Jim Crow In China, Ctd

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

If the Chinese are anything like the Thais, a desire for whites is less about racism than it is appearance.  I have been working for the past four years in Thailand and having blonde hair and bluse eyes is a big advantage - not because they think that I can do the job better, but because I more closely fit the image of what a farang (foreigher) is and the school can parade me in front of the parents to show off their English language teacher.  Most Thais (even those educated in the West) are simply obsessed with light skin - competence has nothing to do with it.

Another reader adds:

This explanation is a bit off-track, particularly when it comes to hiring caucasian teachers. Schools want to hire white teachers because parents are willing to pay a premium to have their kids taught by native English teachers. They want their children to learn English with the proper accent. There are Chinese English teachers who do a great job and there are also those who have such thick accents, most English speakers wouldn't be able to understand them. And yes, there are plenty of non-white native English speakers; however, it's more believable to the parents if the teacher is caucasian. An Asian-looking teacher might be a native English speaker, but most parents wouldn't be able to receognize whether the teacher spoke English with a Chinese accent or not. On the other hand, there's little doubt that students are getting the "real deal" with a caucasian teacher.
Schools also put a premium on teachers from North America opposed to those from other English speaking regions. An American (or Canadian) accent is usually the most desirable accent to have, followed by British and then Australian. Kiwi and South African accents are at the bottom of the list (though still rated above an English teacher with a Chinese accent). The bias is rooted in parents wanting their children to learn the same kind of English that is most widely spoken throughout the world.