This space is not only about bringing awareness to the discrimination that non-Caucasians have faced during their job search in Taiwan, but also a space where you can have the chance to let your own personal story be heard. TADIT is a group that whole-heartedly offers support to victims of discrimination in Taiwan, and it is here that you can share your story. We believe that in writing down your story, allowing the internal feelings of victimization to seep out onto a blank canvas, you’re one step closer to not having to suffer alone. It always helps to tell someone, and so it is here that we welcome you to speak up and not suffer in silence.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share your story. We have a talented bunch of translators at the ready who will help translate your story for free and then we will publish your story here on TADIT. If you’d like to remain anonymous, we will totally respect your wishes.
As well as sending your stories in to us, we also really encourage you to read through the stories sent in by others. You can find them on the right column of our blog under the 故事/stories category.
The more stories we share, the better our chances of helping Taiwan shift its outlook on what, right now is a completely unequal society.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH 不夠好
Name: Annie Chen
Nationality: Taiwanese-born American
Vision: Annie wanted to return to her Motherland to teach English，with the hope of rediscovering her roots in the process. However, Taiwan－the home of her birth, a land she believed to be brimming with opportunity－let her down. She could sit back and let it slide or she could fight; fight for equality and in doing so, offer support and advice to other victims of discrimination. She chose the latter, and thus began her long, hard battle with discrimination and the creation of TADIT. Below is her story. Please read on to get more of an understanding at just how brave and inspirational Annie is. She will not give up, and neither should we. To live in an equal society is an ideal worth fighting for.
名字： Annie Chen
憧憬：Annie 原來想回到她祖國教英文，也希望同時可以發掘她自己的背景。不過， 她的故鄉、她以為充滿好機會的台灣，後來就讓她失望。Annie有了兩個選擇：她可以放棄，或者她可以爭取種族平等，也這樣一來可以向其它被種族歧視的受害者提出忠告和支持。她選擇爭取平等，因此起動了她跟種族歧視的苦戰，還有TADIT的創作. 下面有她的故事。請多看一下，更了解Annie是那麼勇敢與鼓舞人心的一個人。她一輩子不會放棄, 我們也不可以放棄。住在公平的社會是一個值得爭取的理想。
When I first arrived in Taiwan, I was full of love for my mother country and excitement to make a difference in the lives of the students here. I had always been interested in teaching, and had also always loved children, so moving to Taiwan to teach English seemed like a perfectly good decision to make. Little did I know that the battle I was about to face would change me, and the way I view Taiwan, forever.
Luckily, I wouldn’t have to deal with that for another year. I got my first job without any problems at a small foreign owned school. While management was atrocious, forcing me to move on after a short period, working at the school gave me solid experience and the confidence to search for a more professional environment.
During the search for my second job, I got a glimpse of what was to come in the future. The interview went well, and ended with my (future) manager asking me if I’d be okay with parents sitting in on my class for the first week or two. He told me that he had no issues with “ABC” types, but some of the parents would. He was confident that all their concerns would dissolve quickly. I was taken aback but impressed with his positive attitude. I would successfully ease the concerns of those parents and go on to work at that school for another year before making the decision, due to internal politics which I won’t go into detail about, to search for something more suitable for me.
Feeling confident about my teaching abilities and professionalism (I had been promoted to manager of foreign teachers at the last school), I set out on a very long job search. The search that would, in the end, fill me with so much heartache, it would discourage me from ever applying for an ESL teaching job in a school again.
The first incident that occurred was a phone interview with a school that has since closed down. The school was referred to me by a friend who had only given them my first name, so they didn’t know about my very Taiwanese last name, “Chen”. The phone interview was successful, and I was asked to go for an in-person interview. Just before the call ended, the interviewer asked me a very pointed question. “Your accent sounds American. Where were you born?”. I happily answered that I was born in Taiwan but had spent most of my life in the US, and that I was a duel citizen. The response I received was a frantic, “Oh sorry! Foreigners only!”, immediately followed by the interviewer hanging up the phone. My response was to dial back the number, but she did not dare to pick up the phone again. I was beyond shocked. That shock would soon be replaced with sadness, then anger. It would be the first of MANY incidents of discrimination I would face in Taiwan.
I had not prepared myself for this rejection. I had not believed that I could be rejected in Taiwan, my mother country, for not having white skin. I had believed that I could teach English, and at the same time re-discover my roots. I had hoped that I could find that part of me I always felt was missing, as an Asian American growing up in the USA. I felt lost, helpless, and very alone. Nothing could have prepared me for this feeling, or all that was to come next.
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.
Tired of Ignorance
Name: King Vert
Vision: To be a catalyst for change so that all aspects of society can flourish in Taiwan. King believes that if we can eradicate all discrimination, Taiwan will soar and people from all walks of life will be excited to be part of such a diverse land. Like many victims of discrimination in Taiwan, King is shocked by the complete ignorance that he has frequently encountered. But he won’t give up. None of us will give up. Why? Because we truly believe that Taiwan is an inspiring, exciting country. If we eliminate all cases of discrimination, Taiwan will truly be one of the best places to live in the world.
I am writing this here in hopes that in the future, hopefully the near future, things will change in Taiwan, and not just Taiwan but also in China from what I have heard. My perspective as a black guy here living in Taiwan for just a few months short of 5 years, I know and see that there are too many black men and women here in Taiwan that are treated so indifferently almost, if not, everyday while living here and they just accept it. If they don’t accept it then they will get angry about it, try to laugh it off, or discuss among friends that “that’s how Taiwanese are”, and then just continue to live their normal, everyday life here. However, the problem with this is that this approach does not change anything, which means it will keep happening over and over again. Every foreigner in Taiwan knows that the Taiwanese prefer white people over any other race, but no one will do anything about that, and no one will go to say, “Hey you are wrong. We are all equal and should be treated equally.” Maybe they are afraid or just don’t know how to.
I will go public in saying that I really like this place, and I am really considering staying for a while. I have met some really nice people who will see you and treat you the same way, so I am sure and am relieved to say that not every Taiwanese is the same.
However, with this said I will go and point out the things that I hope can be changed here. There are instances where a foreigner who is not white will apply for a job, maybe through email or phone, and it will be like he or she has already got the job until the employer actually sees that the person is not white and then it will be a different story. They will tell you that they will call you, but of course that is the last time you will hear from them. If you guys were communicating through emails back and forth, then they will ask for a photo. The minute you send your picture to them and they see your skin color, naturally that will be the way of email communication, they just won’t reply to just avoid saying sorry we can’t hire you because you are black.
What is the meaning of 外國人 (foreigner)? I thought it meant being an outsider not being born here, but it seems like I was wrong because when they see an Asian looking person and they seem to be speaking fluent English, then they say oh look they are American born Chinese ABC, they are not foreigners. When they see a black person they say oh look 黑人 (hei ren), or in Taiwanese pronunciation so we won’t know what they are saying (O lang), a black guy, which all blacks hate by the way. It’s extremely impolite and doesn’t mean foreigner. Filipinos, they call them Filipinos and so forth, but when it comes to a white person “oh look, foreigner”.
Why do they stare like that? Isn’t it common sense to know that it’s impolite to stare at people? I can understand sometimes they say that they don’t see a black guy so often, or at times it’s the first time to see someone black, but, even so, you don’t stare at people like that–it’s very rude. The parents anger me sometimes. Sometimes their kids didn’t even notice that there is a black guy close by, and they will be the first to point it out. I may accept the staring and the pointing from the little kids, but what should I say about the adults? How can you ask someone why are they black? How in heaven’s name can someone answer that question? More so, how in heaven’s name can someone ask that question and think it’s ok to ask this? How can people not know that there are black people in this world? A taxi driver once told me that he did not know this world has people that look like the way I do. There is so much more to write about the ignorance that I have encountered with Taiwanese, but I am tired of writing.
I had friends that left here and just because they cannot take it anymore…but I won’t follow them. I believe it’s bad when you don’t do anything. Like I’ve said, this approach changes nothing. They will go back and say to everyone, “Don’t go to Taiwan if you are not white.” This is wrong; it is truly a wonderful place here and the day we get rid of all discrimination from within this country, it will be one of the best places to live in Asia if not the entire world.
My purpose here is just to say out loud what most people know but don’t really want to say….
Levelling the Field
Name: Jon Hales
Vision: To level the field. As a British-English Caucasian with a degree in English Literature, Jon had no problem finding a teaching job in Taiwan. Many Caucasian teachers in Taiwan find employment easily based solely on their skin color, and thus are oblivious to the prevalent discrimination against non-Caucasians. Jon is an exception. Quite simply, he cares. He is a passionate, enthusiastic teacher who believes that equality, diversity and multiculturalism should be at the core of every education, in all societies. What an encouragement, to read how strongly Jon feels about an issue that doesn’t directly affect him. Let’s take a leaf out of his book.
As a young (well, fairly young!), white, male teacher from England I have it pretty easy in Taiwan. I have taught at three different schools and I didn’t have a problem finding those jobs despite having no teaching qualifications (aside from an English degree and a weekend TEFL course). Personally, I have never experienced anything close to discrimination.
However, I, like most people reading this, have been exposed to the inherent discrimination here, especially since my fiancée (born in Taiwan, raised in the US) has experienced it on numerous occasions.
I remember being surprised when I first arrived in Taiwan and met with a recruitment agent. Eager to play up what credentials I had, I was reassured that because she was happy with the way I looked, I would have no problem finding work. I thought she was joking but it turned out to be true. Then, when I first started working at my current school, they joked that my teaching ability didn’t matter because the parents would be happy with the way I looked. Actually, this school does take it’s teaching very seriously and of course it was meant as a joke, but behind those jokes and flippant remarks lies a deeper truth.
It sometimes feels like as a white teacher, you are given carte blanche to get away with murder. I have personally witnessed several occasions when teachers displayed unbelievable laziness, ineptitude, aggression towards the school, defiance, tardiness and even alcoholism, and I’ve heard plenty more stories to support the trend. On the flip side, excellent ABC and CBC teachers can be made to wait until the last minute for the school to renew a contract, put under more pressure by the school to get results, offered lower pay or just refused point blank.
The fact is that while discrimination based on ethnicity, skin colour or appearance persists, and teachers are not selected (as they should be) solely on ability – by which I don’t mean qualifications, but passion, commitment and skill – a lot of Taiwanese kids aren’t getting the education they deserve or that their parents work very hard to give them.
Taiwanese parents need to realise that by levelling the playing field so that ability becomes the sole criteria for hiring, they will pave the way for a better and more tolerant education system in Taiwan.
Despite not being a qualified teacher, while I am here and teaching I feel I have a duty to my kids and their parents to give it everything I have. After all, a teacher – especially one who is with their class on a daily basis – plays an important role in the development of those kids and it is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I want to share a story with you that my fiancée told me a couple of days ago. She was in the middle of a personal tutor session with one of her students, a 7 year old boy. Suddenly, he started laughing and pointing at a picture he had seen in the textbook. It was a boy with black skin. When she asked why the picture was funny he didn’t really know except that it was something he had not really seen before. He had no frame of reference – a teacher, a friend – for that boy in the textbook.
Despite its’ many imperfections, Western society is often held up as a model for Taiwan to emulate. Well, at the core of Western society is tolerance, multiculturalism, diversity and equal opportunity. What better values for Taiwan to espouse and what better place to begin to install these values than a school.