Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for April, 2008

Cultural Lessons: Music

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 30, 2008

I’d like to open this topic up for discussion:  Why DO YOU THINK that it’s considered very “normal” and “Asian” for second generation kids of Asian descent to take western classical (using the generic term of “classical” here, not the classical period) music lessons while stereotypically, kids of other cultures who do so are “white-washed”?  I don’t have stats, but I have heard that Julliard and Berklee have lots of students of Asian descent, both American and foreign.   I’ve said in previous posts that it’s class-related.  Would you agree with me?  Would you see more non-Asian students at these schools if more came from middle class families?  What about white kids?  In my experience, white kids who were very serious about music (classical music, not the garage band type) and knew how to read music well in junior high were generally of Eastern European descent.  Usually no more than third generation.  (This was a problem when it came to middle school level instrumental music.  They usually started you from scratch, so it was very discouraging for at least 25% of the students.  While we might not know how to PLAY the instruments we picked up, we already knew how to read and often were frustrated at the slow pace.)  Is classical music just not a priority?  Even if the families are of a similar social class?  I would think that the ability to play piano or violin would be something parents are proud of.  Classical music is more “international” than most sports (other than soccer, anyway), I think.

Would you like your kids to take classical music lessons?

***NOTE:  What I’d LIKE to see are more prominent Asian composers (not music/song writers who do pop…NOT THE SAME THING)…lots of Asian music students (in Asia, anyway), just copy what they hear, making their music more mechanical-sounding…creativity isn’t important here, just as long as you play the right notes with decent expression, you’re okay…..having been trained in piano and voice, mostly be teachers of Eastern European descent, I’ve learned that it’s a big NO-NO.


Posted in Arts, assimilation, culture, ethnicity, minorities, Music, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Same Race Intercultural Relationships: Can be difficult!

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 29, 2008

When I was going through my dry spell of not having a boyfriend, my parents talked about sending me to China to work, and hopefully meet someone there.  Yeah.  Mainland China.  Not Hong Kong.  I’m a suburban-raised Catholic girl from Toronto, you know the kind of kid who went to Brownies and summer camp.  I don’t even SPEAK Mandarin (though I DO speak Cantonese).  Why would I have anything in common with a guy from the mainland, no matter how educated he is?  Even if he has degrees from Harvard or Yale?   While they definitely accept my current relationship status (serious and long term with a white Jewish boy), they somehow fail to understand that when it comes to someone who is from the SAME ethnic group, it really doesn’t mean that you’d have anything in common with them.  Of course, you never have the SAME experience as the person you have a relationship with, but really, you need to have SOME things in common in order for it to work.  You need to compromise in a relationship, and chances are, some of the influences and traditions that I was raised in are so foreign to him (even if he spent several years in this part of the world)  that it would be difficult to compromise.

Having had the influence of immigrant parents who are from a culture where family is very important, I need to be able to communicate effectively with the guy’s family.  As I don’t speak Mandarin, how would I talk to the his parents?  And what if they’re critical of me because they find it odd that someone of Chinese descent doesn’t understand the customs?  I already have a grandmother finds her Canadian-raised grandkids are not “as good” as those who lived in Hong Kong (I heard this through the grapevine, but apparently this grandmother said that I was a barbarian)!  In any case, I often worry about these kinds of relationships.  Are they just looking for a passport?  You never know.

Posted in assimilation, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, Hong Kong, interracial relationships, minorities, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Feminism: A Race Issue, or More Likely, a Cultural Issue?

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 28, 2008

There are two posts over at Racialicious on race and feminism today, both posted by Latoya. In the first post, called The “Or” versus the “And” – Women of Color and Mainstream Feminism, Latoya starts off talking about a “click moment” in the late 90s, during the height of the Spice Girls’ popularity. At that time, there were plenty of “girl power” t-shirts and other accessories at the mall (I was in university at the time, and a little too old to wear them, though I know plenty of girls who did… private. I don’t think too many people born before 1980 or 1981 would ever admit to being a Spice Girls fan, or at least, didn’t back in the late 90s) and Latoya’s “click moment” was when a guy friend asked her “what the fuck” girl power was supposed to mean. Later, Latoya discusses the lack of connectivity because she couldn’t relate to the feminist anthologies. Most, she says, only contain one or two voices of non-white women. But do these women’s voices reflect every non-white woman? How can you say that all non-white people have the same experience? I’ve found that many ethnicity/race blogs seem to group all non-white people together as if the struggle is the same. It isn’t. Even same-race experiences aren’t the same (more about that later.)

