Untold Stories

My plan was to tell you the story of how I faced discrimination when searching for an English teaching position in Taiwan. I’m an American of Filipino heritage; and while my Taiwan story does include discrimination, the story I wanted to share is a far more important one. Actually, it isn’t one story, but many. And, unfortunately, these stories will likely never be told.

Growing up in New York City, one of the most international cities in the world, the notion of ‘nationality’ rarely came to mind. My friends were of many ethnic backgrounds; some of us were children of new immigrants, others could trace their heritage in America for several generations. Still, we had commonalities. We laughed, played, got in trouble together; and like children all over the world, we harbored wild dreams and hopes of a boundless future. We cherished the ideal of the American dream— no matter who we were and where we came from, if we worked hard and earnestly, we could make it.

So, when I was at an interview to teach English here in Taiwan, rudely dismissed and told frankly that they “were hoping for someone who looked American,” I couldn’t take it personally. It was a shocking realization about Taiwanese culture and mentality, which I swallowed with a sad resignation. “What hypocrisy,” I thought, “a country obsessed with learning a language from perceived ‘great’ countries as America, Canada, and England but with a complete disregard for the ideals of equal opportunity and fairness that actually make them great!” Something more tragic almost occurred soon after; I almost gave up, and left Taiwan forever to become another untold story.

I recently heard a story of an African-American woman, a highly-qualified teacher, state-certified, with experience and enthusiasm,… and yet, unable to find work in Taiwan. She heard a position she had applied for was filled by a far less-qualified, unenthusiastic teacher, new to teaching, but…he was white. She left Taiwan in disgust. One can only imagine what Taiwan story she told. Perhaps it ran like this: “Don’t go to Taiwan! It is a backwards, racist society! No matter how qualified you are and how hard you work, they only want white teachers teaching English.” How many ears did this shameful story fall upon? One can only guess. I imagine a distant cousin of that woman, a child like any other, staring at map of the world with wonder, his imagination brewing with limitless adventures to unknown lands, experiencing new cultures and being filled with new ideas — this youthful dream immediately dashed upon hearing his aunt’s story. These are the tragic untold stories. How many of them are there? How many flights were never flown because of the fear of being judged for the color of one’s skin? How many beautiful Taiwan stories will never be told, because they never came? We will likely never hear these stories for they will remain hidden, the secret narratives of broken spirits, broken dreams.

But, there is another story that will never be told. These are the untold stories that small groups such as TADIT fight for. Fortunately for me, I did stay in Taiwan. I met my current boss who is a real teacher: her amazing teaching doesn’t stop at children, she teaches adults as well; that is, if any parent inquires about the ethnicity of her teachers, she simply dismisses that notion and tells them she hires based solely on a teacher’s qualifications. Because of her knowledge and her courage, I stayed in Taiwan and am able to be part of TADIT. Rather than becoming another one of the countless untold stories of someone who simply swallowed their pride and humiliation, moving on and returning home to escape the ignorance and intolerance, I was given the opportunity to stay in Taiwan, to do something about it.

One day, TADIT will not exist. Generations from now, it will fade into the hazy memory of our interminable history. In the same sense that I never knew a world where women or non-whites couldn’t vote in America, one day, people from all backgrounds will come to Taiwan without fear of being judged by the color of their skin, but by their ability and the content of their character. In the same sense just ten years ago, countless black children dared not dream of becoming President of the United States because of their skin color, perhaps ten years from now, countless children from all backgrounds, no matter who they are or where they came from, will stare at a world map in wonder, with unfettered imagination, without fear and with a genuine confidence that one day they’d like to share their knowledge, abilities, hopes and dreams with Taiwan. These are the untold stories worth fighting for.

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