This week’s topic in my Ad Research class was political correctness. I explained the term and gave several examples. I brought up the idea of the “token minority” and how this type of character is added to a TV show or movie so that they can seem more multicultural. By adding this character, they can also bring up discussions about racial issues, gender issues and homophobia without shame. My students thought this was interesting, and we had a great discussion about it. At one point, Claire asked me if I ever felt like a token minority. Right away I answered no, but I started really thinking about it….and yea, there are certain situations where I am the token minority in China.
A perfect example:
Last week I got a call from the Foreign Affairs Office telling me that I would be conducting interviews. They told me where and when to meet and that I would be paid for my time, but no other information was given. I had no idea what the interviews were for, who I would be interviewing, or how long the process would take. Two ladies from the Chongqing Vocational Business College met me at the SISU gate and escorted me to University City (another district of Chongqing). Once there, I met with the Director of Foreign Affairs for the college who explained what my task for the day would be. There were 12 candidates (teachers) up for an overseas fellowship (either to America or Australia) paid for by the Chinese government. Each candidate had to come up with a research topic relating to bilingual education and present that topic to the review board in the form of a paper. At this point, the board had already received the papers and needed to interview each candidate to test their English proficiency. That’s where I come in.
There were four interviewers total: me and three Chinese professors. The other interviewers had the chance to read the papers (one, because they had more preparation time than I did, and two, because the papers were written in Chinese) but they told me that it did not matter that I had NO CLUE what they were talking about. My only task was to judge how well they spoke English. In this moment, I really did feel like the token minority. My only purpose was to sit there and look pretty. It did not matter that I was not familiar with their research topics or that I did not have a connection to the review board or the fellowship committee. Nope. They needed a foreigner, and I fit that bill, so I was hired.
Being the token minority is a very strange thing. I never thought I would be considered a minority, but in China, I am. I now understand how African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics feel when they are looked down upon or treated differently just because of their race. I am definitely more aware of it, and will take this lesson with me back to America.