non-Chinese faces faking it.

这是我们正式提出辞职的通知 ... 但我们还可以再商量一下 does look weird. Like skylee said, it's not the tone of a resignation letter that is meant to be taken seriously.

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Who has never read, written, or considered writing an angry letter to their boss? It was not my intention to write a polite or formal resignation letter (I meant that my threat to resign was formal, not the letter). It was also not my intention to write a letter to the "Chinese people" or government, I suppose I should've only included the relevant sentence so people wouldn't get so excited. This is a piece of personal correspondence that I decided to post because I thought the issue might be of interest to this board, in addition to the translation question.

Hakkaboy, I made no reference to the Chinese government implementing "egalitarian" policies. You say that "freedom" must override all forms of "egalitarianism", such as Communism in China. Is this "freedom" not your own value which you have arbitrarily decided to apply to Chinese society? Part of living in a society is that you are not completely free to do as you please, there are rules such as "no racial discrimination in employment" or "follow work contracts" that are made to protect the rights of other members. I appreciate that you're trying to defend China from having Western values pushed on it, but I think you should pick another battle. I think racism is bad, and I think most Chinese would say the same thing if you asked them.

I accept that different societies decide on different rules, and I don't believe that my students' parents are racist just because they talk about race in a way I would perceive as insensitive. My boss, however, is incompetent at her job, which is recruiting and interacting with foreigners, and I have every right to complain to and criticize her. Sorry to have strayed from the "Reading and Writing" forum topic.

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Racism, again racism, it's just like a discarded chewing gum being picked up and chewed again. Theoretically, racism will not be eradicated until the whole world enters the era of Communism (Note: not socialism), which failed AT PRESENT and will not be achieved in a long long time. :mrgreen: So much better if we stopped arguing over what is right or what is wrong, but do something more practical. Like a celebrity once said, in this world, there are 1/4 people who support your opinion, 1/4 people who disapprove your opinion and 1/2 people who are for you and your opponents to fight for. :) cjbaker, maybe you would like to try to persuade your boss to accept your idea, rather than make it a condition for your job. :)

I meant that my threat to resign was formal, not the letter
Hehe, you tried to threat a native Shaanxi person(if your boss is) like this. Oh, believe me, I am a native Shaanxi person myself. I can assure you it never ever works on us.:mrgreen:
We are unwilling to take on the additional work proposed by the Employer.
cjbaker' date=' you constantly mentioned that your boss went against the contract. I didnt get it to some extent. May I ask your some questions?

(1) So was it the case that you signed the contract and soon your boss asked you to teach additional classes, before which, you had never accepted any additional classes?

(2) Was it the case that you signed the contract and ever accepted some additional classes by acquiescence (with or without extra pay) and now your boss wanted you to accept more additional classes which annoyed you?

(3) If your boss did break the contract first and there was no way out, excuse for my ignorance, what's the use of a resignation letter? Maybe you would like to accumulate some substantiate evidences which help later on rather than a resignation letter.

(4) If you did want to resign, what were the weird sayings in your letter for?

Back to topic, this sentence:

This shows the blatant lack of cultural sensitivity[/b'] that further makes us wish to discontinue employment.
I wont translate it, but how about:你们的这种做法显然没有体谅我们的感受......
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I am not interested in discussing racism.

Regarding the letter, if you don't really want to resign, please consider making it a complaint or a request for improvement. In larger organisations, there are always proper channels to deal with staff complaints/requests, but I don't think there are for "complaints disguised as resignation". I don't think a small school would have a better system. I would think that your employer would be more willing to deal with your complaint/request then your resignation.

Make it a complaint or a request. And if the employer does not respond or does not agree, then hand in a real resignation. There is no need to tell your employer that you still want to stay (it is really unwise IMHO). If your employer finds you indispensible, he/she will try to retain you and give you what you want. If your employer doesn't find your service valuable, there is no point to stay. There is a Chinese saying - 此地不留人,自有留人處.

Accusing/alleging your employer of mal-treatment, violation of agreement, discrimination, etc would not help, IMHO. It has to do with the "face" issue. If you don't give him/her "face", why should he/she treat you nicely. I think milder wordings might be more helpful.

