Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘minorities’ 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.

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 »

More on the Brown situation

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 15, 2008

Kai recently responded to my post on non-whites being referred to as “brown.” Kai wanted to know why I objected to the term when many non-whites are indeed, “brown,” including Chinese farmers.  The term “brown” just isn’t accurate.  While Kai does mention southern Chinese farmers being dark, what about northern Chinese urbanites?  Even southern urbanites aren’t that dark.  Japanese?  Koreans?  They’re more of a cream colour to me.  In any case, the “brown” term has class connotations.  As with Europe, historically, most East Asian cultures have considered lighter skin as a beauty standard.  Peasants = dark; aristocracy = light.  Calling someone of East Asian descent “brown,” at especially for older people can be very insulting.

Kai also brought up solidarity.  I don’t think there’ll ever be solidarity between different non-white groups.  I don’t even think there’ll be solidarty within same cultural/racial/ethnic groups. There’ll always be generational differences, cultural differences and class differences.  A second generation Chinese Canadian probably has more in common with a multigenerational rural Canadian than someone from rural China.  There are differences between Chinese Canadian groups as well.  The wants and needs of suburban-raised, upper middle class, second generation Chinese Canadians like myself are different from a second generation Chinese Canadian who grew up in the projects.  Multigeneration Chinese Canadians (most live out west) also have different needs and wants.

Posted in Asian, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Ethnic Blogs – Why some bug me (yet I still like reading them)

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 13, 2008

Many ethnic/race blog I’ve been to seem to have a very liberal/PC and American point of view.  If you olay a devil’s advocate and say that some groups do things one way because of ABC, you’re hounded.  It’s my way or the highway, and they never look at any other point of view, even if it is constructive.  It’s as if posters are members of some sort of clique.  It’s like high school!  All because sometimes, my ideas can be really different. I’ve even been called stupid by some people (you know who you are!) because I’ve pointed out that some countries consider term A PC while other countries prefer Term B (and find Term A un-PC…think Asian vs Oriental).  This is especially the case if the topic is on beauty.  I’m trying to avoid these topics now, because I’m a little tired of people going on and on about how colonialism was the most major influence on beauty standards in say, Asia – especially when it comes to ideal skin colour.  They seem to ignore the fact that fair skin has always been the standard.  They sometimes even go on and on about embracing the “traditional look” – as if the “traditional look” was ever “ideal.”  But this isn’t the only thing that bothers me.  Religion is another.  I have had people ask me why I’m Catholic.  Why I don’t just “embrace” eastern faiths because Catholicism is a religion resulting from missionaries coming in to “convert the heathens of China.”  My family has been Catholic for four generations.  I don’t see myself any other way.  I am comfortable being a lapsed Catholic.  I can’t see myself converting to any eastern faith.  Not at all.

What upsets me the most are the so-called “white liberals” (actually they aren’t always white.  Just people who are ignorant about other cultures..sometimes even people who are of MY CULTURE or similar cultures, but haven’t been too internationally exposed) who seem to want to erase the past.  Or if they don’t, they want to embrace something that they’re not (this is usually where the not-too-internationally-exposed non-white people come in)  Um, did anyone ever ask you?  What if something is so ingrained that reverting back to the so-called “traditional style” just isn’t realistic, and perhaps even mocked if one ever decides to go back to said tradition?  It’s sort of telling us that your culture/way is better and that we shouldn’t be practicing.  It’s also putting us in neat little boxes/areas.  Kind of like a supermarket or department store.  Again, these people are trying to put their beliefs into others, sometimes to the point of giving readers migraines.

So some of these blogs bug me.  If they do that, why do I read them?  Because I want to let people know that their way isn’t the only way.  I often point out that their way of thinking, and telling people that their way is the only PC way is kind of like colonialism.  In many countries, entire cultures were changed because foreigners came in and told them what to do.  When they resisted, they were killed.  It is no different in the blog world.  If ethnic blogs believe that colonialism/history of slavery/etc was wrong, then they really shouldn’t be telling people what to do and what to say.

