Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Ethnic Background Issues and Teaching English in China

Important Note For Black American, Asian, African and Indian Sub-continent native English speaking teachers by Teach In China, an agency assisting with english teaching jobs in China.

"We only want white people" -This is a quote from the manager of a Chinese English school.

What's the Go with this?

In China, just like in the rest of the world, many people are racist. For an English teacher recruitment business like ours this poses a challenge. We have been trying for a long time to place native English speaking Black American, Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Nigerian and Black South African English teachers into schools in China - mostly unsuccessfully. Occasionally we do place black female North American. We are usually met with a polite "no thank you" or an outright, "nobody wants to be taught English by a black person." This is a problem, particularly as we receive many enquiries from well qualified native English speakers who are not "white", who we know would make good English teachers. Unfortunately tackling this issue from our position is like walking into a brick wall - there is little we can do about it except encourage the employers to be a little more open minded. To avoid embarrassment both to you and ourselves we have put together this page to hopefully help you make sense of it and give some tips on how best to get around the prejudices if you want to teach in China regardless.

How can you change it?

We are not going to change perceptions or values in China, just like Chinese people are not going to change perceptions or values in the West, not quickly anyway. We can steadily influence perceptions, but to fight them is a drain on your energy and you'll only frustrate yourself. Perceptions will change themselves, with time, exposure and education. In most instances, prejudices have been ingrained for hundreds if not thousands of years and are not going to simply disappear overnight. They are not, as some people presume, a result of European colonialisation alone, indeed the histories of most Asian countries is that of conquest, invasion, divide and rule going back thousands of years - the Mongols, the Khmers, The Han, The Javanese, The Burmese, The Brahmans and so on.
My doctoral thesis is on South Asia-China security. While I do not belong to the area studies school (Chinese Studies), some of my efforts at understanding China fall within the category. I am also toying with the idea of reporting for the print medium after my phd and the most likely place for me is China. I have developed a keen interest in China owing to my education and also the rising importance of China in the world and in Indian mind. My plan is to get to China on a teaching english assignment and hopefully learn some Chinese while seeking to make myself comfortable and informed about China. In my search for these teaching English jobs, the above is perhaps the most glaringly example of an Asia rife with racism. It is not in the least bit surprising as India prepares one well for such. And herein goes my plan of Asian unity and solidarity. However, what is not missed is the last sixty years of criticism and attack of Asian leaders on White supremacists. Ah, the South African apartheid, the Israeli racism. Of course, the difference of official sanction to such is not forthcoming but when there is a huge difference between intent and behaviour, something is surely amiss, as in the case of Asia. Amazingly, the Chinese in India face the same racist wrath as an Indian in China might be expected to go through as this note by the Teach In China, an agency assisting with teaching jobs in China, bares rather frankly.


Daniel said...

In my opinion, you did a good job . one friend from EbonyFriends.com and I share your view that many people have discrimination.

aya said...

yeah...we asians discriminate each other. But let me say this.Indians do discriminate us, calling us Chinkeis...(We are not deserved to be called since Chinese hate us.) or treating whites much better way. Come on, you guys should admit that you want to make freinds with white rather than asian or african in JNU! Cuz it is cool.Battling with the reality of neither my skin is white nor speak English (or languages which use alphabet similar letters), I realize that we Japanese do same things therfore I am deserved to be suffered.

I doubt we can really change that.

As a matter of fact, what is wrong with students choose teacher when they pay money for it. It is a business. You have to get teachers who can attract lots of students.

Besides..honestly, I do not want me or my kids to maste Indian accent. (Yeah! you guys laugh at my accent but never laugh at French-accented English, German-accented English...same, same same.)

Anonymous said...

Partly i think its a matter of accent. I heard from a chinese friend that they prefer either American or British accent.
I am not saying that there is no racism but for the educated people or recruiter to choose North American over other nationalities is not becos of racist i think.
Anyway i hope u will get to go there one day to explore more abt their culture.