Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘ethnicity’ Category

Dinner party or just a communal table?

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 10, 2008

I was recently at a dinner hosted by an accquaintance of mine.  She’s a university student and is the president of one of the school’s clubs.  Most of the guests at her dinner party, which was held at one of the local restaurants, were members of said club, with the exception of myself and another guest.  The club was somewhat diverse:  Half were Asian (mostly immigrant or foreign (visa) students), one was South Asian, one black guest and the club president and VP are white. 

There was something about the dinner that bothered me.  It wasn’t because the executive wasn’t “ethnic,” but how people interacted with each other.  WIth the exception of myself, the other Asian guests only talked with each other, even after the host tried to get them to join in.  The dinner felt more like dining at a counter or communal table – it felt like two separate groups.  Some may suggest that language was an issue, but they seemed to speak English well enough to join an organization that was English-speaking only.  Discussion topics might have been an issue, since we spent some time talking about movies, music, etc…but it didn’t dominate the entire meal. 

There was a lot of self-segregation when I was in school in the 90s and early 2000s, but generally, people didn’t join clubs if they were only going to talk amongst themselves.  Of course, I’ve only met these people once.  They might not be like that outside of that dinner situation (or accept the post-dinner mall excursion invite) – after all, there were two outsiders (myself and another person) at the party.  However, that wasn’t what it looked like to me as an observer.  And it just bugged.

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Posted in assimilation, culture, education, English, ESL, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Obama wins in…

Posted by chinesecanuck on November 5, 2008

…and becomes the first non-white President of the US.  So what about Canada?  We have had so far, two non-white Governors-General, who represent the British monarch (and our Head of State), but when will we have a non-white Prime Minister?  While I don’t think it would happen in the next few years, I do believe it will soon.  And when it does happen, most likely, the person will be male, Canadian born or raised and South Asian (since there are a decent number of South Asians (compared to other non-white groups…and I’m pretty sure there’s more than one MP who is Canadian born and/or raised, opposed to East Asians) who are involved with public office).  I also don’t think the time will come for people of East Asian descent for a even longer time.  If Canadians are critical of Stephane Dion’s Quebecois-accented English, what will they think of a foreign accent?  Until more East Asian Canadians who were born/raised here run for office, leadership of a major party is NOT going to happen.

What do you think?

What do you think?

Posted in culture, ethnicity, minorities, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I don’t understand radicals…

Posted by chinesecanuck on October 29, 2008

 …but of course, radicals don’t understand me!  Especially radicals who are involved with ethnic-related organizations (for their own culture).  Is it all that wrong that I participate in groups that historically wouldn’t have accepted me?  I mean, if this truly were the case, many of my parents friends shouldn’t even be playing golf!  We shouldn’t be working in certain industries or buying certain products!

Posted in culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Wal-Mart Canada launches “Asian line” at some stores

Posted by chinesecanuck on October 15, 2008

The clothing line is cut to fit petite women 5’3″ or shorter with “Asian type” figures. I guess this means “boy shaped.” I’m not sure if it was a good idea for Wal-Mart to use the term “Asian type figures” though, since there are women who aren’t Asian who are small-boned too (just as there are many Asian women who are curvy). But yes, it’s more likely for Asian women to have that shape. The price-point is really, really affordable. What the news release DOESN’T indicate is the inseam length. I guess if they’re REALLY going for the stereotypical Asian figure, the inseam length would be quite short, perhaps even shorter than the “typical” petite inseam of 29 to 31 inches. The most stereotypical Asian female figure has a longer torso in proportion to legs. Maybe the inseam would be more like 27″?

The line, which is made in Montreal (not China, thank goodness), will be sold at 16 Wal-Mart stores in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

Posted in Asian, ethnicity, fashion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Thanksgiving!

Posted by chinesecanuck on October 14, 2008

Yesterday was Thanksgiving in Canada.  It’s interesting how the holiday is so easily adaptable for different cultures!  My family usually does the turkey thing, complete with what my mom calls “Chinese stuffing,” which is sticky rice and Chinese mushrooms.  It’s really good!  For side dishes, we usually serve bok choy, choy sum or gai lan – all Chinese greens, salad and whatever other people bring.  For dessert, we usually serve carrot cake (store bought…when I was little, I would make dessert.  I haven’t made dessert myself since I was around 13 or so, since my baking skills haven’t really improved – LOL)

Do you celebrate Thanksgiving?  If so, how?  Do you adapt it to fit your own culture?

Posted in Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

From the New York Times: French Muslim kids find haven in Catholic Schools

Posted by chinesecanuck on October 1, 2008

I find this article interesting and I agree with them, somewhat.  Being an alumna of a historically religious school AND a public school, I’ve found that the students were less likely to question or tease students who were “different” and that people were more open to understanding.   The article also says that students in the Catholic schools are better-behaved.  Perhaps it’s because religion is “there” even if students don’t necessarily take the courses (the kids do not have to go to services or take.  The spirituality is still there.

The French Catholic schools do not need to follow the same rules as public schools, which prohibit any religious symbols.  This means that girls are free to wear their headscarf.   Some schools have allowed students to use the chapel for prayers during Ramadan.  At the same time, parents don’t need to worry about an inferior education, as these schools teach the national curriculum.  In addition, Catholic schools have, historically, had a reputation around the world of having high academic standards and more open-minded about sciences (if Catholics in the US had a louder voice than evangelical Christians, no way would evolution be challenged.  In fact, it wouldn’t even be in the picture).  Immigrants generally LIKE high academic standards.  Personally, I think these Catholic schools provide some sort of middle ground for integration.  Depending on how “old country” a culture is, it could take several generations before people are integrated, or at least understand the local customs (even if they don’t believe in it).

It’s also interesting to note that the principal of a newly-founded Muslim school sends his kids to a Catholic school rather than his own!

Posted in ethnicity, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Media and Immigrant/Second Gen Stories

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 8, 2008

It’s too bad that the media rarely talk about people like me. I think the world needs to read more about non-white immigrant/second gen people who just aren’t that “old country.” Whenever I read stories about immigrants, especially non-white immigrants in newspapers or blogs, it’s always about immigrants being marginalized, with the lack of resources to services, etc, etc…So where are the stories about people like me? Where are the stories about upper middle class Chinese Canadians? I don’t think we’re that small a group. And I also don’t want to read about crazy culture clashes between the immigrant parents and western-raised kids, either. That’s soooooo over done. I just want to see pieces, fiction or non-fiction about NORMAL suburban families.

As a kid, I never felt that I was marginalized. In fact, to this day, I’ve experienced more issues with more traditional immigrant/second gen+ people (other than people from the HK Chinese community) than people who’ve been in Canada since the Upper Canada Rebellion! This is something I’d love to hear about in media. Discrimination between immigrant groups. I’d also love to hear people talk about rates of integration with “mainstream culture” and how some immigrant groups find it odd that other groups adopt “white/Anglo” culture. I can’t tell you how many times non-HK second gen Canadians have criticized me for being “too Canadian.” I’ve been criticized by HKers too, but it isn’t as bad. HKers think “Oh, it’s because ChineseCanuck was born/raised in Canada,” while other immigrant/second gen Canadians act as if what I do is disgusting. With WASPs, it’s only an issue when ethnicity is brought in the picture, not everyday life.

My question to the media is this: Are people like me not worth talking about? If so, why? I guess I won’t receive an answer, because you guys don’t read blogs like this…or don’t care.

Posted in Asian, assimilation, ethnicity, media | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Quebec Schools Required to Mark Non-Christian Holidays

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 2, 2008

And this goes for private schools too, according to the Globe and Mail.  I’m a little confused about the article.  Do the students have to take these days off?  I hope not, as won’t be that many days left for instruction!  And why is it an issue to teach other religions in a (say) Catholic school?  I went to an Anglican school with chapel, and sat through presentations on Islam and Judaism.  It’s great to get some exposure to other cultures.  However, at the same time, I worry that teachers aren’t trained properly enough to teach other religions/cultures.  Those not properly trained will make people of non-majority cultures feel more “other” than they already are.  This is especially the case for non-majority cultures who are assimilated.  People, even those who know you quite well, will start assuming that your culture is one way and will avoid doing some things around you because of what they were taught.  Take, for example, baby showers.  This is not done in many cultures (including Chinese culture) because of all the risks associated with childbirth.  But someone born and raised in North America may want one.  Heck, even immigrant women may want one!  Apparently, my mom’s work friends threw her a baby shower before I was born.  However, that was 1979, before all those sensitivity seminars were brought into the workplace.  I highly doubt that something like that would be done today, even outside work hours.  People are trained to believe that some cultures just don’t find them appropriate and may even be insulted.  Even the article has mentioned something that could be considered a faux pas in my book.  The curriculum mentions that “while most Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, Jews mark the autumn harvest with Sukkot.”  I know Jewish people who do Thanksgiving.  Sukkot.  I know Jews who do Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is NOT a religious holiday in Canada.  That’s why I feel badly for the non-Catholic students at Loyola (school mentioned in the article).   But is not teaching it better than teaching it?  If Loyola doesn’t have many non-Catholic students, then kids there may not be exposed to other religions all that much.  Wouldn’t it make sense to teach about other religions?  However, at the same time, private religious schools shouldn’t have to teach things they don’t believe in.

What do you think about this?  Do you think Loyola is going too far by considering legal action?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, religion | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

All non-black non-whites are “brown”?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 20, 2008

Racialicious has GOT to be the first blog where all non-whites who aren’t black are referred to as “brown” (at least by some posters.  I can’t for the life of me see how anyone who is say, Chinese or Japanese can possibly be brown, unless one is referring to eye colour (or hair highlights) or to someone who has spent too much time in the tanning salon.  Tan or taupe I can understand, but brown, proper?  I don’t think so.  Unless, of course, you’re into the whole colour group thing.  However, most people think of brown as being something much darker than tan or taupe.  Calling these people brown is beyond racist.

Posted in Asian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What exactly is “Chinatown”?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 19, 2008

Many Greater Toronto Area sites boast that there are several Chinatowns, including those in the suburbs. But are the Chinese areas in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga truly Chinatown? To some, “real” Chinatown is in the downtown areas of Toronto, along Dundas and Spadina or the “Eastern” Chinatown in the Riverdale area. The “Chinese enclaves” in Markham, Scarborough and Mississauga are, on the other hand are suburbs that just happen to have many services catering to Chinese speaking communities.

The “real” Chinatowns downtown have a unique feel to it in every sense of the word. And it feels historical, a little like something out of a Wayson Choy or Amy Tan novel. Markham (or other suburban “Chinatowns), on the other hand, feels like any other suburb, where house prices start at around $350K. Markham is fairly middle class all-round, while “Old Chinatown” is mixed – generally students, “Old Chinatown Chinese” (i.e. seniors who came decades ago), and higher-earning hipster types. There’s obvious poverty there.  It’s often dirty.  The two largest income groupings are either over $100K/year or between $10,000 and $19,999.

Many suburbanites don’t consider Old Chinatown safe, especially at night. When I was in high school, I was warned over and over not to go down there. I wasn’t even supposed to wander around during the day.  Perhaps this is why these people don’t want to claim the suburban Chinese areas as “Chinatown.” It’s all about rep, you know. And in Confucian cultures, you just can’t lose face. People in the old country know about “Chinatown” (meaning downtown) and if you tell them you live there, they’d think that you’re not successful (unless you’re a student at th University of Toronto).

So this brings us back to the original question. Are the suburban Chinese communities “Chinatown,” or does Chinatown have to reflect the the immigrant/”ethnic” stereotype of being dirty, poor and “other”?

Posted in Asian, Cantonese, CBC, China, Chinatown, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »