A story coming out about five Taiwanese down south who stabbed a foreigner (an Indonesian worker in Kaohsiung) - and some commetary on it - is one.
My issues with this are threefold:
1.) Someone should really address the fact that many Taiwanese see foreign labor in working class jobs - the 外勞- very differently from how they see Westerners or Asians from developed countries. The former tend to be Indonesians, Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino (and some throw Chinese foreign brides into that category). The latter tend to be office workers, engineers, English teachers and other expats in better positions. Nobody calls them 外勞, often they get the more complimentary 外國朋友.
To this end, a friend of mine has mentioned something he once saw from a bus window: a protest against foreigners. I'm not sure if the signs said "Foreigners Go Home" or "Foreign Labor Go Home" - a big difference when rendered in Chinese, but it was pretty clearly aimed at foreign labor. They weren't telling the English teachers to hoof it back to Canada. It's racist and wrong, I know, but that's the attitude.
This isn't fair or right, and certainly not every Taiwanese person feels this way, but it is something that is sadly common. The foreigner stabbed in the case above was an Indonesian worker. I'm certainly not saying that this makes it less serious - far from that. It's just as wrong no matter who the victim is. My point is that this post makes it sound like roving gangs of angry Taiwanese youth are happily stabbing English teachers and foreign office workers in the street. They're not. Heck, they're not out stabbing foreign laborers, either - this is an isolated incident and not an indicator of widespread violence (although violence against foreign labor is a bigger problem than violence against Western/non-working-class expats).
2.) As above, this was an isolated incident. There are simply not wand'ring gangs of disaffected youth waiting to stab us in the streets. Michael Turton's link to this post made it sound like there are groups of angry Taiwanese gathering like the KKK to take out foreigners. Simply not true. No country is 100% safe and Taiwan has its share of crime problems (mostly mob-related, some two-people-in-a-feud or family related, some just random acts of violence), but Taiwan is relatively safe. You're almost certainly not going to get stabbed in the street for being a foreigner.
3.) I don't care for the first part of Ozsoapbox's post:
You’re treated differently (usually positively) simply because you don’t look Taiwanese, people stare, they’re perhaps more careful about what they say and of course there’s always the familiar ‘OMG WAIGOREN WAIGOREN!’ calls you hear randomly.
Calls to which the equivalent in the west would be going up to an Asian looking person, pointing and shouting ‘OMG ASIAN ASIAN!’
The first sentence is true - you are treated differently often positively, because you're a foreigner, but that's true around the world. It's not unique to Taiwan. It even happens in New York.
I haven't found that people are more careful about what they say - if anything I feel people say more outrageous things to me because I'm not Taiwanese, so people who hold their tongues among Taiwanese for fear of social exclusion will tell me their uncensored opinions because I'm different and can't exclude them in that way, or I might be more accepting. Sometimes these opinions are refreshingly honest and insightful. Sometimes they're downright racist or ignorant. Like people everywhere.
But mostly, it's simply not true that shouting "Waiguoren!" at a foreigner is the same as a foreigner shouting "Asian!" at an Asian person. Neither is a good idea, and I don't condone either, but c'mon. Our home countries are generally speaking far more diverse than Taiwan. "Asians" are not an anomaly or unique, at least not where I'm from. They don't stand out. Many people of Asian heritage were born and raised where I was from, meaning they're just as American as I am. It's very different to go up to an Asian in, say, Washington DC and shout "OMG ASIAN!" than to go up to a foreigner in Taipei and do the same thing. I'm not saying it's a good idea (I refuse to go down the "different culture, they don't know better" route because I don't believe it's true), just that it's not the same thing. We really do stand out. We are a relatively rare sight. It's human nature worldwide to notice things like that. I'd love to see a world in which nobody commented on it, but for now we're stuck with what we have.
Anyway, really, for those of us in Taipei - how often do you get the "WAIGUOREN!" treatment? Maybe from very small children who don't know better (true of children the world over - American kids say similarly embarrassing things) but from everyone else, including older children, does this happen at all in places with high concentrations of foreigners? I don't know where Ozsoapbox lives, but I have observed that once you get to an area where foreigners are not unique, not an anomaly and don't stand out, people stop commenting. Why? We're all still foreigners. We're still not Taiwanese. We still look different - it's because there are enough of us, like Asians in most American cities, that we don't stand out. And poof, the problem disappears, because it wasn't a problem of racism to begin with.
There's also this post - and I'm commenting on it as a foreigner who doesn't feel connected to the foreign community. I'm not saying I'm "Taiwanese" or that I don't have expat friends, but there is a community of expats that I don't really feel I relate to or connect to.
Sure, one of the two people mentioned in the altercation was a foreigner, but I see nothing in the news item that indicates that the Taiwanese treat all foreigners as the same or as a cohesive "other". The same altercation could have taken place between two Taiwanese people and been largely the same, albeit without "illegal work status" issues (though "moonlighting as a stripper" would have been mentioned) or the word "foreigner" used. Otherwise, all I see is an indication that there was an altercation and one of the two happened to be a foreigner. Not any sign that all Taiwanese think of all foreigners in a certain way and treat them as such.
The same goes for the full article - I don't think many Taiwanese would think that moonlighting as a stripper is "appropriate behavior" for another Taiwanese, either (but that has more to do with conservative values). As for the guy in question, the law is the law. Just because there's a law that a foreign worker can only do for a living what his/her work permit states doesn't indicate that Taiwanese all think of us as One Big Group of Other. I also get the strong feeling that the government is more concerned with foreigners moonlighting in dodgy industries (such as stripping) or downright illegal ones. If you work as an English teacher and freelance teaching private classes, editing, doing IT work or whatever else, well, that's technically illegal but not something to worry too much about. Those aren't dodgy situations that are likely to get you deported.
The article itself is kind of ridiculous, though. "Foreign workers to be targeted"? Um, so they're going to hunt us down in the streets and corral us into deportation cells? Hardly. Why the alarmist headline? "Good samaritan"? Say WHAT? Does that even make sense?