Guest Post: A Chinese Family Refused To Hire Me Because I’m Black

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.”

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Linda Ogutu
Linda Ogutu

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.
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17 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Chinese Family Refused To Hire Me Because I’m Black

  • August 26, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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    Tough break, but you would probably not have been happy living with the ‘disapproval’ of one or more family member.
    I suspect that the woman you were talking to was expressing her own dislike, but deflecting it onto to someone else to avoid a difficult conversation.

    With adequate preparation, maybe contacting any UK based (registered) Au-pair organisation, you will find a place you are happy with.
    Because remember YOU are supposed to enjoy the experience too, as well as live, work and learn in China

    Reply
  • August 26, 2016 at 9:03 pm
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    Well I think its unfortunate, but as they say plenty more fish in the sea,
    I mean the aupair and the family have to be the right fit for each other.
    I’d say most people who read this will sympathize with you.
    But there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
    Families are entitled to have preferences, this particular family wanted someone from the west and asides from the other comments, you didn’t meet that.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2016 at 10:16 am
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    I find it hard to comment, let’s see if I can do this:

    I am sorry that you have encountered this but like you, I am also not surprised. I was trying to find a job in Shanghai and was shocked that some of the job classifieds go beyond weight and gender…some went as far to say, “No Jews,” even one said, “German is better.” Sheesh.

    I wish you luck in the future.

    Reply
    • August 31, 2016 at 5:17 am
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      There’s a pathological affinity for Nazi Germany among young males in China & East Asia in general. WWII German military uniforms are one of the hottest selling items in China & Japan. The faux-antisemitism is mere an attempt to emulate their “idols”.

      Reply
    • September 5, 2016 at 11:11 pm
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      Thanks for sharing Eileen. Wow, I had no idea that was even possible!

      Reply
  • August 27, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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    It is nothing surprising given that so many people in China sitll think Africa as the name for underdevelopment of a lot of things apart from economy. The part of my hometown in China which was full of illegal and makeshift housing many years ago was named ruthlessly and with irony “Village of Africa”. The recent arrest of athletics who returned from Rio Olympics by Zimbabwe police better testifies this viewpoint. And people in China are very realistic, if they think they cannot get something in return they would not have a try.

    Reply
  • August 27, 2016 at 10:56 pm
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    For many people around the world Au Pair=white and Maid=Non-white. Knew an expat who lived in Hungary. His white American wife had a tough time contemplating a white maid from Bosnia and tried her best to get a non-white dark skinned maid from abroad (South India or Sri Lanka), but the government did not oblige.

    Reply
  • August 29, 2016 at 10:37 pm
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    Sadly I’m not surprised to read this.

    I think the author’s attitude is great though! I’m not if I would be able to be as forgiving if I were discriminated against for any reason.

    Reply
  • September 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm
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    Wow. I’m really sorry to hear this happened to you. :/ It’s great that you’re so positive about this, but these comments about “preferences” and “right fit” anger and disappoint me. Refusing to hire someone on the basis of their skin color is straight-up racism, and that’s not acceptable in 2016.

    I have a Chinese friend who choreographed a major event in Beijing and she asked the director if she could cast black people. He said “不要太黑就行” (okay, just not too dark). China has a long, long way to go.

    Reply
  • May 31, 2017 at 7:15 pm
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    There are a lot of people from Africa living in the city where I am staying at the moment!

    Sometimes I think alot of problems occur are due to misunderstandings and not so much related to discrimination.

    It is just so complicated! For examplpe, if you purchase a phone sim card in China, there is a monthly rental fee that charge by the telecom carriers. All Chinese knew about this, but some African visitor don’t understand this. So, when the monthly fee been deduct from their account, they think that the sim card seller cheated their money! And this is not the case!

    There are many more examples about these misunderstanding! Many people just too lazy to understand each other!

    Reply

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