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Teaching in China and Racism


cjbaker
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As good as we westerners think a free market economy and capatalism is, we seem to fight against some issues which will make it work best. Discrimination in aid of increasing revenue and profit is a completely rational desire when it comes to business. Discrimination for no reason what-so-ever is a different matter. If the school can make more money by employing under-qualified people with white skin as opposed to post-graduate qualified native speakers (some times happens) with non-white skin then so be it. Hopefully the expectations of the parents will change over time, but for now the business should take every opportunity it can.

Capatalism sucks but if we have to have it then let's do it properly...

It's not racism, it's opportunism. :nono

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Thank you, Hakkaboy, for your warnings about libel. However, I would remind you that libel is knowingly posting information that can be proven false, which is clearly not the case here: I said that my employer posted a discriminatory ad, which is true. The rest of the information, my opinions, are just that, and do not fall under libel. Does someone have a better understanding of this who could explain?

I agree "capitalism sucks" at times, but actually in this situation it works in our favor. There are potential students a'plenty in this city (I teach over 1,300 total through this job), but finding and retaining foreign teachers (and actually Chinese teachers too) has been a persistent problem because of the management. We are the only two 外教 teaching here because the employer's efforts to find new ones have failed over the past 6 months, and all former teachers over the years have left before end of contract, including previously two Chinese Americans who the employer claimed prompted the "white skin" line in her ad.

chenpv, here are the answers to your questions: 1,2: This is the first time I have been asked to teach additional classes. 3: My boss is asking me (the word she used was 让) to work indefinitely starting next week with no days off, well in excess of the hours stated in my contract. Previous employees have complied with this type of request. 4. Based on previous interactions, I don't think my boss would care about my complaints without the threat of resignation. My ideal situation would be for her to make an effort to find another foreign teacher in time, at least do something more than a half-assed attempt at an ad that probably drives away more foreigners than it would ever attract. I enjoy teaching, living here, and experiencing China in general. And finally, I don't think racism is currently an important issue in China.

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I keep wondering while I read this whether it is true that racism is not an issue in China. To determine, lets define racism first: feeling of superiority of one race over the other And relevant actions. Many Chinese do consider their people as superior. This may be innocent but they do not define people by the definition of citizen, but by their "zu", as in Hanzu or Minzu. This seems to be supported by the government. Many feel superior towards the Tibetans or Muslim minorities. A lot of people openly support Hitler's views. Most people think that people with black skin are lazier and stupid There have been racially motivated riots in this country against African students in the late eighties.

No, I feel that a lot of people think about racist issues, however they are mostly very naive and ignorant. So far.. :wink:

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lol, maybe that was too conciliatory for me to say racism is not an issue in China. I meant that racism towards foreigners living here might not be an important social issue at the moment. However, I know that in many ways race is an important issue here. I am aware of the riots in the 80s (see Wikipedia). The issues of Han versus ethnic minority tend to come up alot here in Shaanxi with its large Muslim population. Also, and I would rather not dwell on this, I often hear people say that the Japanese dislike issue is because of their race. Finally, I believe that the common portrayal of whites in Chinese advertising in connection with money and physical beauty is an important race issue, but I only have my own still-forming opinions on this subject.

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  • 3 months later...

you know as living in us I don't think that 99.9% of Americans would discriminate Chinese just because they're Chinese. As long as I live here I notice that Americans give a lot more respect to Chinese, and welcome them more then Ukrainians, Russians or any other nationalities.

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Improving the attitude of Chinese people towards black people will be a very long, difficult process. In one sense the current situation is inevitable, because the vast majority of "information" Chinese people get about black people is from news of the problems in Africa and Hollywood movies. Just yesterday I had a university reject an application from a Kenyan student who wanted to participate on a medical course for foreigners. Their reason? AIDS is a big problem in Africa. These trainee doctors will have to work in hospitals in China as part of their course and the patients will be concerned about contracting AIDS.

