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.”
Lee, who is Korean-American, was rejected from the school despite having previous experience teaching English as a second language (ESL). Evans, a white Canadian, was hired on the spot.
“I was shocked – back home this wouldn’t be acceptable,” Lee told NBC News. “I’ve never been discriminated (against) in that way.”
Then there's this:
A post by Vogue on a popular online forum and classifieds site, The Beijinger, explicitly spells out the phenomenon:
“In Beijing this is the general pecking order in terms of a company's recruitment (by Chinese managers):
1. White Americans/Canadians
2. White British
3. White Australians/New Zealanders and South Africans
4. European Nonnatives/Black Americans/Black British
5. American Asians/Black Aussies (Australians) and Kiwis (New Zealanders)/Filipinos/Africans”
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.