Douglas to start off the discussion.
My name is Douglas Ashby and I'm an African American teacher here in Bangkok.
I've been with a popular language school since its inception. I've taught corporate classes for Sony Vector, Toyota, HP, and so on. I've never had a problem securing work here. Privately, I have instructed over 50 businessmen and international students in various aspects of the English language.
Is it hard to find work for black folks? It depends. My experience is that the more affluent, educated Thais realize that teaching abilities and effectiveness have nothing to do with ethnicity or skin color. Furthermore, my experience is that the more educated farangs who fill director positions at local schools realize that teaching abilities and effectiveness have nothing to do with ethnicity or skin color.
My experience also is that those who might be "academically challenged" , Thai, farang or otherwise, seem to keep the notion that persons of color are seemingly less qualified than their white anglo counterparts (could it be to keep the benchmark at a ridiculously low level?? too conspiratorial for my tastes).
Knowing such, I approach it for what its worth. Racism exists everywhere. I urge all black teachers to buck the system and prove differently.
Does racism exist in Thailand? "undoubtedly" says Mark
In my opinion, there is definite racism in the Thai community. I worked in Thailand for 2 years and experienced it first hand.
First of all as a backpacker. I was waiting for a room to free up at a guesthouse in Bangkok when a black guy came in and asked if there were any rooms. The owner said no they were full. I was shocked to hear as they guy went away, the owner say under his breath, fu*k off you black bast*rd and get out of my country.
In the school that I worked at it was policy not to hire a black teacher. The owner told me that the reason she asked for a photo when applying was to check if they were black or not. When I asked her why, she said that she didnt mind 'them' but the students wouldn't accept a black teacher.
The ironical thing about this argument is that white people often get treated better than Thais (for example in restaurants etc).
Is the white man's welcome coming to an end?
This is a myth being perpetrated by racists largely from Europe, America, and Britain residing right here in Bangkok and other parts of Asia. These people never fail to miss an opportunity to demonstrate their racist attitudes.
To even assertain such a silly topic as to whether a person of color can teach both native and non-native speakers the English language is laughable.
Perhaps, it would serve you best, if you would sober up and look around you. Start with the woman you're climbing out of bed with. The vast majority of people in Southeast Asia have skin that is considered to be black, or close to it.
I wonder, is the white man's welcome finally coming to an end in Asia?
We will overcome
I am black and very hard working. I have a decent education background and now fully armed with a BA and loads of teaching experience. Still it's really difficult for me to get a job in Thailand.
At this one school, a week after I had started to teach, I was told that an Italian teacher would replace me because "I was not qualified enough". I met the Italian teacher "Mr. Alex" and all the staff was so pleased to meet him. I found out that he was actually an Iranian refugee called ‘Ali' who didn't even have a high school diploma!
What's funnier is that one of the other "English Native Speakers" in this same school was an Israeli who spoke some English but did not know the English alphabet - and I was being replaced!! I kid you not!
I have heard of worse scenarios than mine. Due to the fact that I am black and living in Thailand I try so hard to do more than what is required of me to keep a job. It's really painful to see backpackers and other not so qualified teachers replace us because they are white. I dream of a day where all teachers in Thailand would have to go through a government sponsored screening process run by WHITES! Yes! We Blacks have a better chance of employment in Thailand when the interviewer is a Caucasian.
Having said this there are a handful of blacks that are paving the way for the rest of us. I was employed in a school outside of Bangkok. simply because they were happy with a black teacher that once taught there. We have been through worse. We will overcome - slowly but surely.
The Thai children love me!
I'm a browned skinned teacher working here in Bangkok. It's nice to know that I'm not alone. I thought I'd share my views on this topic.
Yes, it's always going to be harder to find work and that's something you have to accept. However, There are so many schools that are crying out for teachers you will certainly find something it just might not be the job you were looking for.
I have a native accent which helps. Although, I think there are probably a lot of brown/black teachers that don't.
You have to remember schools are paying for a native speaker and to be fair if the students can't understand you, then it's a waste of time.
I came over from England worrying about would I find a job. I've not really had any major problems. Unfortunately, in places such as "Pattaya" the darker races can be very rude and aggressive! The Thai people see a lot of this going on and I do sympathize with them.
I'm completely the opposite to this and when most Thai people meet and get to know me their views dramatically change. I'm working at a government school in Bangkok and the majority of children love me. Life can be hard at times but if you don't try you won't know? Good luck!
A step in the right direction
Back in 2001 I came to Bangkok and did a TEFL course with a well known language provider. In my class were two black teachers.
I asked at a school I'd acquired work at, if they would employ them and I was told definitely not. The Thai owners said that the families would remove their children from the school if they did.
Well, three years on I have come back to Thailand to teach , I called in to see my friends at that first training school and am happy to say they have broken ranks and employed a black teacher. A big thumbs up to them. Lets hope those with the mentality of a minion follow their example.
A big step in the right direction.
As a falang teacher working here, and knowing many other falang teachers, word tends to get around on this subject.
There really is no point in trying to reassure black teachers that there are plenty of reasons to come to Thailand. There aren't. The simple fact of the matter is that they will not be hired, certainly in relation to public and private schools.
I don't know about language schools in this regard. As falangs who live here know, there are many contradictions between Thai culture and the teachings of Buddha, just as there are in every other country in the world. The correct term for this is racism, and it is alive and well in Thailand.
Got any female Thai friends ? Ever noticed the latent jealousy of Thais with darker complexions ?
Look out on any Thai street during the day, especially at the girls/women as they cross the road. They are obsessed with blocking any ray of sunshine from hitting their delicate skin.
Why ? God forbid any of it causing them to be darker. So it's just not going to help our black brothers and sisters to sell them false re-assurance. Sad, but true.
Not only Thailand
Well, I don't know about Thailand, but I can tell you about Taiwan.
I'd been working out there for a couple of years when a good friend of mine pitched up with the intention of doing the traditional seven year course one goes through to qualify as a practitioner of Chinese medicine.
Now it just so happens that this friend of mine was a graduate of Oxford University, so he was bright as they come by anybody's standards and surely the sort of lad you'd want to have working at your school. I mean Oxford University for goodness sake!
Well, I'm afraid not even that can outweigh the stigma and prejudice attached to being black. Not even a foreign friend of mine who ran one of Taiwan's "ajarn" equivalents was able to land him a one year contract with a school.
So unfortunately it remains the case that if you're black then Oxford University or not, you're up against it. I wouldn't want to suggest that the prevailing culture in Taiwan tolerates people being openly racist, but nevertheless, it's got a way to go yet.
Some words from Dr Jobass based on his study
I am a social scientist who, among other things, have lived in Thailand, visits there twice a year and conducted the most extensive research on Thai Attitudes Toward African Americans and Africans ever published.
My treatise entitled 'From Victim to Victory to Victim Again' is a comprehensive study of prejudice in Thailand from the days of the war in Vietnam to the first part of 2004. I worked with the American Embassy to bring an end to discrimination against Blacks during the war years leading a team of 50 assistants. The study was wholly scientific.
Most recently, I have done a quasi-scientific study of prejudice in Thailand and the focus was on Africans as the number in that category is growing (representatives from 40 African nations) while there are few African Americans there now compared to the war years. I am an African American of mixed blood. I speak the language and have contacts at several levels of the Thai society.
At the conclusion of my recent limited study, I found that there was no organized prejudice against the African American but there was some against the African.
However, there is also some prejudice against other groups as well as the infusion of foreign capital form Korean and Japan has greatly impacted the total society of Thailand especially in Bangkok.
I hope to do a more scientific study of the problem in the year approaching if my time permits, as my agency has the funds for such a study and it is needed, although not requested or seen as important for the Thai elite.
Preconceptions do vanish
It's not easy for a black person to work as a teacher in Thailand. On the other hand, the onus is really on people like me to share experiences and set the tone of the discussion.
I'm a black American who has taught English in Thailand for three years. I have not experienced any reportable racism. In my experience Thais are not racist; they're prejudice -- just like people all around the world.
In a homogenous society, as is the case for Thailand, it is not surprising that people would have preconceived notions of strangers (blacks or otherwise). My experience has shown me that after even a few seconds of social interaction, the great majority of Thais are genuinely nice and welcoming.
The reaction of course is dependent on how I present myself. Apparently I'm on to something.
My guess is showing respect, being polite, patient and presentable (a few things my parents taught me) cause a friendly response. And trust me, the response is genuine. As a testament to this genuine nature and in terms of teaching opportunities, I have dozens of private students (from P1 to M1 as well as a few adults) outside of my work in a private school.
Thais, in my opinion, who are not familiar with blacks, seem pleasantly surprised once an amiable experience is gained. In fact, the experience, at first, is a novelty and people seem to like that they like it, which ultimately makes the experience more profound.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not on a crusade to win people over. I put forth the same modest social effort in all situations.
With regards to teaching, I have worked in several primary schools (through an agency) and of course get a curious look from parents and teachers the first morning of a term. However after the first lesson, once everyone realizes I'm an effective teacher (i.e. prepared, informed, fun and engaging), any and all preconceptions vanish.
The kids dig it, the schools dig it and the parents seem to like that their child has "the black teacher", not to mention that the child is actually learning.
Maybe the uniqueness of the experience is more memorable? I don't know. I do know that native English speakers of color (particularly blacks) create the possibility of a broad learning experience by simply not being a status quo teacher.
Think about it, you have two equally (I mean exactly!) qualified and talented teachers, both American, one white and the other black, respectively. Which one offers the greater learning experience beyond the language instruction?
Remember that both teachers are equally skilled. I believe the black teacher can affect the child's lifelong learning in terms of social tolerance and world view. As you are well aware,
Thai kids could certainly use a broad world view. And as I am well aware, Thai kids are completely color blind to race.
Unfortunately at some point as children move on to adulthood they tend to gather an opinion about racial matters. Most opinions, and definitely negative ones, are based more on assumptions than actual experience.
The web forums about how difficult it is for black teachers in Thailand and other parts of Asia just reinforce the status quo (i.e. English teachers are white guys) and discourage some blacks from experiencing these places for themselves; as a result denying students the broad experience.
