Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Formerly Restricted Clubs – OK or Not OK?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 5, 2008

I had a bit of a debate with my boyfriend yesterday. He’s Jewish, I’m Chinese (and Catholic). At one time, neither of us would have been given membership at many (if not all) golf & country clubs (and many other membership organizations, including some women’s associations) in Canada and in many other parts of the world. In some cases, we wouldn’t even have been allowed in as guests. In the past twenty or so years, many have loosened up their membership rules and have begun accepting non-WASP members. To many Chinese Canadians (at least Hong Kong Canadians), including myself, what’s in the past is in the past, and if they’re welcome now, why not. This doesn’t seem to ring true with a lot of Jewish people. My boyfriend even said that some of his family members would be downright uncomfortable if they find out that they’re guests at a formerly restricted club. Probably even more uncomfortable if they find out that a Jewish family member is seeking membership (perhaps even thinking that they’re selling out? Who knows!).

Does this have to do with colonialism in Hong Kong? Members of reciprocal clubs from Hong Kong or Singapore who immigrate to Canada seeking membership? The lack of wealthier Chinese Canadians in the past (pre-70s), meaning fewer predominantly Chinese organizations? From the Jewish perspective, is it because most Jews in North America are white, and because their race is invisible, then it makes it more uncomfortable (and if that’s the case, can’t you say the same about being Catholic? I’ve heard stories about Rose Kennedy being blackballed from the Junior League of Boston because she was Catholic (and Irish?). I’m pretty sure that today, the Junior League of Boston has lots and lots of Catholic members.)

What do you think, readers?

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3 Responses to “Formerly Restricted Clubs – OK or Not OK?”

  1. umeboshi said

    I am in total agreement with you, ChineseCanuck.
    Sulking about past wrongs and refusing to enjoy the rights of today just doesn’t make sense. It’s a loser mentality.

  2. I think it depends on the club. Some clubs that are focussed on tradition may still have a culture that excludes you.

    Only twenty or so years ago? I guess they had to stop their racial discrimination because it suddenly became illegal after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect.

  3. Technically, clubs can still be restricted. Verity in Toronto is a women’s only club. Men are only allowed in certain areas, such as the dining room. There are also organizations that are based on lineage, so that will also restrict certain cultures.

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