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 never 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. This is especially true for black people in Shanghai. It’s frustrating to me because English was my major. As jobless days passed me by I realized 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 blasian 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.