A powerful and though-provoking response from my friend, Neil, to my previous post, “Banana Split: This Darn Face of Mine!” regarding my difficulty in finding a Native English teaching job in Hong Kong because I look Asian.
Neil: I’m not really sure what it is, perhaps the colonial mentality or maybe the prestige of having a “white” English teacher? Either way, you are right; it is not fair for any highly qualified non-white teacher.
But then I started to think and analyze after reading your blog.
Here in America for example, would people prefer a Chinese teacher teaching Mandarin over a qualified “white” teacher? Would you choose a German-speaking Bangladeshi tutor or a German from Berlin to teach you Deutche? Would you prefer a Mexican to teach you Spanish or someone from Madrid? What do you think? This really makes me wonder if what you’re experiencing is racism or not…
And now Neil’s questions have got ME thinking!
Being a world traveler, I’d like to think of myself as being a bit worldly and the last thing I would consider myself is “racist”. But then I remembered one particular instance where my prejudices came into play and from the eyes of a bystander, I could have been seen as a “racist”!
Neil, you’ll remember this incident because you were my racist partner-in-crime! I was back in New York in 2009 and Neil and I had signed up for an introductory samurai sword class. The sensai was in fact, a Jewish man in a samurai outfit. Now, I didn’t see any physical form of credentials, but the guy knew how to handle a sword! To simplify, he was qualified to teach samurai sword. But for some reason, Neil and I thought it was a bit ridiculous to have a Jewish man teaching us samurai and we kind of giggled and snickered our way through the introductory lesson (though it has to be mentioned that Neil and I pretty much giggle and snicker our way through most things in life). And we never went back. Please note, Neil and I attended this samurai sword lesson with a dear friend of mine who is Jewish. She giggled along with us.
|A typical Neil and Connie moment|
So why all the titters at the Jewish samurai master? Did we just somehow find it unbelievable that a Jewish man could master a Japanese martial art form and teach it to others? And wasn’t that just a bit racist on our parts?
Neil’s questioning made me realize that the difficulty I’ve been having with finding a job is frustrating, definitely! But racist? Not really. Sure, it’s prejudice to discount someone’s qualifications due to their outward appearance and it’s still NOT okay, but I get it.
Neil and I wanted to learn samurai sword and we naturally preferred our sensai be authentic, as in Japanese. Having a Jewish samurai sensai just seemed odd to us.
For Asian parents to feel that they’re giving their children an “authentic” English education, they prefer having an “authentic” looking Westerner teaching. That’s fine with me. But I’d have been a damn good English teacher to their children!
What about you? Can you admit that perhaps you’re a little bit racist too? What’s your answer to Neil’s questions? Would YOU choose a German-speaking Bangladeshi tutor or a German from Berlin to teach YOU Deutche?
I think this lesson in racism and prejudice is best summed up by the Tony-award winning Broadway musical, Avenue Q. So puppets, take it away and end all this racist talk on a lighter note!
© Connie Hum 2011