Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

Archive for the ‘social class’ Category

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.

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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 »

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 »

Gentrification – why does it always have to be about race?

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 17, 2008

Lots of “ethnic” neighbourhoods are now being gentrified, and many blogs, including a post on Racialicious today, seem to argue that it’s driving the old residents, mostly non-whites, out.  But is it always white people who are moving in?  Or is it a class issue?  Say they gentrify Toronto’s “old” (i.e. not Scarborough or Markham) Chinatowns by opening a T&T Supermarket.  This drives out the smaller grocery stores (who IMHO, are often on the brink of breaking health codes, if they haven’t already.  I won’t buy meat there.)  While T&T does have non-Asian (or rather, non-Chinese) clientele, the majority of those who shop there are of Chinese descent (or married to someone who is of Chinese descent).  It’s unlikely that Chinatown will be completely “white-washed.”  It’ll just be yuppified.  And one doesn’t need to be white to be a yuppie.

Posted in Asian, Chinese Canadian, culture, ethnicity, gentrification, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Feminism has done it again

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 13, 2008

I usually don’t comment on Racialicious posts two days in a row, but I felt like I had to do so with today’s post by guest columnist Thea Lim, especially the response by Britta.  Britta’s response, which can be found here,  somehow alludes that only white, middle class women have the privilege of mainstream feminism.  Well, that may be the case in certain geographic areas.   This is something I pointed out in a post dated April 28.  I don’t see how or why some non-white people, whether they’re in the west or in the old country can’t feel that they have more in common with so-called “mainstream” western feminism or vice versa.  Britta goes on about women “bragging about their cheap nannies and hired help.”  Is she saying that only wealthy WHITE women have hired help?  The last time I checked, many nannies work for non-white women as well.  And at least nannies in North America have more rights and get relatively decent pay compared to their counterparts in places like Hong Kong (where most of the people who hire help are, guess what?  CHINESE.  It’s not expats who exploit local women.  Not anymore.)

Personally, I don’t always identify with mainstream feminism not because I’m non-white, but because they seem to want things to happen quicker than things CAN happen.  A little too impatient, IMHO.

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New York Times article: Korean Kids Going to School Abroad with Mom, but not Dad

Posted by chinesecanuck on June 9, 2008

In the Education section of the New York Times today.

This isn’t anything new, IMHO.  Tons of Hong Kongers did this some fifteen to twenty years ago.  And the moms and kids who did this were not necessarily very, very wealthy families who sent their kids to private school.  Many were public school students.  There’s a Cantonese term for these people:  tai-hong yan (“astronauts”).  I don’t recall exactly WHY the term was coined or the meaning behind it, but perhaps it’s because the family’s separated and that Canada/or other English speaking country is “outer space” for them?  Perhaps because they’re so far away?  Like this case, it’s generally the mothers (especially stay-at-home moms) who come with the kids, rather than the fathers.  However, I didn’t see anything about passports/immigration in the South Korean story, which may very well be the ONLY DIFFERENCE.

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Designer Manbag carrying Metros

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 29, 2008

I’ve see a few Asian guys (mostly foreign) with designer bags. These bugs aren’t their girlfriends’ or wives’ purses, but men’s styles, and usually Gucci or LV (often LOGOED to death). These guys are usually between 16 and 35 and fairly good looking…but they also look like they spend more time in front of the mirror than their female SOs.  What’s the deal? I never really noticed guys with bags like that when I was over in Hong Kong a few years ago. Is it a recent thing? Perhaps from Japan or Europe? Are they trying to be more metro than metro (I’ve found that in Toronto, anyway, there are more Hong Kong Canadian metro guys per capita than white or CBC metros)?

