Friday, June 25, 2004

Preferred Servants

Every ethnic group has its own group of "helpers," "servants," "domestic workers," etc., that they consider okay to employ. Somehow, having someone else to take care of the laundry, the cooking, the not the sign of laziness but rather necessity.

The urban mainland Chinese utilizes migrant workers from Anhui and Henan provinces, a group of women collectively known as "Xiao A Yi," or literally, "little aunts," to do their dirty work. These young women do everything from shopping for groceries to mopping the floor to taking care of the elderly parents of over-worked city couples -- all for very little pay, actually ridiculously little pay compared to what New Yokers pay for domestic help.

Hong Kongnese almost always use Philipino immigrants. The immigrant women often have to learn to cook Cantonese-style and master the language too, in order to babysit the Hong Kong brats they're entrusted with.

Singaporeans employ Indonesian workers. I've heard that well-off Tibetan families hire Indians for household work. Indians in Kenya
hire Kenyans from rural areas...

Is all of this ingrained ethnic prejudice, as in, such and such group of people can do no more than household chores? It's so easy to fall into this, if I stayed in China and had a nice job, I probably could hire someone to iron my newspapers too. Except now I see myself as the helper... No shame in hard work, just a lot of wasted talent.