Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

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?


7 Responses to “Bananas, Part II (or Classism, Part I)”

  1. I have no problem with your right to identify as a banana. In fact, in the comments of that Racialicious post, I wrote:

    I consider “banana”, “oreo”, and “coconut” self-identities, so only the people who self-identify as that belong to that category.

    which means that I acknowledge bananas, oreos, and coconuts to be valid categories.

    I don’t think bananas think they’re white. I think that bananas think that they’re white inside. Do you disagree?

  2. Also, I suppose you/I can differentiate ourselves from CBCs that are raised abroad because were “jook sing” CBCs. But I’m not a banana. Just you.

  3. Restructure, I’m not the only Banana in this country.

  4. Okay, I meant between us, it’s just you. That comic also wasn’t implying that the girl was the only banana in existence.

  5. Also, in England, “commoner” and “common” are pejoratives, so these terms may be misinterpreted.

  6. definition of “pejorative”:


    1. Tending to make or become worse.
    2. Disparaging; belittling.

    n. A disparaging or belittling word or expression.

    Ummm…isn’t that the point? I mean, the immigrant parents see say, fiddling as being a little on the “redneck” side, so they won’t want their kid to fiddle.

  7. Oh, okay. Now your post makes more sense.

    When I think “acting white”, I think of acting privileged, and when I think of white culture, I think of upper-class white culture. However, when my parents talk about white culture, they are referring to dropping out of high school, not going to university, etc.

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