The Help; The Way I See It

This one has nothing to do with adoption, well maybe it does. Suppose I grew up back in Thailand without having been adopted. Realizing that I may have been faced with a poorer quality of life, what would I have done to ensure a good future for my family? Move to Canada and become a nanny?

Kathryn Stockett’s, “The Help”, lets readers in on a once incredibly true outcome for African-American maids working for their rich and often racist and demanding Caucasian employers.

Reading this book I had this flashback to everything I know about events affecting people and their quality of living. I realized that the possibility of history repeating itself is incredibly possible. The possibility that our world could crumble, the treatment of non-white individuals could once again find itself in a state of lack of equality. I should say, I have witnessed this in my time. I am witnessing it right now.

I live in a city rich of cultural diversity. But with this rich cultural diversity comes an incredible divide between the rich and the poor. And now, I will bear witness to the impending repetition in our society based off of the plot from “The Help”. No, not regarding African-American individuals, but now Thai and Filipino individuals working as nannies in Canada. Now, before I get a hundred responses about how well some employers treat their nannies, I would like to point out that I am aware that not everyone cuts corners and is evil to their nannies. But we cannot overlook the injustices that are done to those unfortunate others. To overlook those is to say that we support inequality and the mistreatment of those seeking a life better than the one they were faced with in their own country. To overlook those is to say that we support the lack of protection for an individual simply because they are not a permanent-resident of Canada.

As I become more aware of my surroundings and the conditions and quality of life in which I live I am appalled by the number of immigrant workers who make their way to Canada only to be met with menial jobs, including being the care-takers and nannies for upper-class Caucasian citizen’s children. By further researching this, just to make sure I was not making assumptions I would find that the reality that I am witnessing is very true. Thai and Filipino women are becoming the new trend in child-care and are facing the same conditions and situations as that of the African-American maids in the 1960s. Oh! And new to this development comes their good report with children, and hard-working manner. So I guess because of that stereotype, all Asians are now qualified to be nannies. Uh-huh… (Catch the sarcasm?)

Since 2005 the number of non-permanent resident workers has increased and a very large proportion of these workers work as nannies, or in franchise businesses. They often come from third-world countries and in terms of ethnicity, the majority who work as nannies or franchise workers are Thai or Filipino. I am immediately disturbed by this. Since the job market has opened up in Canada more and more people are opting to have a live-in nanny care for their children while they continue on with their careers. But despite a good quality of life, the stipulations in which these households will hire are based a lot on the salary in which they can provide. And like most people, cheaper is better. Workers from other countries are often not given the resources they need to understand the legalities and the rights which they have while working in Canada. Because of this, many non-permanent resident workers working full time have lower weekly earnings than permanent residents. Many non-permanent resident workers are unaware of the rights that they have with regards to their working conditions. Many work long-hours, receive less than minimum wage, have their passports taken away, their rights, stepped on. What does this sound like? The 1960s.

I have heard from more than a few permanent residents of Canada that Asian nannies are simply the best caregivers for children. “They are always so happy and smiley!”, “Those little Filipino nannies are just so good with children.” It makes me sick, while nice of a comment it is our society is once again allowing people to label and normalize the misleading stereotypes directed at foreign workers and their ethnicity. Websites advertising Asian nannies make this part of the description for potential employers, they even have a list of instructions for how to care for your Asian nanny, like they are robots or pets that follow specific operating instructions. And still, our society thinks this is okay, maybe they are treated well, but their own identity and ethnicity is being thrown into a mixing pot where much of society is expected to see them as one way and one way only.

Sure there are stereotypes about Caucasians, but is a Caucasian ever hired based on their ethnic stereotype. People who work in bars, are they all German because they’re good at holding down the drinks? Most likely not. Are people who work in chocolate stores hired because they are Belgian? No. Are all oil-sand workers Albertan? Do you see where this is going? Sure, stereotypes exist all around us, but the lives we live are not defined by them. So, why should people who come over here to try for a better quality of life become defined by them? Just once I would like to be able to look this up without their being an advertisement for “Hire a Filipino Nanny” or a Yahoo! Question, “How much should I pay my Filipino Nanny?”, “How much do Asian Nannies cost?”

Canada insists that we are moving towards a better future, but what are we teaching the future? To look at individuals seeking a better life and based on their ethnicity, use that as a deciding factor for the quality of life which they shall receive?

When the time comes, no nanny for me. Besides, I hear that we Thai and Filipinos are good with children, so I might as well do the job myself.

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One thought on “The Help; The Way I See It

  1. Kate says:

    Excellent post! Agree 100%. I always think “why bother having kids?” when I see white families with nannies caring for their kids.

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