Posted in Asian, colonialism, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Interracial Dating: Fetish from the woman’s side?

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 8, 2008

Ethnic/race sites like Racialicious often talk about IRR (Interracial Relationships) and fetish. Almost always, the posts deal with fetish from men. It’s almost as if, especially when dealing with Asian Female/White Male relationships, only the guy could ever have fetish. What about the women? Aren’t the women fetishing something too? And it isn’t necessarily perceived ideal beauty, but maybe a lifestyle? Growing up, many immigrant kids watch television, read books, etc and dream of that “perfect,” what we now call “Martha Stewart” life. They want the perfect place settings, the perfect kitchen, the perfect house. It’s not that you can’t have those if you marry an Asian guy, but it’s more of the image. With an Asian guy, you may still be expected to do Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner the Chinese way – that is if you grew up doing it at all – you know, a turkey marinated in soy sauce and stuffed with sticky rice (some people don’t like it – I do), bok choy , etc. Or they don’t want to be criticized by a prospective MIL because she feels that they aren’t “fill-in-the-blank-culture enough” (can happen…moms seem to have higher expectations of Asianness when their kids’ significant others are of the same ethnicity). Perhaps the “fetish,” isn’t physical (at least from the woman’s side), but a lifestyle. Of course, this lifestyle really only exists in the pages of Martha Stewart Living and at displays at Williams-Sonoma, but a girl can want to make it as close to that as possible. Trust me, if I lived on my own, I would (and I don’t think I need a guy to do it). However, I don’t think I can with my parents around, for various reasons.

Of course, that kind of lifestyle also comes with a bit of preppiness. True preppiness is mostly white, in my experience. There are preppy Asian guys, but they’re usually first generation preppy (I really don’t get the unattractive factor here. No Asian guy I know is completely unattractive/geeky/insert Asian stereotype. Some are even high maintenance/metro!) True preps aren’t too brandwhorish or materialistic. They like the good life. They also like to look well-groomed, but it’s not all about displaying labels. That’s not hot, after all. Sadly, many first gen preppies have parents who are the complete opposite. It’s about getting the luxury car, wearing and displaying the logos and so forth. Sure, I’m generalizing here, but it happens. Second, third gen preppies and beyond are more subdued. Perhaps some women want that.

It’s interesting that the typical male Asiaphile does not fall into this ideal. Most Asiaphiles are unattractive nerds or middle age, overweight men. These guys, at least in the extreme, are more likely to want the opposite of what the woman mentioned above wants. They want a more Asian lifestyle. Perhaps that’s why they prefer foreign women. They’re easier to mold and not to mention, they probably see these guys as arm candy as well (even if they don’t LOOK LIKE arm candy -heh). These women probably don’t want the Martha Stewart lifestyle, at least not the way a North American raised Asian woman sees it. They may want that “ideal American life” but probably won’t go into details such as place settings, food, social stationary and the like, especially if they’re from a developing country.

Of course, I’m probably generalizing, especially with foreign Asian women. I’m not foreign, so what am I supposed to know? In addition, many people would probably disagree with me, especially when it comes to the western-raised Asian and her wanting the “ideal lifestyle.” But it’s something that is rarely discussed in ethnic message boards regarding IRRs. Maybe it’s time for that to change. After all, a lifestyle can be a fetish too.

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

Being Cultured

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 28, 2008

This is pretty much part two of my earlier post on stereotypes.  Many people feel that it’s necessary to avoid certain works because they contain characters, storylines, etc which are no longer considered politically correct.  My question to them is this: What the heck are we supposed to read/watch/listen to?  Are we going to have to avoid everything created before the 1970s?  How the heck are we even supposed to be “cultured” if we do that?  Do we not give a child piano lessons because most of the composers were Christian and wrote music for the church?  Do we homeschool the kid because they’re going to be reading works by writers from the past, whose works will, in the eyes of someone in the twenty-first century, not be PC?  Why keep kids away from them when you can discuss why it’s wrong?