The only solution is education. In Japan they have a state-sponsored programme called JET which places native English teachers in schools all around the country (about 4,000 participants every year I believe). China could do a similar thing, and save money by employing a proportion of the teachers from native English-speaking African countries. More exposure to people from these cultures is probably the only way to destroy some of the stereotypes that exist.

This has to be centrally managed by the government though - teachers allocated to schools or maybe rotated among several schools. You cannot expect private schools to give black teachers an equal opportunity when the parents of the kids call all the shots. Unfortunately at present I don't think China has reached a stage of organizational development where such a scheme could be implemented. Anyone have other ideas?

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The letter is very weak. You should only state the specific contract violation. Adding a general clause about cultural sensitivity gains nothing whether it is the real reason for your resignation or not. Unless the contract states the employer will provide a non-racist, culturally sensitive environment, or you can find specific violations of Chinese law, then you have no real justification . The ad is not enough in my opinion.

Make it simple, submit it, and move on. Do a better job of negotiating your next contract.

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I've never met a native speaking teacher of Mandarin that didn't look Chinese, so I'm not sure how I'd feel about studying with such a person. My first instinct is that I wouldn't like it, either.

If your employer is only looking for reliable teachers then you may be able to reason with them--even offer to help with the recruiting. If they are looking for white faces to please parents then that's another ball-game and an argument that you are unlikely to win.

Regarding the extra hours...do exactly what a Chinese person would...smile and then don't come in. It's not in your contract, so what are they going to do about it? They may cancel your work visa or withhold some of your pay anyway....I don't think that resignations with a notice are a Chinese thing to do. You either do a runner, try to work it out with them, or finish your contract and move on.

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In my first year, most of my Chinese classes were taught by non-native speakers. In my second year as well. The great advantage of this was that those teachers could actually tell us why it was said like this and not like that, they knew all the grammar rules, and thus did not need to answer 'we say it like that because that's how we say it'. Also, having learned the language themselves, they knew where the problems for us students were.

Sure there are plenty of native speakers who can do the same thing. But they weren't employed in my uni. The teachers that I had taught me the basics very well.

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>advantage of this was that those teachers could actually tell us why it was said like this and not like that

An excellent point. I was only considering the pronunciation aspects of the language--my greatest challenge so far.

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I've never met a native speaking teacher of Mandarin that didn't look Chinese, so I'm not sure how I'd feel about studying with such a person. My first instinct is that I wouldn't like it, either.

Respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. I like native speakers of Chinese who don't look Chinese. Seeing them speak natively makes me feel less self conscious about my far-less-than-perfect Chinese. Subconsciously, I suppose, it's a way of reducing the psychological distance between myself and a model speaker.

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It is curious that the people who dislike Dashan the most are the westerners, whereas most Chinese thinks he's kind of nice.
I find it not very surprising: westerners are jealous that he gets fame and possibly money just by speaking Chinese, and Chinese like him for taking the time to learn their language (and, yeah, his outward appearance might have just the tiniest bit to do with it as well...)
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  • 1 month later...

Respect For Non-White Foreign Teachers in China:

What if China Could Be Like StarTrek?

Some time ago I had a face-to-face interview with a representative of an English school named Shane in Dalian. Before that, over the phone, the school was ecstatic about hiring me. However, during the actual interview I could tell that the young woman was very uncomfortable in my presence. After a fair amount of coaxing, she finally admitted that she was uncomfortable, due to the color of my skin. I asked her if there were a good chance that I would be hired. She said no, even though her school desperately needed English teachers.

This was a fairly reputable school in Dalian. Unfortunately this is an incident not uncommon in China. I was very disappointed. Because I had the same, if not, better credentials than some of the teachers already there. I am an African-American, meaning I was born in America. I am a graduate from a good university in New York, with a major in Modern American Literature and a minor in East Asian Cinema. I also published a novel in America.