The second post is related to the first. Entitled Does Feminism Have to Address Race, this post questions whether mainstream/neutral feminism really understands feminism of other races. Latoya mentions that some feminists discuss women being “weaker” and/or “less capable.” Yet, Latoya has never been labeled as such, because stereotypically, black women have never been seen as “weak.” Latoya also talks about her name. She mentions that “they assume that this name “Latoya Peterson” will manifest into some neck-swiveling straight from the ‘hood stereotype” and that her resume goes straight into the recycling bin. (I could also say that a woman with a very white-sounding name like Katie Smith could have her resume thrown out too. Why? Because her name doesn’t sound serious. Being female and having a “cute” sounding name is not exactly a good thing, career-wise.) So it brings me to this question: Is it therefore not a race issue, but class and/or culture?

We can’t confuse race with culture. It isn’t the same thing. A person’s culture is what he or she absorbs from the community/communities around him/her. A race can be a culture, but a culture can’t be a race. Take for example a married upper middle class Chinese woman from Hong Kong who has two kids. We will call her Liz. Her definition of feminism will likely be very different from an upper middle class Chinese woman (also a mom with two kids) in the United States or Canada (which we’ll call Anne), even though they’re both of Chinese descent. Why? Race/ethnicity aside, it’s much easier for Liz to move up career-wise. Most women in Liz’s situation have hired help at home, as nannies and housekeepers are much more affordable than in the west. Liz is therefore free to stay late at work so she can get things done and move up. Childcare in Anne’s situation, however, costs more. If she uses a daycare center, she has to pick her children up after a certain time, as the place closes (there are some places with extended hours, but how long are they open? Very few are 24/7). Anne may have a nanny, but nannies cost more in this part of the world. She likely has one person who does both the childcare and the cooking/cleaning. I wouldn’t say that both Liz and Anne would have the same views on feminism, would you? They are of the same race, but definitely not of the same culture. Similar cultures in terms of socio-economic class though.

(I have to say that I’ve largely stayed out of women’s studies and feminism because the academic definition, at least in my experience, tend to be very ignorant and generalize too much. They often want things to happen quickly as well. Take professions for example. We know that today, law schools and medical schools tend to be at least 50% female, yet we get statistics that upper levels are still majority men. Most women’s studies departments go on and on about how it needs to be changed to reflect the schools today. But have these ladies ever thought that it’s an age thing? Most of the men in charge of hospitals or are senior partners in law firms are from the baby boom generation or are older. They went to med school or law school at a time when it was still majority male. Since many of these guys haven’t retired yet, why would you expect things to change overnight? There aren’t as many women in their 50s who actually practice law as say, women in their 30s. (Compare the movies The Paper Chase (from the early 70s) to Legally Blonde. I realize that both are fiction, but both are about law school. The main characters in the former movie are predominantly male. Legally Blonde? Elle Woods was certainly not the only woman in her class. There were plenty of others.) Since many women have children and therefore take some time off, it’s very unlikely we’re going to see a 50-50 split any time soon. We may want to see more, but it’s just going to take time. I guess some people are just a little on the impatient side.)

Posted in Asian, assimilation, career, culture, ethnicity, Hong Kong, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Boston Pizza Commercial Uses French Opera About Spain

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 25, 2008

If you’re from Canada, or at least the Toronto area, you might have heard the Boston Pizza commercial on the radio which uses the music of the Habanera (“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle”) to English words about a deal you can get at the restaurant.  My question is WHY?  The opera was written in French by a French composer, Georges Bizet and is set in Spain.  What does that have to do with North American style Italian food?  Do they really think that the general public is that stupid?  That we’d be fooled into believing that Opera=Italian?  I’m sorry, but that really bothers me.

Posted in culture, Music, Opera | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Students at Religious Schools who are of Different Religions

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 24, 2008

As you’ve probably read in previous posts, high school was (and still is) affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada. We had to go to regular services, regardless of what our faith.  Our services weren’t overtly religious, though hymns were sung, prayers said and Scripture read.  Parents send their kids to the school knowing that services are a part of the school’s culture, so they generally don’t have a problem with it.  The people who DO have issues are outsiders.  Some are even SHOCKED to hear that say, Muslim or Jewish parents would even think about sending their kid there.  They seem to think religion first, academics second. Is religion really more important than what the kid learns in school?  Except for two years of religious education in Grades 7 and 8, nothing outside of mandatory services is religious based.  Do people automatically think “religious school” as soon as they hear about mandatory services?  Just because a school has historical connections to a church doesn’t mean that it’s a true “religious school.”  Schools under the Roman Catholic school board are probably more religious than my alma mater, and these schools, at least the high schools aren’t really religious!  In fact, the school often has “talks” or presentations by students and staff who are of different faiths.  It was very normal for us.  In any case, many “traditional” private schools tend to have some sort of connection to a church.  Even those that don’t, such as Toronto’s Upper Canada College, still has a school hymn and/or prayer.  I guess people need to do their homework!

Posted in assimilation, culture, ethnicity, feminism, minorities, prayer, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Tibet and China poll at Prospere Magazine

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 23, 2008

Prospere Magazine is asking whether making Tibet a Special Administrative Region (SAR) is a good idea…

Posted in Asian, China, culture, ethnicity, minorities, religion, Tibet | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Good Ol’ Boys and Old Boys’ Club/Network: NOT THE SAME THING

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 23, 2008

I’ve seen many posts around the Internet which seem to equate Good Ol’ Boys with the Old Boys’ Club, including this Wikipedia entry. This is NOT TRUE. Wikipedia’s definition of a Good Ol’ Boy (different from the previous link) is: Northern/Western-European descent, who lives in a rural area and/or subscribes to a traditionally “rural” lifestyle. The Good Ol’ Boy is synonymous with, yes, you’ve got it, WHITE TRASH.

Meanwhile, a member of the Old Boys’ Club/Network (not the Good Ol’ Boys’ Network….this doesn’t really exist) is the opposite. They’re historically white too, but these people are educated, wealthy and have influence in businesses, politics, etc.  Often, they have official organizations where they network (which is how they make connections and have an easier time moving up in terms of career). They are also main line Protestants (Anglican/Episcopalian, Congregationalist, Presbyterians, etc) rather than members of an Evangelical church. They generally come from certain schools. This term comes from the United Kingdom, where many top “public” (read: private and boarding) schools use the term “Old Boy” for their alumni. This term is also used in many Commonwealth countries. Also, many UK/Commonwealth girls’ schools call their alumnae, “Old Girls” and the term isn’t insulting to these schools’ grads. In fact, many are PROUD to be Old Girls of X school.

Do you think there’s a reason why people are confused? Or are only people in North America, where the term “Old Boy” and “Old Girl” aren’t generally used (especially in the US, since even Exeter and Andover won’t use Old Boys/Old Girls for its grads)?

Posted in assimilation, culture, ethnicity, minorities, school, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

You want to be considered “Canadian”? Stop acting “foreign”!

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 22, 2008

Asians being perceived as foreigners, even if they have been in Canada (or the US, Australia, etc) for generations is common. But has anyone ever thought of why? Other than the fact that Asians aren’t white or the fact that the vast majority are either immigrants or second generation? Maybe it’s because SOME people don’t want to act a certain way? You know, if some people, especially people who may be distinct in one way or another do something, people outside of that group may automatically believe that EVERYONE in that group is just like that.

Being treated one way doesn’t necessarily depend on what you look like, but how you act. Remember the musical/play, My Fair Lady/Pygmalion? Eliza Doolittle’s transition from flower girl to “lady” wasn’t because she was dressed well, but because of the way she spoke and acted. If it was all about appearances, Henry Higgins would have finished his “experiment”as soon as Eliza was cleaned up and out of her flower girl clothes!

Right now, the rain hasn’t fallen on the plain just yet. I’m actually not even sure when it will fall. People who question whether there’s a “real” Canadian identity, people who question why it’s necessary to adapt to the local cultures, etc, aren’t really helping much. And yes, even if you don’t assimilate/integrate/whatever you want to call it, you need to have an idea of what people are talking about. Don’t want to? Why on earth are you here (and regardless of what some people say, these people DO exist…I know a few who’ve been in English-speaking Canada longer than they were in the old country and STILL sound like they’re fresh off the plane. And these people aren’t older. They’re like 30! Look, if you came to this country at the age of 11 or 12, I expect a bit of an accent, but HALTING ENGLISH?? C’mon!)? And if you were born here, what on earth did your parents tell you? Did they brainwash you? It also doesn’t help that some people, especially the immigrant generation (and this is really common with Hong Kong Chinese in my circle), treat anyone who isn’t from their culture as foreigners (and some of these immigrant parents DO brainwash their children). Yes, this includes white Canadians who have been in the country for decades (though this may be out of habit, but still). You know, if you treat people one way, expect that treatment back. Thanks.

(BTW, I would like to see other people’s comments too.)

Posted in assimilation, Chinatown, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Bananas, Part II (or Classism, Part I)

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 21, 2008

Being a Banana is an identity. It’s used to differentiate from the various Chinese and western cultures that exist all over the world. Some may ask why one just doesn’t use the term “CBC” (or ABC, BBC, etc)? Answer? Not all CBCs are the same. While the vast majority grow up in Canada (or what ever western country) and are exposed to Canadian (again, whatever country) culture, there are some who actually move back to the old country at a young age. Take my cousin, Jennifer (not her real name), for example. She was born in Toronto, but she moved back to Hong Kong just weeks after she was born. She’s technically CBC, but she has much more in common with foreign students and recent HK immigrants). She’s now going to school in North America. What is this young woman? CBC or not?

There are those, such as Restructure, who feel that Bananas think they’re white. Do they, Restructure? I’m pretty sure they know that they’re Asian. They just enjoy things that people, Chinese or not, consider “white culture.” Usually, they are aspects of white culture that are foreign or “bad” to Chinese immigrants, including certain sports like hockey and football, playing musical instruments other than classical piano or violin (again, classical. God forbid an East Coaster CBC who wants to fiddle) and dating non-Chinese. Come to think of it, being a Banana isn’t really about being “white”, but really being more of a “commoner.” But in any case, being “banana” is a cultural identity. Language and customs play an important role in this.  Restructure points out that lots of non-white Canadians don’t know how to read/write the language,  yet they still aren’t white.  Well, Restructure, that was a really weak point.  Lots of non-white Canadians (and white, non-Anglo Canadians) know how to read/write their old country language, especially if they’re first generation.  And since most Chinese Canadians over 18 are no more than second generation, the expectation of reading/writing, or at least speaking, is still there.  And in any case, in North America, the ability to speak more than one language is a privilege, and again, tied with whether one is “common” or not “common.”   As for speaking English, there are different tones, of speaking the language, even if you have a perfect, “standard” Canadian accent that are associated with class, region and the time one arrives in this part of the world.  The HK Mallrat voice is highly influenced by HK movies and many young women (as in under 40) who watch these movies have that kind of voice.  I have also come in contact with Italian Canadians over 50, who for some reason sound like Martin Scorsese or Rudy Guiliani, both New Yorkers of Italian descent.  Interesting, no?

Forcing people to identify as plain Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, CBC, or whatever is like taking the Newfoundlander, Quebecois or Texan identities away and forcing people there to call themselves Canadian or American. Many people from these regions consider themselves Canadian/American SECOND (even if the stereotypes, especially with Newfoundlanders, are negative). It’s like telling someone who is metrosexual that he’s really in the closet and should come out.  It’s questioning an already-outed gay person’s sexuality.  Don’t you see anything wrong with that?

Posted in ABC, assimilation, banana, BBC, CBC, Chinese Canadian, class, culture, ethnicity, language, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Canada’s C-50: Limitation on Immigration

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 19, 2008

Many people want to come to Canada.  So many, in fact, that Canada is currently looking at changing its immigration policies so that some people could be fast-tracked in.  This includes people who are in highly trained jobs such as medicine or engineering.  Prospective immigrants are already complaining that they need to wait years to get in, especially those who are highly educated or skilled.  So why should these people have to wait?

However, what upsets people is that the bill apparently indicates that the government can pick and choose which countries prospective immigrants come from (some websites even say that the minister can do it.  NOT TRUE.  Why would she?  She doesn’t have the time!).  Some people are going as far as saying that it’s a big step backwards, back to the early twentieth century or before.  But what they don’t realize is that the government is already “picking and choosing”.  There are already very strict requirements to get in, believe it or not, and technically, the people from certain countries ARE more likely to be rejected because they don’t meet the standards.

What would I do?  Considering that many immigrants to Canada seem to prefer their old ways of doing things (but at the same time, enjoy the freedoms that we give them, things that weren’t possible in the old country), I’d require prospective immigrants to watch videos about life in Canada so that they wouldn’t be in for a shock when they come.  They’d should also be required to answer questions like:

  1. You child has been paired up with a member of the opposite sex (or child whose family is from an “enemy” country) for a school assignment.  How would you react?  Would you force the teacher to find the child another partner? (If the parents say yes, then points are deducted)
  2. At a work gathering, one of your co-workers introduces you to his (her) spouse.  His (her) spouse is a man (woman).  How would you feel about that? (I know that plenty of people in Canada are homophobic, but we don’t want to increase the numbers, do we?) 
  3. A couple lives next door to you.  They seem lovely and very friendly.  At a dinner party, you find out that they aren’t legally married.  In fact, they have no intention of getting married.  Will you still be friends with them? (again, I know that plenty of people are anti-shacking up before marriage, but like homophobics, we don’t need more of them in this country.)
  4. Your (now grown) child doesn’t want to marry the person that was arranged for him/her.  Instead, the child wants to marry someone they’re in love with (or not at all).  To you, the show must go on.  Is there anything wrong with the picture? (brownie points for those who say yes :-))
  5. You move into a neighbourhood that is primarily made up of people who speak your language and enjoy your traditions.  Do you think it’s necessary to learn English (or French)?  If not, why not? 

I know some of these questions sound a little crazy, and may also apply to certain groups who’ve been in this country for years, but like I’ve said before, we don’t need MORE people like that here.  And I think if more people had an open mind when they arrive, there’d be less tension between different groups and also less tension between parents and their Canadian raised children.

Toronto Star article on Bill C-50

Website that opposes C-50

Citizenship and Immigration Canada website

Posted in assimilation, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »