Linda Ogutu, a Kenyan living in Scotland, shares what happened to her when she applied to be an au pair with a family in China. She writes, “I think I ‘knew’ that discrimination does take place, but now I KNOW based on experience.”
I applied for a job. A cultural exchange job as an au pair in China. I enjoy traveling and desire to explore and experience cultures which are different from my own. Going to China would have been one way to begin traveling around Asia as I had always wanted to do that.
I applied for the job being hopeful, but also reminding myself that nothing may come of it.
I received a response much sooner than I had expected. Oh how I was giddy with excitement!
We arranged a time to video-chat. We exchanged pleasantries and then we were off to official business. I was asked where I was from and following my response, the interviewer apologized profusely and said I unfortunately did not fit what they were looking for.
“Oh! I am so sorry but unfortunately we will not be able to take you. My partner does not like black people. I was going to try and convince them if you were from the West, but since you are not, they will not accept it at all. I am so sorry, really.”
Of course I understood and wished them all the best in their search.
I was disappointed the family did not want to take me as the husband of the lady that interviewed me probably had ingrained in his mind all the negative stereotypes of black people. I wasn’t angry at her as she knew I was black (we have to provide a profile photo on the au pair website). I also surprisingly wasn’t angry at her husband because I knew he just had the wrong idea of what black people are like.
I thought about their response and honestly was not surprised by it.
I have been prepared for experiences like these as my father always told my siblings and me that a day would come when we would unfortunately have to experience discrimination based on either our gender, the colour of our skin, or our religious beliefs. He had experienced his fair share whilst studying in the West when he was younger. He always reminded us that when people discriminate it is because they don’t know.
I think I ‘knew’ that discrimination does take place, but now I KNOW based on experience. Granted it wasn’t extreme as in most other cases. I suppose now it has made me more aware, but I don’t want to ever get to a point where I lash back or hate those that discriminate against me. I’d honestly rather fight hatred with love; MLK and Gandhi-style (haha).
I would still apply for another au pair job in China. I know not all Chinese still view black people in a negative light. Also, I could probably au pair for a foreign family living in China as well.
As for the Chinese family who interviewed me, I wonder if the husband’s mind will ever be opened. Someday. Perhaps.
Linda Ogutu is a Kenyan living in Scotland. She blogs about her experiences at http://comeseewhatiknow.tumblr.com.