Outrage over discrimination against non-white English teachers in kindergarten

by Brian Hioe

PPhoto credit: Kang Chiao International School/Facebook

Outrage erupted earlier this month due to an announcement for a Taiwanese kindergarten posted on social media stating that the kindergarten “will not accept applications from people who are not from predominantly English-speaking countries, or who are black or dark-skinned”. The announcement was posted to the Facebook group “Substitute teachers wanted in Taipei (city/county)” for Kang Chiao Kindergarten.

Unfortunately, such advertisements are not uncommon in Taiwan. It also wouldn’t be the first time outrage has erupted against this kind of publicity, but such outrage is usually limited to expats in Taiwan. In a pleasant surprise, this time outrage has spread to local Taiwanese, with the advertisement translated into Chinese. This eventually led to coverage in TVBS and Apple Dailyas well as English-language media.

Kang Chiao Kindergarten, meanwhile, tried to defend himself, saying the ad was posted by a kindergarten employee alone, and that the racial specifications of the ad were not requested by the kindergarten. Kang Chiao has since released a public statement that the kindergarten “does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion or sexual orientation” and that his most important hiring criteria are based on “educational credentials and related academic experience”. Racial discrimination in hiring practices is illegal in Taiwan, but that doesn’t stop it from happening on a large scale.

Still, there are several reasons why the appearance of such an announcement should come as no surprise. Namely, racial stereotypes and racial discrimination remain alive and well in Taiwan, especially against dark-skinned or black people.

We could start by noting the point in the advertisement about “do not accept[ing] applications from people not from predominantly English-speaking countries. Teaching English in Taiwan generally ignores the validity of English speakers from countries in which English is not the predominant language to be taught, even if English is their native language.

It is noted that such beliefs about English speakers who do not come from predominantly English-speaking countries should be obviously absurd. If one were to apply such beliefs to Taiwan itself, one notes that due to decades of KMT attempts to eradicate Taiwanese, Taiwanese is no longer the most widely spoken language in Taiwan, but Mandarin l ‘East. Should Taiwanese then be considered unqualified to teach Taiwanese, because Taiwanese is no longer the majority language in Taiwan?

But in Taiwan, English is still generally considered a language of predominantly white countries, such as America, the United Kingdom and Canada. Hence the provision in the job application not to accept applications from those who are “black or dark-skinned”, who are apparently not considered “good” English speakers.

The original ad that caused anger

Even in cases where English schools themselves do not specify racial requirements for employment, English schools will sometimes face complaints from parents who do not perceive their children as getting their money’s worth in terms of education. in English when hiring non-white teachers. Therefore, even where English schools have not formalized discriminatory hiring practices, prevailing social attitudes will continue to influence their choice of hiring.

The structural roots of the view that English is the language of predominantly white countries and the refusal to accept the linguistic validity of other English speakers can be traced back to the fact that, in general, the “international world” is narrowly conceived in European terms. American world. This may go back to long-term causes in the forced entry of Western modernity into Asia in the early 20th century at the hands of America and European powers, and Taiwan’s post-war subordinate relationship with the America and the Western powers viewed Taiwan as racially white countries and countries generally considered more “advanced” or “civilized” than Taiwan.

Similarly, it is also noted that despite the fact that Taiwan is sometimes touted as an immigrant society, given its many historical waves of migration, and that Taiwan is an increasingly pluralistic society with its growing number immigrants, Taiwan still remains predominantly Han in its ethnic makeup. . As a result, Taiwanese sometimes find it difficult to conceive of multi-ethnic societies.

But these problems are further compounded by discrimination against black or dark-skinned people in Taiwan. Cultural attitudes in Taiwan and other East Asian countries have historically associated darker skin with lower social class, such as those engaged in manual labor. Likewise, natives remain among the most discriminated against social groups in Taiwan for centuries, despite being Taiwan’s original inhabitants before the Han settled. And despite the fact that Southeast Asian immigrants to Taiwan are now so prevalent in Taiwan that one in ten middle and elementary school children have a foreign-born parent, usually a mother, the discrimination against Southeast Asian immigrants remains endemic.

In some cases, Taiwan has actually internalized Western racism against blacks or dark-skinned people, as sometimes conveyed in Taiwan through Western media. But this is far from absolving the Taiwanese of their guilt.

Photo credit: Kang Chiao International School/Facebook

Especially when it comes to immigrants from Southeast Asia, see many cases in which Taiwanese treat people darker than themselves as if they are simply not human. Examples would be a recent incident in which Taiwanese employers bragged about how few days off they gave their migrant workers in a Line group, Where numerous incidents of migrant fishermen being beaten to death and their bodies thrown into the sea, to name but a few cases. In this sense, a discriminatory hiring policy only scratches the surface of racism in Taiwanese society.

A conversation about the racial prejudices that continue to exist in Taiwanese society is long overdue. Even when such conversations take place between expats in Taiwan, these conversations generally do not spread to Taiwanese due to the persistence of the language barrier. However, it’s a refreshing start for them to be outraged at what would otherwise have been ignored as just another Facebook post. It remains to continue the discussion and to widen the scope of this discussion then, then.