Want to Teach English in China? Be White

Because no one else can really by a native speaker, right?

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China Photos/Getty Images

Time for a teachable moment! And we're not talking about one involving pronunciation, spelling or grammar. Those who are responsible for recruiting and hiring people to teach English in China are reportedly under the impression that no one but a white person could really be a native English speaker.

Can someone clear this up, please? Because, right now, if you're anything other than Caucasian, you just might be out of luck trying to get an ESL gig in one of the country's schools. And Asian Americans are among those most shunned thanks to this misunderstanding, MSNBC reports:                                                                          

Chinese teaching agencies are constantly seeking candidates to teach English to the growing number of children who are looking to get a leg up in China’s rigorous academic environment. The opportunity is quite lucrative and requires little or no knowledge of Chinese.

But the ads recruiting these teachers come with a catch.

Take, for example, Mike Lee and Will Evans, students from the U.S. and Canada, respectively, who applied to be English teachers through the New Development School, a teacher-placement agency in Beijing. Being fluent speakers of English, both believed they would make competitive candidates.

What they didn’t know is that recruiters would not be evaluating them just on their English fluency or academic credentials. Instead, they were judged primarily on physical appearance.

“We want him [pointing to Evans], but we don’t want you [to Lee],” the recruiter told them, as the two stood side by side at the front counter of the school. “Unfortunately, parents of our students don’t really want someone Asian to be teaching.”

Racial discrimination is a harsh reality within China’s ESL industry, where recruiters actively seek the blond-hair, blue-eyed all-American archetype (along with similarly equipped Britons, Australians and other native speakers close behind). While brown hair also is acceptable, having a white face is a near-absolute requirement.

The discrimination comes, Evans said, because Chinese parents simply do not believe a non-white person can possibly be a native speaker. Thus, this logic continues, hiring a white person is the simplest and easiest way to ensure that the teacher is truly fluent.

Read more at MSNBC.

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