Honestly, people who believe these things bother me.  It’s a form of censorship, IMHO.  Keeping a kid in the dark is no better than sanctioning such behaviour.  In high school, I read a novel for English class called The Wars.  This Timothy Findley book is about a young Canadian man who fights in WWI.  The novel is very graphic, especially towards the end.  Yet, it was part of the English curriculum at my high school, an all girls’ independent school.  You’d think that the English department would prefer us reading books which are “cleaner.”  However, the English department wanted us to broaden our horizons.  Many of the books we read were not exactly appropriate for teenage girls.  In fact, some were even banned in schools at one point (Cather in the Rye, for example).  So you don’t want your kid exposed to stereotypes.  However, as I said in the earlier post, everything CAN BE A STEREOTYPE.  Or are some stereotypes just “better” than others? 

IMHO, people who ban certain material from others because they feel that it would negatively affect their outlook on a culture (or cultures) or because they feel that it’s racist/stereotypical are just not exposed enough.  They aren’t cultured enough and/or fail to understand that there’s more than one interpretation.  And to me, it is really sad.  To deny another person exposure to something because one only sees something ONE WAY is denying someone the ability to express how they feel.  It’s denying the person a learning opportunity to discuss why something is wrong/inappropriate.  It’s denying someone AN EDUCATION.

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, learning, literature, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

OMG, Stereotypes!

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 16, 2008

This is really bad.  I was on the subway the other day and sat next to a girl who had not one, but TWO designer bags (she was *THIS CLOSE* to being a label whore).  I didn’t get a look at her face at first, so I assumed she was one of those Asian girls who highlight their hair and shop at high end stores.  Turned out she was white.  In Toronto and Vancouver, one can find some Asian women (or more specifically, Hong Kong women) who shop at these stores, and sometimes, they’re head-to-toe label.  And these brands have to be big names to them.  For many, Tory Burch isn’t a big enough name.  It has to be Prada, Gucci, LV, Hermes, etc…

Readers, have you mistaken someone for another race/culture/ethnicity based on what he/she was wearing, or what accessories he/she had?

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, fashion, Hong Kong, minorities, shopping, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Integration is really a class/education thing?

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 14, 2008

Over the weekend, I had a lengthy discussion on immigration and integration with a friend. Friend believes that immigrants who are more likely to retain old country values (ranging from total arranged marriages (i.e. not “this is A, this is B. You guys go out on supervised ‘dates’ and then decide whether you like each other or not” type arrangements) to marrying young to not moving out until marriage, etc) are those who are not as educated. Educated people, my friend believes, are more open to their children adopting mainstream, Anglo-Saxon (or Francophone if you’re in Quebec) values because they’re more exposed. In fact, they probably have picked up some of the values themselves (even if it’s more old fashioned – my mother, for example, gave me an etiquette book when I was 12. This etiquette book is likely a traditional gift to a 10-12 year old who attends junior cotillions and will be a debutante in her late teens. I was not a debutante. They aren’t all that common in Toronto, unless you’re Filipina). Friend cited the European immigrants who came in the 1900s or even after WWII. Many of these immigrants only had two or three years of formal education compared to Anglo Canadians had at the time (probably Grade 8-ish). They worked unskilled jobs and their social lives revolved around their place of worship which spoke the language from the motherland and observed traditions of the country.

I think my friend is only partially right in this case. There are plenty of immigrants who are really well-educated, yet their credentials from abroad do not make them qualified for the jobs they did in the old country. Immigrants who are the most integrated, those who have picked up Anglo-Saxon values are those who were educated here. Why? Because they came young. When you’re 18 years old and away from home, the first thing you want to do is something that is considered taboo to your parents. This isn’t only something that foreign students do, but basically anyone who is going to school out of town! 🙂 For some people, the new values stick, especially if you intend to stay in the new country. There aren’t parents to tell you that what you’re doing is not proper.  In addition, parents who are willing to send their kids abroad, especially girls, are probably already open-minded anyway.  It’s also the exposure that they may have career-wise.  I have noticed that many immigrants who are in, say, finance or law (especially of their senior management), are more culturally Anglo than even equally educated (or perhaps more so) and equally financially well-off doctors whose patients are primarily from the immigrant communities.  The doctor, in turn, is probably “more exposed”/culturally Anglo than someone who owns a small business.

Readers, do you think this is true? Is education the key to being more open-minded and perhaps even integrating? Or is it a combination of being educated in the new country and education itself?  Is it a class thing?

Posted in assimilation, culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

Passing on Traditions and Keeping in Touch with One’s Roots

Posted by chinesecanuck on July 9, 2008

Matthew Egan has a post in Racialicious today about his Jewish identity. At the end of the post, mentions a conversation his fiancée had with another woman, who grew up in Chinatown about understanding one’s roots. But what does that mean in the twenty-first century? Culture changes so rapidly that many traditions become obsolete. Other traditions were invented or adapted by immigrants when they arrive in their new homeland.

I often read stories about ABCs or CBCs (American Born Chinese or Canadian Born Chinese) who are conflicted between tradition and their Americanized/Canadianized identity they picked up at school. Reading these stories, I’ve always wondered WTF they’re talking about. I went to school with lots of kids who were either born in Canada or came as young children, and never have I met a parent who wasn’t accommodating to their kids’ westernized lifestyle, save for dating non-Chinese. In fact, most parents are westernized themselves. Most people I know don’t know what it means to have “traditional Chinese parents.” Perhaps it’s a generational thing. Most American/Canadian authors of Chinese descent are from an older generation, typically Baby Boomers (e.g. Amy Tan) or born during the Depression/WWII (e.g. Wayson Choy). They typically grew up in Chinatown or a small town, with parents who worked in small businesses rather than suburban-raised kids with middle-management/professional parents.

I share the same issues as Matthew when it comes to understanding my roots. Because my upbringing was “typically suburban,” and the guy I’ll likely marry isn’t of Chinese descent, I worry that I’d be criticized that I’m not able to pass on Chinese culture beyond language (speaking only), food, holidays like the Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival and perhaps one or two milestone traditions, such as a baby’s coming out/presentation at 30 days or wedding traditions (many aren’t “real traditions” as they probably only date back to the 1910s or 1920s at the earliest when people started to have love marriages rather than arranged ones).  Or would people care?  Is that really enough to pass on?  In Toronto, one can be exposed to these traditions without doing much.  All you need to do is open a newspaper.  The Lunar New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival get lots of press in a city like Toronto or Vancouver, even with non-Asian media.  Is passing on these traditions really keeping in touch with one’s roots, or is it just part of being a cultured Torontonian?

Posted in assimilation, culture, ethnicity, minorities | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Help or leave them alone?

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 27, 2008

I was recently criticized at a certain blog for suggesting that a certain program can help students in inner cities end the cycle of poverty.  The blog seemed to imply that these programs do not work because we (as in the creators/founders/donors) are imposing our culture onto the kids.  WTF are they talking about?  Are we supposed to ignore everything and just watch?  Are you saying that someone like Oprah should just watch impoverished teenaged girls in South Africa waste away their lives because they can’t get a decent education?  I realize that Oprah can’t help every single kid at her school (and that her school has run into some issues), but helping some kids is better than helping NONE.   And since Oprah’s school is based on a curriculum sanctioned by the South African government, it’s not as if she’s bringing an American education to the kids.

So who is supposed to help these kids?  People who grew up like those kids, but have become successful? Religious organizations?  Are those people truly insiders? I’m not sure.  You become an outsider once you leave the area, even if you grew up in it.  Places change, and change very quickly.  Even kids who attend boarding school on a bursary are considered outsiders when they return for the holidays.

I guess what the blog is saying is that they don’t need any help from other people at all and that they can help themselves.  However, if you don’t have connections, I don’t really see how you can advance.  The reason why the Old Boys’ Network/Club (guys have been networking for centuries.  Women are only beginning to do this).  Those guys all know people who know people, and they would recommend someone to another person who might need help/services.  If you don’t ask and don’t do anything in return, you don’t get any results.

Posted in culture, education, ethnicity, minorities, networking, social class, tradition | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »