Discrimination In The West
Political correctness in the West dictates that people are not discriminated against based on their background, ethnicity, race, stereotypes etc, but instead treated as an individual based on their actual attributes. This is of course bullshit and my view is political correctness is only skin deep. People who are racists or who hold unpopular beliefs and stereotypes will hide their prejudices until such times as they believe they are in the company of like-minded individuals. In making decisions, Westerners may be influenced by politically incorrect prejudices, but will cover these up with other excuses. Having a Thai wife in the West has made these prejudices a real pet-peeve, particularly due to potential racism and/or stereotyping of Asians, and in particular, Thais. I've put down my thoughts on the topic and related my own and my wife's experiences, together with my own analysis based on what has been experienced.
My experiences on this topic are tied to living and working in Australia. I am an Australian, married to a middle class Thai lady, whom I met while she was studying her masters degree at a respectable Australian university. Since meeting, we have maintained Australia as our home and she has a professional job working in an Australian based international company.
Discrimination at University
While studying at university, my wife did not want to exclusively hang out with Thai students. In fact, her preference was to avoid Thai students because they did not want to speak English and the majority were only interested in copying her assignments and otherwise taking shortcuts in order to obtain their degrees. <Which would, in all fairness, create a JUSTIFIED prejudice against Thai students in terms of honesty, integrity and work ethic, would it not? – Stick> However, most of the Aussie students did not want my wife in their study groups. Of the few Aussie groups she was in, they rarely accepted (or even wanted to consider) her opinion in academic discussions and she was generally expected to be a silent member in the group, whose job was relegated to donkey work. She did become good friends with a group of European students (Italy, France, Poland and a few other locations) and stayed friends with them even after graduation. The same can't be said for the Australian associates she went to class with.
I have thought of various possible explanations for the lack of open-ness from Westerners (particularly Australians). One possibility at university is the Western students did not want Thais in their group because most Thais appeared lazy and had a reputation for copying and pasting chunks of text found on Google rather than doing any real research and analysis. However, my wife was a good student and graduated with a distinction average. Her academic abilities could not have been a secret because she was vocal in class and regularly participated in group discussions (most of the other Thai students seemed too shy to contribute in class). The European group did admit my wife to their group because they knew she was a good student (they rejected some other Asian students for the reason cited above). However, why were the Australian students discriminating against my wife?
I've asked my sister the question with respect to the lack of mixture between Thai and Aussie students. Her response was the Thai students never approach the Australian students and instead prefer to hang out "with their own kind" in big groups from which they never stray. No Aussie would feel comfortable approaching the group to ask members of the group if they were interested in mixing with an Aussie group. I can kind of see her point, but it strikes me as being just a convenient excuse to hide some more deeply seated prejudices. Yes, Thai and other Asian students do tend to hang out in big groups. However, they do stray and can be found in smaller groups or alone in coffee shops, in the library, on computer terminals, in class etc. My wife did the opposite and actually approached Aussie students to join their group and was still rejected (albeit with convenient excuses). Why?
Discrimination in Casual Work
While at Uni, my wife needed to work part-time to give herself some pocket money. She spoke reasonable English at the time. However, she could not get work in Australian based restaurants or retail outlets. In fact, it was unusual to find Asians working in these places (unless they grew up in Australia and spoke with Aussie accents) although European students could be found in such establishments (even though they spoke with European accents). The only casual jobs my wife could find were in Asian restaurants, where they insisted on paying under the table and below minimum wage (my wife had a work visa, so under the table payment was not required). Thai restaurants were often ruthless, with Thai manageresses treating staff like slaves and ripping them off mercilessly. Chinese or Singaporean run restaurants were worse, where they treated Thai and Filipino staff like real dirt while favouring Chinese workers. Learning about this was a real eye-opener to me and I have to admit I occasionally fronted up to some of these restaurants and had real heated arguments with the managers/owners.
Discrimination in Professional Work
After graduation, my wife originally worked at her university. To be honest, I cannot complain of any discrimination here at all. The university was a very good equal opportunity employer and they went out of their way to have a multinational payroll. However, my wife didn't want to jump straight into academia and wanted real world experience first, so that when/if she did ever go back to being an academic she would at least have real world experience of what she was teaching. She therefore applied for professional positions in line with her academic qualifications. This was not easy and she suffered many let-downs. Knowing what the employment landscape is like in Australia and that it is VERY competitive for graduates for professional positions, I suggested that she apply for a position that was a little lower so that she at least got her foot in the door and she could then prove her abilities and become promoted into the positions that she is really interested in. This actually worked, but she then suffered from a bit of insecurity because the people she was now working with had less qualification than her (many didn't even have university degrees).
Discrimination within the workforce became a real issue. She is a good worker and does a good job with her tasks. Her initial work group were all Aussies other than one European. The Aussies would accept new Aussie workers into their social group, but did not accept my wife. They never sent her invitations for social functions and occasionally they would even "forget" to send her an invite for a group function or group meeting. I considered at the time that this may not be a racial thing, but may be personality driven instead. However, on her performance reviews, she always gets solid reports including for attitude, personality etc. Notwithstanding good reviews, she gets "forgotten" when it is promotion time as well and instead managers seem to not realise that she has tertiary qualifications. They seem to assume that her starting role is in fact her only role and not realise that her intent has always been to use it as a starting point for future advancement, notwithstanding that she has satisfied the criteria for advancement. Others with less qualifications, that have been at her work for less time and that have a worse work attitude (i.e. they are lazy and happy to cut corners) get promoted while she is forgotten. She ultimately had to make a big fuss about it and meet with human resources (note, human resources' initial response was simply that if she wasn't happy she could always look for another job) in order to finally be given promotion. Aussies and others were promoted, but she had to really push on multiple occasions in order to achieve the same.
Discrimination in Society
One of my sister's friends was over at my place one evening. When he spoke to my wife, he spoke to her using pidgin English with a bit of an Asian accent. I almost punched him out then and there notwithstanding that he was 6ft 5 and full of muscle. However, I soon realised that he wasn't doing it to spite my wife but instead because he had automatically assumed that because she spoke English with an accent that she must have difficulty with the language, so he was helping to communicate with her. She has a masters degree for f**ks sake!!! This demonstrated one stereotype that must have been prevalent at least with the younger generations in Australia, that Asians, or at least Thais, are very poor at English (and perhaps other things).
When driving, Aussie drivers seem to automatically assume Asian drivers cannot drive. At times, I can understand how this stereotype arose, but there are plenty of terrible Aussie drivers too. At times, I have seen other drivers hurl abuse at my wife, even when she didn't do anything wrong. For example, there were two cars in two separate lanes. My wife was in the middle lane. An Aussie was in the left (outside) lane. My wife's car was in front by 2 metres. When my wife merged in front of the other car, he started honking his horn, flashing his lights, yelling and waving his fist out the window. We stopped at a set of lights later on and he pulled beside her. He yelled and cursed at her and told her to go back to where she came from. I then popped my head into view and politely (although sternly) asked what the problem was. He said "She cut me off". I explained to him that the two lanes merged at that point and she was the car in front, therefore had right of way. His response then was "Oh" followed by silence, and then the lights changed. What stuck in my mind from the altercation was his statement "Go back to where you came from". Racially motivated?
On a more social level, my wife still does not have many Aussie friends. Of the few, only one is a very close friend. She does have a network of non-Aussie friends though. She avoids the Thai community (for good reason in my view) and therefore only has a select handful of Thai friends. To be honest, most of her Aussie friends are actually my friends (i.e. adopted friends). There are some interesting experiences there too, as these tend to be male and their wives do not seem to want to become friends with her at all. In the situations where the wives come along, e.g. for a dinner, they will talk as little as possible with my wife and instead talk amongst themselves. There are some exceptions, but not many. Actually, one wife in particular was in my view extremely rude with her facial expressions to my wife. Imagine having an overweight blonde 30 something bitch of a woman sitting at a table with a look of contempt on her face during dinner. I felt sorry for her husband, who is a really nice guy. What was the driver for her attitude problem?
It's perhaps too easy to simply generalise and say that the majority of Aussies are racist. I am not sure if it is strictly racism. Yes, Australia did get a real black eye when Pauline Hanson (a founder of a very small radical independent political party) was elected into parliament and made very controversial statements about Australia's immigration policies and Asians in particular. However, Australia has also become a very multicultural place. That being said, there does seem to be congregation of ethnic groups. Does a congregation by itself suggest a racial divide or is it just the sharing of cultural commonality. I see it elsewhere as well so I suspect ethnic congregation is more by choice rather than a necessity due to discrimination. Similarly, if I look around companies that I have worked at, the workforces have been quite multicultural and senior personnel are not all Aussie. Going back to a point in my introduction, there are Aussies whot, when they feel they are in like company, will admit to disliking the influx of refugees, foreign skilled labour etc etc, but this is usually more a political message rather than racial. Maybe there is a superiority complex or some degree of ethnocentrism (i.e. Aussies are better than Asians). However, Asian food has become a staple diet in Australia, as has Asian furniture, souvenirs etc. Many aspects of Asian culture have become entrenched in Australian culture, but perhaps there is still some degree of a superiority complex. Given that there are other Asians working in more senior professional positions within my wife's company, I suspect the prejudice is not racial as such, but instead is based on a stereotype tied to being Thai. When I look around and consider how many Thais I know that have done well at university here (rather than just passing) or that have successful professional jobs, there are very few. The number is much lower than many other Asian countries represented in Australia. There is not one single other Thai employee in my wife's company, but there are many from Malaysia, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, China and even a couple from Brunei. There are an extremely limited number of Thais that I know that are working in anything other than hospitality or cleaning positions. <Most educated Thais want to return to their homeland after graduating abroad – Stick>
As unfortunate as it is, it would seem the stereotype of Thais is alive, at least in Australia, and this stereotype is a real hurdle for any Thais that want to break from the herd and lead successful professional careers outside Thailand. Knowing a lot of Thais in Australia, I can certainly understand how the stereotypes have developed, and it is a shame that these Thais cannot lift their game because they are holding back those that want to break free.
I always feel awkward responding to submissions where racism is the topic because whatever you say, it polarises the readership and that's not something I want to do, hence my comments will be brief.
The question that begs to be asked after reading this submission relates to the following comment. "She avoids the Thai community (for good reason in my view)". Is your wife any less racist than the Aussies who prefer not to hang out with her? Surely, if it is ok for her not to hang out with any group, which rather ironically are her own kind, then surely it is ok for another group to prefer not to hang out with her?!