Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Judged by your skin

By Kevin Sealey

As a small island nation, Taiwan has always expressed the desire to ensure that its society competes with the rest of the world -- economically, culturally and in some cases politically. It encourages its diplomatic allies to vote in its favor at the UN, which is baffling to me, since Taiwan seems to favor closer trading relations with China and not small, insignificant diplomatic allies like those it has in Africa and Central America.

Part of Taiwan's thrust to keep up with the rest of the world is to ensure that its citizens are bilingual, thereby adding a very important asset to the human resource potential of its people as they seek to compete with the rest of Asia.

English teaching by Westerners is obviously in high demand, which is why many North Americans are able to find lucrative contracts here and make a contribution to the enhancement of the educational infrastructure.

It is totally surprising and reprehensible to think, however that many cram schools and other organizations in Taiwan still practice and endorse racial segregation when hiring Westerners for English-teaching jobs.

The concept that black people are incapable of teaching English is backward, narrow-minded and especially unfortunate for a society that claims to have one of the most developed economies of Asia -- if not the world -- while at the same time putting a high premium on education.

An individual who is well-educated should invariably have an open mind, think rationally and behave humanely. Since Taiwanese value the teachings of Confucius so much, they should appreciate his teachings on mutual respect and humility.

There have been several occasions when black teachers who were holders of US or Canadian passports were told over the phone that particular jobs were available, and that they would be required to start immediately. Upon going to the school and presenting the necessary documentation, they were then informed that the job was no longer available.

Additionally, many schools socialize their students into thinking that somehow all people of color, whether they are from the West or from Southeast Asia, are somehow inferior, less educated, less intelligent and less human.

This narrow-minded thinking is reminiscent of the US in the early 1960s, where segregation was socially acceptable. Segregation in many cram schools which proudly call themselves "American Schools" is acceptable in Taiwan. It's safe to suggest, therefore, that Taiwan is one of the most racist places on earth, as reflected in their employment ethics.

In Taiwan, you are judged by the color of your skin and not by the content of your character. It would serve the government well, if it wants to maintain a positive image of Taiwan -- especially in the US, its most valuable ally -- to review the nation's labor laws so that they conform to universally accepted practices of equal employment.

The issue of discrimination in English teaching is only one aspect of racist attitudes in Taiwan. These attitudes leave a very negative impression of the island's people and their desire to be viewed as one of the most welcoming nations in Asia.

I have witnessed first hand the discrimination against people from Southeast Asia and Africa, many of whom are employed in blue-collar jobs, because of the color of their skin.

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