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

What exactly is cultural diversity?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 22, 2008

Several months ago, a very well-known boys’ school in Toronto announced that they were going to close their boarding program in the next few years. The reason behind this was because TPTB (The Powers That Be) wanted to attract more local kids from communities who could otherwise not afford the $25,000/annum day tuition by spending more of their funds on financial aid for local kids. They wanted to make the school more “culturally diverse” from what I understand. However, this caused uproar within the school’s community. Many are saying that international students is what makes the school unique and that the school will actually be LESS DIVERSE, culturally, if they only recruited within the Toronto area. People have cited that there’s a difference between being, say, Korean from Korea and Korean from Canada. First generation immigrant culture is still diluted. It becomes diluted within a year of one’s arrival. (I’m guessing that the general public, who probably isn’t that familiar with such schools are applauding this because there still is a tendency to believe that boarding schools are “Bastions of WASPiness.” I guess most people don’t realize that it hasn’t been this way for some 25-30 years.) Anyway,
what do you think? Does an international student body make the school MORE DIVERSE? Or does the school become more diverse by recruiting talented kids from diverse communities within the city (who may otherwise not be able to pay for the school)? Are TPTB confusing cultural and class diversity?

**NOTE: I’m not sure about the exact make-up of the non-white kids at this school. I’m guessing most are of East or South Asian descent. If it’s anything like my school back in the 90s, then they’d likely skew more boarding than day (especially with East Asian kids).

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Class and the Hong Kong Canuck – Affected by British Colonialism?

Posted by chinesecanuck on May 9, 2008

Many Hong Kong Canadians don’t really think about race unless something happens within their own communities, like the SARS issue in 2003. Perhaps it has to do with their comfy, middle class lifestyle. So today’s Racialicious post on Class and Race had me wondering. Would Chinese Canadians from Hong Kong feel the same had the British never arrived? Would they be as successful? So in other words, are they living off the “benefits” of colonialsim? Without the Opium Wars in the 1840s and eventual takeover of Hong Kong proper, Kowloon and the “new territories”, would Hong Kong just be another hick town (as it was back in the day)? I mean, one of the reasons why Hong Kong eventually became so successful was because of communism in China. It was the port between China and the west. In order to get to China, you had to go through Hong Kong. Until recently, if you wanted to get things done cheaply, you had it made in Hong Kong. Had Hong Kong not been a British colony, it would have been absorbed in by the communist government. This means that there’d be no middle man. Hong Kong also received lots of refugees from Shanghai after WWII and many of them were businesspeople. In addition, people in Hong Kong would probably not be all that educated as the educated would likely be from Beijing and Shanghai.

Then there’s immigration. Without the British, Hong Kongers (in general, anyway) who come to Canada, if they can afford to at all, would not be moving into a cushy suburban house so soon after landing. Markham, Ontario and Richmond, British Columbia would probably be very white. This means no Pacific Mall. No yummy Chinese food. Double :-(. Upper middle class Hong Kong Canadians sending their kids to old line prep schools like Upper Canada College or Havergal? Highly unlikely that many would. They wouldn’t be able to afford it, and these schools’ traditions, which are linked to the great old schools of Britain would be completely foreign to them. Most minorities at these schools, at least when I went, were from colonies or former colonies. This is probably why most Hong Kong Canadians are perfectly open to joining and/or participating in organizations and events that would have excluded them years ago. Hong Kong Canadians are, for some reason, more likely to forgive and forget (which is why I’ve had some issues with my boyfriend, who is Jewish).  Hong Kong Canadians also seem to prefer “higher class” things that are seen as “white” by other non-white communities, such as western classical music.  Most Hong Kongers and Hong Kong Canadians take piano and/or violin.  And tennis (so they can play at that country club).  Even guys.  Doing this doesn’t make you white-washed.  Playing electric guitar in a garage band and playing hockey, however, does.  To many HK Canadians, in order to be successful, one must be “accomplished” in that Jane Austeneque (albiet slightly updated) kind of way.

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and you never know. What’s done is done, and who knows what could have happened without the Opium Wars? Maybe China would be like Japan rather than a communist country and Hong Kong would still be successful as a “snowbird” destination for seniors in Beijing and Shanghai…flying there to escape the colder winters.

Posted in Asian, assimilation, China, Chinese Canadian, culture, education, ethnicity, Hong Kong, minorities, social class | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »