The Content of My Character:
In China the Resume is Only Skin Deep
The HR department of Web International English called me 3 times this morning. I missed all 3 calls due to my busy schedule. When I checked my email there was also a formal letter from them requesting an interview with me, and even asked if I could make it this very afternoon. They were offering 15’000 Yuan a month in addition to a free apartment. I immediately called them back, thinking to myself, that maybe this time will be different.
When I called, a young woman answered the phone, and when she found out who I was, her enthusiasm was hard to hold back.
When can you come in?
Can you make it tomorrow?
At what exact date will your current contract finish?
I mean why wouldn’t she be enthusiastic? I was the perfect candidate. I am a New York native, I hold a bachelor’s degree in American Literature, a 240 hour TESOL Diploma from a recognized institution, add in the 6 years of experience, and I was coasting.
I agreed to the interview even though I knew that the trek would be far. Currently I work in Nanpu and the interview was located on Hengshan Lu. It would take me almost 3 hours by bus. Because of this I decided to ask the question; the uncomfortable question that I always find myself asking, even though I don’t like asking it. The question, that at times, has employers making me feel guilty for asking it.
Excuse me, and I’m sorry for asking this question, but is it o.k. if I’m black?
Suddenly the young lady, who had hardly let me get a word in before, was now silent. You see, I was the perfect candidate, on paper. Instead of her saying, no that’s not a problem she says…
Well we would have to see a picture of you
Why is that?
We have to see how dark you are because we don’t want dark people frightening the kids
But I work with children now and it’s not a problem
Yes, but we really have to see a picture of you
I sent my picture and found that my email was blocked. I called back and she suggested that we Skype. I got on Skype and sent her a request. Four hours later and she hasn’t added me. I never bothered to call back. I knew where I stood with her.
This is the typical response that black native speakers of English get. Aside from the mistreatment in Chinese society on a regular basis, on top of that we must face discrimination in the job market. It’s frustrating to me because English was my major. As jobless days pass by I realize that for blacks like me in Shanghai, English is an oxymoron, a cruel joke played by the gods. I wait for the deus ex machina, but it never comes, and the story starts all over again.
When I do land jobs they always end up being way outside of town, the type of jobs that Caucasians refuse to take. What is more scary and frustrating is what do I tell my 3 year old daughter as my animosity grows towards Chinese society? It’s a big problem because she’s half Chinese. I try not to think about it.
China is already a powerful and influential player on the world stage, and as exposure to China grows, Chinese society needs to understand that the world is watching and recording, especially on platforms such as Youtube and Facebook.
I have another phone interview with a school tomorrow. They don’t know I’m black. I think to myself that it will be different this time, but I won’t hold my breath.
Tags:Teaching & Learning Business & Jobs Language & Culture Expat Tales
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This is tragic but typical. There is no cultural sensitivity in China at all. The parents and school staff all accept this discrimination without apologizing for consumer demands. Rest assured that their ignorant attitudes earn them no respect internationally. The rigid simplicity of childish uninformed opinions won't serve adults outside of the Chinese microcosm, and the rest of the world will give the Chinese a rude awakening if they persist in their determination to feel smallminded and superior. Racism is just one of the factors, but an important one at that.
Dec 13, 2013 16:51 Report Abuse
I am very sorry to hear this. The good thing is..you saved a ride...money...and you save seeing the face of those arrongant people. Never ever even think about working in a place like that. I am a Spanish woman, caucasian (white skin, dark brown hair, dark green eyes). Yesterday I went for an interview, just a discussion to get to know him and the company, he told me about the visas and etc..i told him..well i pretty much know about visas so I know that F visa is not work permit. He said..oh yes no problem etc.. I gave him the example of what happened in my former company. Still he said..oh but is not because of the passport or the visa or cause you are a foreigner..silent...i said..really..so why? He answered: I have lived in Spain and I can say your eye brows look like eye brows of women from muslim countries, which is not so normal cause Spain is full of people from Morocco. Me: Indeed is true is no the first time that someone tells me they thought I was from Iran or Morocco..but... He: You have a lot of people from Morocco in Spain Me: In general yes, but not every province, each province has more predominant foreigners. He: No, moroccans are everywhere cause they entered in Spain and blabla Me: well, I see you read abotu it but then I guess you missed the part where they tried to enter in my province and The King Pelayo fighted them, so my province and the ones around do not have many moroccans, but we do have people from Russia, South America, Turkey... He: Well anyway I think is because of your eye brows. Here we don't like Muslims Me: You know that even inside China you have muslims right? He: Is different. blablabla...my conclusion..now authorities also have a range of eyebrows when it comes to foreigners and work permits...?
Jul 13, 2013 10:07 Report Abuse
The same happened to me, with a school named "Shanghai Guanghua College" after they officially offered me the position... I had several interviews, i was traveling to Shanghai like almost 2 times per week to have meetings with all the staff (I was not living in Shanghai at that moment). All the people of the staff were awesome, but then, that woman named Dong Dong said to the staff "She cannot be hired, because she looks latin and we are looking for white and blonde people"... 2 days later I received an email from her saying that "suddenly we received more applicants" AFTER THEY OFFERED ME THE POSITION AND I ALREADY QUIT MY JOB.. After talking with that person of the staff I REALIZED THEY POSTED THE POSITION IN ALL JOB PAGES IN CHINA .. so WTH with that brainless and unprofessional people.. whatever, thanks God I did not signed any contract with them, now I have a partership and I am happier than ever... as you can see racism is also with Latin people. Cheer up, they are just brainless people and you do not deserve to work with them.
Jun 17, 2013 00:23 Report Abuse
I taught in Jilin Province from 2009-2011 and I personally didn't experience this but when I tried to see if qualified for anything in Beijing or Shanghai before I moved back to the states, this definitely became an issue even with years of experience, a degree, positive references, damn near fluent spoken Chinese and a TEFL, I couldn't get the time of day in those cities. But even though the schools I taught at weren't the well known chain schools like Wall Street, etc, I never once had a racial issue with anyone. In fact, it seemed like the opposite. I was actually encouraged to combine 'African American Culture and History' into my English lessons by both the students AND the school itself. At the larger of the two schools I worked for there was me (black guy), an Indian ('India' Indian) British guy and a Mexican American guy all teaching English and not one parent, admin or anyone else seemed to have any problems with it. In fact, it was really quite the opposite. What's more, the only people who actually seemed to have anything negative to say about 'us' at all were a few of the older, 'typical' foreigners...you know the type, the kind who constantly have something negative to say about Chinese people, randomly drop the 'C' bomb when talking about the locals and trash-talking how they live and everything else...well, they sometimes had something to say about the few 'minority' foreign teachers too but people like that, well, they'll find something negative or judgmental to say just because that's what they do. Long story short, if the admins at the larger schools would give teachers a shot based on whether or not they can do the job regardless of other factors, I think they'd be quite surprised to see that most of the parents and kids are going to be receptive to having 'non-traditional' faces in their classrooms. God knows I was surprised at how fast I was accepted by the local Chinese people (not just at work but in general. I'm still close with tons of my old friends from there) after hearing so many stories about how it would be almost impossible to find teaching work there with 'the skin I'm in'...keep going, you'll find something but maybe its time to look outside the traditional 'Foreigner' cities to do it.
Jun 06, 2013 04:32 Report Abuse
Yeah I used to work in Shenyang...right now I have been working for this small Taiwan school for over 3 years. Students like me...not as close as I would like with the bosses...but i have seen my kids english improve...And I know those types of foriegners...sometimes i trip up sometimes and get myself in that category when im frustrated ...never the “c” bomb though...thats taking it too far.
Jun 06, 2013 05:47 Report Abuse
I didn't each teach much but I did get hired by a few companies part time, I just didn't have the flexible times to teach them since I am a student too :O. Maybe about 4 English teaching companies had me come in for an interview, key factor, don't tell them nothing. As black people you have to be 3 times better then the competition, and I'm only a student I have to fight so hard! Don't tell them your black, just say I'll be there. Show up do your interview, make some jokes, get comfortable, all that racism goes away when they think you won't shank them. It sucks, also if you got some Chinese, that is your ace. A black person speaking Chinese can and always will drop jaws! Probably what got me the jobs hehe.
Jun 06, 2013 03:00 Report Abuse
Hi Chama. No motive at all just pointing out other factors that may have played a part in the result of the interview process. Discrimination is not fair but it happens in most places in the world. I am hardly the expert traveler but I have traveled to over 50 countries on all continents and I have to say the enlightened western ideals are not happily embraced by the rest of the world. In Africa I argued with Ethiopian friends about how they discriminated against others who were not of the same tribe/religion. I also argued with them about child slavery but they told me I did not understand their culture. I argued with Argentinians and Peruvians about discrimination towards the indigenous and minorities but again I was told I did not understand their culture. A similar thing with Japanese and female discrimination but I was told I was breaking their harmony. Well the end result is I got tired of trying to change them and I had to admit I did not understand their cultures and I had no logical reason to justify why I should expect a foreign country to operate like my country. They would not accept my answer that "ending discrimination was just the right thing to do and that discrimination was wrong." They had no desire to believe all men were created equal and endowed with rights and I could not convince them otherwise. It will be hard to change Chinese mentality but perhaps with a great personality,charisma, and patience it can be done. One last point yes Asians and darker skinned individuals may run into job discrimination but so do older people. Age is always requested. The requested passport picture is for an age check and sad to say even echinacities' resume template requires age input--right at the top of the resume no less. Lastly, I have also refused jobs that required me to send a full body photo in spite of being a triathlete because I thought it was absolutely absurd for a teaching position.
Jun 06, 2013 00:15 Report Abuse
Dude, they pulled some BS on you. Sorry to hear it. I worked for Web in Guangzhou back in 2011. We had a non native black guy from Sudan (he had immigrated to the UK). We had another native British black guy for a while too before he went back to England. I didn't know Web could be so discriminating. Maybe it's just the city where you applied. Web is BS anyway. Their notorious among foreign teachers for not living up to their promises. Screw all those Chinese run "international" language schools. They are all liars and thieves.
Jun 04, 2013 13:14 Report Abuse
It seems that you have exaggerated pay and conditions. I have seen thousands of ads and have yet to see one like that from Web or almost all of their competitors. This then makes me doubt the other parts of your story but let us assume the interview process was cut short due to your color. That could happen but remember schools need to please their students. If the paying students wanted to see green aliens with 3 eyes tehn by golly that is what the school would give them. If you were the owner you would do the same...maybe after you became very successful you might push for some moral agenda but not at tfirst when your business survival was at stake. You must also accept the country you choose to enter and live in. While in Japan, I was told,in spite of my scandanavian look, "sorry no foreigners" at a few bars, the real estate agents, and a hot springs place. This is legal in Japan. Oh well. it is wrong ethically but it was not my country..so I chose not live there permanently.One last thing do not assume that your credentials make you a perfect candidate..paper is paper ..what really matters is teaching ability,student rapport,accent and yes perhaps appearance. I have seen many many people with many paper credentials who were horrible teachers.
Jun 03, 2013 14:09 Report Abuse
There is no reason to exagerate. I have no motive. The reason why I applied was because of the what they offered. I wonˊt take anthing lower than 15ˊ000. It happened and I wrote about...There is no bad blood. What is your motive in your response?
Jun 04, 2013 20:17 Report Abuse
There is no exageration, my friend works in a kindergarten in Suzhou, students com from Taiwan and other parts of China, but mainly quite wealthy parents. She earns 18,000rmb /month, the school pays her a nice apartment with 4 bedrooms for her and her mom and her friend whi is also here. They also pay her one flight home/year (2 ways) and she worls less than 30h /week. No need of preparation of the lessons, they have it all ready.
Jul 13, 2013 09:59 Report Abuse
You wouldn't hire a bald man for a shampoo commercial, would you? I'm not racist, but I understand why the Chinese want teachers who look like Don Draper. It's show business. It's not just about teaching English, but also about Western culture. There are so many Africans in China, it's hard to tell if black people really are American or African refugees overstaying their visas. Many students will simply refuse to believe that a black person is a native speaker. Imagine you were running a commercial school. Your job is to make money, not to push the racial envelope. If it makes you feel any better, remember that they'd probably hire a buxom blonde moron over the best qualified male teacher.
Jun 03, 2013 09:37 Report Abuse
Hello My Friend, I understand you...this training center is the worst ever.. many other training centers can hire African America. I my self is African Canadian. I worked for these suckers。What I want from you is to tell me where they advertise in the US. I want to post some information so they can’t do this to others and bring them to China .They can’t even process the work visa and thank god you didn’t came here and lost money like many other. Only Universities can process the work visa but the salaries are very meager Cheers man.
Jun 03, 2013 08:55 Report Abuse
We have 2 black Americans, from Brooklyn New York, working here. We also have a teacher from Cameroon. He's been here 11 years, has a business and 2 kids with his Chinese wife. Acceptance is a strange thing isn't it? Hang in there. In a country like this if 5% of the population don't mind black people that's almost 70 million! That's gotta be a good start right?
May 31, 2013 21:37 Report Abuse
I'm usually a diver unless something in what I read catches my eye - or my heart in this case. But being a subject of discrimination myself, what can I say? Maybe only this: "Hey dude, quit teaching in the real world. Take jobs that present yourself behind the screen!" But still the problem is there, and it won't get better if we let it be. I believe some good change will happen if we, like you, try to get our voice heard through a broad medium like the Internet. Keep faith and stand up for yourself.
May 31, 2013 15:46 Report Abuse