Monday, January 5, 2009

Taiwan culture shock: Where are the white TV presenters?

Taiwan is not a multi-racial society. White foreigners make up less than a tenth of one percent of the people. Don't expect to see any white TV presenters. This can prove a shock to our finely tuned, PC, middle class sensibilities.

In the case of Eric, who i met while studying at a Chinese school, it proved to be more a shock than others.

We were sat on a bench outside the Chinese school waiting for our class to start.

"The racists," said Eric who was reading the local English language rag for Taiwan. "Where are the positive discrimination and equal opportunities job adverts for white westerners?"

"Welcome to the rest of the world, dude," I replied before qualifying my comments. "It is a little bit more complicated than that."

"I am not talking about myself man - i have only been here a few months, but some guys... guys like you, have been here a few years. It is so racist."

"Four years, actually. But I speak shit Chinese. I wouldn’t give me a job."

"Well, maybe, but there are some guys who speak Chinese fluently -"

I interrupted, "Even one or two who can write the language as well. And for those guys, who could actually cope in an average Taiwanese company, it is a fucking crime the Taiwan authorities don’t spend all their energy knocking on doors, finding them, and dragging them into mainstream society - whether they like it or not."

"You know what I mean - The cable doesn’t have one white presenter, actor or newsreader."

"To represent who? – The white western fluent Chinese speaking slither...Sorry segment of society who are actually interested in watching the local TV. Presumably because they can’t be watching and presenting at the some time."

"Alright, man. Another time," said Eric obviously a little confused how he was losing the argument when he knew he was right.

I thought about continuing the argument - after all i had once believed similar things, but i kind of had the feeling Eric was only going to learn from his own mistakes.

Over the years we actually became reasonably close friends and i got to regret not trying harder to nip his alienation in the bud.

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