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Lacking the right aesthetic: Everyday employment discrimination in Toronto private language schools

Vijay A. Ramjattan (Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 16 November 2015




Expertise in English language teaching (ELT) is determined by being a white native speaker of English. Therefore, ELT is a type of aesthetic labour because workers are expected to look and sound a particular way. As nonwhite teachers cannot perform this labour, they may experience employment discrimination in the form of racial microaggressions, which are everyday racial slights. The purpose of this paper is to investigate what types of microaggressions inform several nonwhite teachers that they cannot perform aesthetic labour in private language schools in Toronto, Canada.


The paper utilizes a critical race methodology in which several nonwhite teachers told stories of racial microaggressions.


The teachers were told that they lacked the right aesthetic through microaggressions involving employers being confused about their names, questioning their language backgrounds, and citing customer preferences.

Research limitations/implications

Future research must find out whether nonwhite teachers experience discrimination throughout Canada. Other studies must investigate how intersecting identity markers affect teachers’ employment prospects.

Practical implications

To prevent the discrimination of nonwhite teachers (in Canada), increased regulation is needed. The international ELT industry also needs to fight against the ideology that English is a white language.


There is little literature that examines language/racial discrimination in the Canadian ELT industry and how this discrimination is articulated to teachers.



In addition to the participants who agreed to share their stories in this paper, the author would like to thank Dr Regine Bendl and the anonymous reviewers for their feedback.


Ramjattan, V.A. (2015), "Lacking the right aesthetic: Everyday employment discrimination in Toronto private language schools", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 34 No. 8, pp. 692-704.



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