Furthermore it may instill the false idea that there really aren't talented teachers of varying hues, hence perpetuating issues of ignorance.
If in fact it were true that there are no capable teachers outside of the status quo, it would really be a frightening science fiction-type scenario. Without a doubt, it's well past the time that we view ourselves, all of us, simply as Earthlings.
The more I've traveled, the more I realize that that's what we really have in common, Earth. All of the differences, the colors, cultures, customs and such are here to make the shared experience more interesting. Why limit experience?
The negativity didn't come from Thais
I am a Black American and would have to agree with others. Thais are not racist, but are very much regular people - overwhelmingly decent but prejudiced just like everybody else in the world, including the Black people from my big city neighborhood in the U.S., who would look a Thai up and down if one randomly walked through our all-Black block.
I have just recently returned from Thailand, and, while not a teacher, have travelled extensively through parts of the country. I did not experience any racism from the Thai people, although I did get a huge amount of stares and curious/perplexed looks, especially outside of Bangkok.
About the only negativity was if I didn't buy from a vendor at the various night markets - then some would shout rudely, usually in Thai, so I'm not sure if racists words were included.
I travelled with a group of four young Black women (braids, twist, naturals, and a perm) and we were never denied access to anything and got along great with pretty much everyone we met.
The Thai people especially responded well to us when we spoke a few words of Thai to them. In Koh Samui, many seemed generally surprised that we could say anything or would ask us where we were from. They even greeted us more enthusiatically than they did the Europeans.
By the time we left Thailand, we had heard that we were beautiful several times and a few cab drivers even held their arms against ours and said "same, same" in regards to color. Sure, we ran in to some Thai grouches along the way, but for the most part they were all good. A smile and a good attitude can get you through any place!
Usually any negativity that I received came from the huge amount of white Australian, British, and American farangs that congregated in Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Koh Samui. And Bangkok, to a lesser degree.
Honestly, the whites looked at us with pure contempt and had an attitude of entitlement to Thailand. You could tell that they felt that we had no right to be anywhere in Thailand. We had one group of whites tell our tuk-tuk driver to take them as passengers (mind you while we were still in the back) and had an old white guy literally walk up and shove us from behind.
Seriously, I am not making this up. There were other incidents but they are not even worth mentioning.
In my opinion, I think that many of the difficulties mentioned by some of of the Black teachers in this forum are the result of European and American whites spreading lies and racist notions about us. I've experienced their bad attitudes first-hand and they are a large, influential group in Thailand.
This is even more reason for Black people to continue to travel to Thailand (and anywhere else for that matter) and undo any damage that may have been done.
As for the Vietnam war stuff and other historical issues that may have affected the way Black people are perceived in Thailand, I really can't speak to this because I know very little about it. But honestly, I think that most Thai are intelligent people and will treat you decently as long as you are respectful and decent.
I say anybody Black should at least go and try travelling/teaching/living in Thailand. There is no guaranteed great experience anywhere that you go, but its highly unlikely that you'll experience any real problems other than the typical foreigner/farang-out-of-water situations.
Melissa Jones is currently teaching in Thailand
I am a teacher in Thailand. An African American woman.
The issue about Black people in Thailand is one that should be discussed as often as possible. There is limited information about our experiences here and I think it is important that we share the good bad and ugly.
In the name of sharing, I would like to share my experience in hopes that you revisit the topic in the future. I came to Thailand totally ignorant of basically everything and I hadn't even thought about potential racism. Having just graduated from an HBCU (Historically Black College and University), I had been sheltered as much as one possibly could be from racism in my every day interactions.
Coming here opened my eyes to how deep and how far racism has traveled.
It definitely is here in Thailand. It is as present as it is anywhere where there is access to Western media. Unfortunately one of Americas greatest exports is media- Hollywood, advertising and the likes. And in America, African Americans images in mainstream media aren't exactly diverse and we aren't painted positively as often as we are negatively.
Here, this racism is all inclusive not only affecting African Americans but also Thai people with darker skin. Kids wear white powder on their faces to lighten themselves and I would venture to say that whitening creams are one of the highest selling products in the Thai market.
The word for white doubles as the word for beautiful for God sakes! Having said all of this, it is important to realize, as I have being here, that this racism or idea that lighter skin being the symbol of all things good, in some shape or form reaches to the very ends of the Earth or it seems that way.
That doesn't mean that everyone everywhere excepts that to be true. Thailand is no different and everyone of every race who has the opportunity to visit, or work here should jump at it.
Living in the South with the darker Thai people, I have felt welcome. The Thais have called me beautiful and treated me kindly while some have not.
Yet for the most part I have been welcomed with warm smiles, and offered food and drink most places that I've gone. And most of importantly my children love me...
In order to overcome the stereotypes we must make connections with people, we must show them hard work ethic in the work place not because we have to but because that is what good workers do.
We should show our bright smiles and not come into Thailand defensive and ready to combat racism. Racism is ignorance and a kind action can educate. This is a beautiful country and I love it here. I'm not staying forever, but I am glad I have the opportunity to be here and experience everything that I have.