Part 1 – Shamed Heart
Name: Eric Ma
Vision: To realize his dream of pursuing his career as a landscape architect in Taiwan. Eric later turned to the world of education, believing his ability to speak Mandarin would be an asset in finding a suitable teaching position. However, he was not prepared for what arose out of the situation. Is one ever prepared to become a victim of discrimination? He felt completely disheartened, but eventually feelings of shame gave way to anger, and ignited within him the fire to fight for equality. Here is part 1 of his tale. Stay tuned for part 2.
名字： Eric Ma
I had a satisfying job as a landscape architect in the US when I decided to move to Taiwan, a decision I felt I would regret later in life. That was 2009. People say hindsight is 20/20, but looking back, this decision would still be a difficult one to make. The reason why it would still be a tough decision today is because I know that I am an exception from the masses of Asian faced native English speakers. I am an exception because luck was on my side. I know that my hard work and perseverance would not have been enough to get me to my current position which offers me stability and gratification here in Taiwan.
When I arrived in Taiwan in late 2009, I was set on getting a job with a landscape architecture firm here in Taiwan. I knew that Taiwan would be my home for at least five years. I searched for a design studio that would view my experience working in world-class firms as an asset, a firm that saw my English ability as something of value, a firm that could meet my compensation expectations for doing a high stress job. I never found this design studio. Realizing that my career as a landscape architect must come to a halt was a dose of reality. Leaving a career I loved and had so purposefully pursued for almost 10 years was like breaking up with your supermodel girlfriend (I can only imagine. . .).
This is how I fell into the English-language teaching world here in Taiwan. I believed that being bilingual was of huge benefit to learners of English and that I had more to offer than a Caucasian who couldn’t speak Mandarin. All my energy was redirected to finding a teaching position which would pay the advertised NT$65,000+. The process began with a weeklong barrage of personalized emails to generic looking addresses on tealit. Anxiously checking my inbox each day, the responses were either non-existent or full of disinterest. It felt like fishing with the wrong bait. You always reeled in to find the bait gone and only a rusty old hook left behind. I soon realized how naïve I was when I received a final email from a gentleman named Robert, whom I had corresponded with in a handful of emails to try to set up an interview. It read:
I am sorry to tell you that we would prefer Caucasians in order to prevent doubts or questions from parents.
Doubts? Why would anyone doubt me? I was an honor student in AP classes all throughout high school who graduated in the top 5% of my class. Having attended a world class University, I felt knew I was certainly not less than the Caucasians walking around the streets of Taipei. I studied just as hard and partied harder than any Caucasian. In no aspect would I accept being viewed as inferior to any Caucasian because my personality would not allow me to. My response to Robert reads:
Being of Taiwanese decent, I must say that I am ashamed that Taiwan is still so backwards in thinking. Any job position should be based upon qualifications and experience. Although my qualifications can be said to be better than most of my peers, I am penalized in my own country of decent for having an Asian face. This form of discrimination is really a shame. It’s really up to employers like you to change this backwards way of thinking. Why move backwards or remain stagnant when we know we can move in the right direction?
I never heard back from Robert after this email. I was not surprised. I did, however, wonder if he felt shame because I felt shamed. I never forgot this feeling. It was a different kind of feeling which I have never experienced before. Something I never would have expected. It was disheartening. It sapped me of all my will to find that teaching position which would have saved me from my freefall. It attacked my sense of worth and value in society and disillusioned me. It angered me. I felt a fire from within. A pilot light that was finally given the fuel needed to show the true potential of fire. This fire was not to cause destruction. This fire would provide warmth and safety to the countless others who have also been shamed, sapped, disheartened. This chapter of my life was bittersweet, but a new chapter was about to begin.