Discrimination has reared its ugly face again, even if the people involved insist it is a matter of safety, not prejudice. However, it is prejudice plain, simple and ugly.
Residents of Rueilian Community (瑞聯社區) in Taoyuan County’s Bade City (八德) do not want foreign workers from Ablecome Technology living in the community because of safety concerns, and went so far as to hang up a banner saying so.
Taoyuan County Councilor Lu Lin Hsiao-feng (呂林小鳳) denied it is a case of racial discrimination.
“It has nothing to do with discrimination,” she was quoted as saying. “With 460 households and more than 1,000 residents, Rueilian is a peaceful community. They are merely worried that clashes could happen because of these foreign workers, with their different skin color and different culture, going in and out of the community.”
Different skin, different culture, different. That is the key word. Rueilian residents are not prejudiced. They just do not like anyone who is different, especially if they have darker skin. Resident Lin Feng-mei (林鳳美) said in a video clip aired by Public Television that families with children no longer felt safe playing in the community’s park because “those foreign workers also spend their leisure time in the park.” As if it were not bad enough to have to share an apartment building with foreigners, having to share an open, public space with them is even more unnerving.
Rather than being open to the idea that someone from a different country and culture living nearby offers an opportunity to learn something about another culture — or even learn that people are more alike than they are different — the people of Rueilian have chosen to close their doors and live in fear. And they are teaching their children to fear difference.
Fear was also palpable in the recent uproar about a Taiwanese university graduate who was open enough to admit that he was using his working holiday visa for Australia to do hard manual work (in a slaughterhouse) to save money for home rather than work and then spend his earnings traveling around Australia. This raised the fear among some that Taiwan could be turning into a “nation of migrant workers.”
There was much discussion of Taiwan’s stagnating economy and the government’s inability to revive the economy, but the undercurrent was that Taiwan was better than those other countries with large migrant worker populations such as the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia; that being Taiwanese was better than being one of “them”, and yet here was a Taiwanese working as migrant laborer, a university graduate no less. Which just shows how little people here understand the economics of migrant work and the fact that many of the Filipinos, Indonesians and others working in blue-collar or homecare positions here or in other nations may also be university graduates. It is easier to look down on someone if all you see are differences.
Taiwan has long been a nation of migrants — the migrants from Fujian Province who came here 300 and 400 years ago, the flood of Mainlanders after the Chinese Civil War, the tens of thousands who have immigrated to the US, Canada and other countries since World War II. Think of the thousands who now work in China (or doesn’t that count?).
Many of those early immigrants to other countries encountered difficulties and prejudice, as a visit to the “Immigrants Building America” exhibition at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial will attest. So it is tragic that their descendants are so willing to dish out that same discrimination.