This type of situation has happened to me many times. I have almost grown immune to it. My Chinese-American friends also have had trouble finding teaching jobs because of the way they look. My white friends can only sympathize with me. Isn’t there an awareness that not all native English speakers have blond hair and blue or green eyes? Isn’t it known that there are such people as English speaking Chinese, black, and Indian Americans with no trace of an accent? I think that it is unfair treatment.

Is an educational institution based on the way a teacher looks, or is it based on the way a teacher teaches? These days I don’t feel very welcomed in China. I feel that I am floating backwards through time. What is the valid reason for not hiring a non-white? I always get the excuse that I speak ‘black talk’ by a person who does not have a decent command of the English language. People forget that some of our greatest speakers were non-white. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Malcolm X, just to name a few.

There should be an administration that can decipher whether an accent is standard or not. There should be more cultural awareness of other citizens in native speaking countries. China is a great civilization that has survived through the many centuries. It would be a shame to dwell upon minor contingencies such as the color of one’s skin. I also think that whites benefit in China due to the ignorance of the Chinese.

For those of you who don’t know the famous television series StarTrek, I would suggest that you watch it. It’s available in China. We could all learn a lot from it. In conclusion English should be based on ability and not the way a person looks. English is a universal language. Not only a white one.

-Randall Fields

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There should be an administration that can decipher whether an accent is standard or not

I know that the term 黑人话 (black people dialect) is known to many Chinese people, and, it seems to me, this undoubtedly hurts black people in the hiring process.

Unfortunately, I think black people will have to try extra hard to get teaching jobs in China. I know there are some decent programs in which race is not an issue in hiring considerations, whether referring to Asian-Americans or African-Americans. These schools are still in the minority, however.

I think part of the chaos of China’s current system in education stems from the fact that a very poorly educated generation (the generation that grew up during or near the Cultural Revolution) is making important decisions about their children’s education, often based on misinformation and hearsay. Simply said, many parents are easy to dupe because they don’t know how to discern what is good or not. I’m sure things will change in the next few years, as the “One Child Policy” generation starts to have kids, things will get better. At least most of them have studied English, and therefore they would know what to look for when picking a school.

Anyway, sorry to hear about this.

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Racism and prejudism is a huge problem not only directed towards foreigners. Walking down the street with some friends from Xinjiang, we got lots of negative comments directed towards us (in Shanghainese of course).

Each minority group receives this treatment depending on which area of China they choose to live.

As for the fact that schools aren't wanting to hire you based on race, I've come across this problem with Koreans as well. One of my Korean friend's friend wanted to have a home-tutor for their son. I introduced my Chinese-American friend, who can barely speak Mandarin and after one lesson, they told him not to come back. I introduced him to a second Korean family, same result. The latter family asked if I knew any caucasians. I told them politely where they could go.

My Iranian-American friend living in Japan dealt with these problems when trying to get a job teaching English...even though he has an English major.

Unfortunately it seems that people in Asia see Tom Cruise on their tvs and that's all that they want.

It'll take many years before this changes. Probably not in our lifetime. Sure there are minor reforms, but they're very minor.

As for now, just try your best to forget that it exists. Any foreigner in any country will experience tons of prejudice/racism due to a variety of reasons. About five years ago, an East-Indian immigrant living in Canada told me that he hated living here because the Canadian-Indians with no accent would laugh at him and call him a FOB. (Fresh off boat) He said that other people, whether black, white, asian would sometimes make fun of his accent even though he was within hearing range.

Have you thought of finding other work other than teaching? Or is teaching your passion? I hope that you find a good job where nobody questions your ability based on your skin colour. Good luck.

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Unfortunately it seems that people in Asia see Tom Cruise on their tvs and that's all that they want.
I doubt that this is an Asian problem. I'm guessing a white Chinese native wanting to teach in the US would not be evaluated all that objectively either.
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