And please do not say "We are unwilling to take on the additional work proposed by the Employer". It reflects very badly on your work attitude IMO. If I were your employer, this would be enough for me to let you go. Why would I want to hire someone who is "unwilling to take on additional work"? I am not familiar with the market condition of foreign English teachers in China. But unless there is really no competition, saying this would unlikely bring you any good.

Unless you are a gangster, do not try to threaten your employer. Reason with him/her. If it does not work, then leave. But if you cannot leave, then I think you have to accept what there is until you can walk away easily.

I say all these from the viewpoint of a PR manager. And I am from Hong Kong so what I say might not be totally applicable to your situation. I do not mean to offend you.

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I think it is a good idea to make a thread, as this seems to be a hot political issue among foreigners in China. My guess is that CJBaker and his - am I guessing right from the picture you posted? - African-American boyfriend (is homosexuality an issue at the school too?) are angry at terms and conditions, and as a second thought the "racist" advert on the Internet is being dragged into the issue as an additional slur on the employer. Why don't you go and ask them to respect the contract and tell them you will go elsewhere otherwise? We don't have all the details. Craig is working as a teacher. And Brandon? He is already working as a teacher too? Or not? If he is already working as a teacher at Baoji KidsCastle, then Craig is wrong to imply that they won't accept a black teacher because they already have. I think there are ways to resolve your contract issues without querying their right to hire someone who would please the parents. Let me add, there are many Westerners without blue eyes and blond hair who would also not be first choice of this type of school. Dashan is like a stereotype, but a fun stereotype everyone would want to be photographed with in the Chinese view. There is no basis here for a political campaign. I think you need to be more careful as you have given your full name, posted your picture and that of your boyfriend, and given the name of your employer. Be careful not to get into posting of libellous comments on the Internet. If you put "Baoji KidsCastle" into Google - this forum thread comes up. If I were the director of Baoji KidsCastle I would not be pleased...

Now I will comment on CJ Baker''s post:

I think racism is bad, and I think most Chinese would say the same thing if you asked them.

But!! They might not agree that advertising for a white Westerner to teach English was an example of racism...

I accept that different societies decide on different rules, and I don't believe that my students' parents are racist just because they talk about race in a way I would perceive as insensitive.

Finally, it appears that you realise too that the students' parents are not being "racist".

If I were you I would move to a different school anyway, as the relationship has broken down, and I don't think employment ever recovers from such a situation. Did you see the advert by someone in Hong Kong on these Chinese Forums for people to work in hotels in China? You could both contact her and it might be easier than teaching children whose parents' opinions need to be taken into account. [i say need to be, because the school is in the business of providing an educational service, not giving classes on political ethics to the parents.]

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Just some days ago, I thought about “racism” in China and wrote something in my blog. I thought, first, Chinese are not racists because they don’t have a chance to be; second, they would act like that if they have a chance (and everybody would), unless they’re not educated that racism is evil.

Tiny Planet, Abysmal Rifts

Are Chinese Racists?

Obviously, I missed this interesting thread here, which gives me an example of hiring by skin. Hiring foreign teachers is definitely a chance to be racist. And not to my surprise, the boss acts like this way.

Putting the exact case in America, I call it racism. In China, I think the school is unjust and unreasonable. Am I unfair? I’m perhaps just practical. To give “racism” a definition, can I say “racism is a discrimination based on race”? It’s simple definition but seems to work. No, that’s not the case, I missed the social context. Let me revise it, “In America, racism is a discrimination based on race, which will bring riots and upheaval the country if not under control.” But, “In China, racism is a discrimination based on race, which shows some are unjust and unreasonable.” I said, this is a very practical approach. The behavior is bad, but simply because China is not in the danger of riots, Chinese are not aware of the issue.

To conclude, I think the school is doing a wrong thing, morally and practically, whether public or private. And I think we should pay more attention on these kinds of issues and build up some common views among citizens. But I don’t copy the vocabulary “racism” in this case, after all, it’s not a “-ism”. And I think the boss should not be a "-ist" who acts all his life according to his some ugly pricinples.

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