Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

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Happy Lunar New Year!

Posted by chinesecanuck on January 26, 2009

May your year of the Ox be happy and prosperous!

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Criticizing Integration Part One: Names

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 9, 2008

I have a western name. It is part of my legal name. My parents, like many other parents of Chinese descent (who are from Hong Kong), gave me a western given name and a Chinese given name. Both names, plus my (very Chinese) last name are on all my documents. For some reason, there are people who find that unacceptable, perhaps even “giving in” to white culture, and it’s seen as a bad thing amongst many people. Especially here in Canada, where Multiculturalism is an official policy. I really don’t understand why they’re asking this. Do people seriously think that my parents aren’t going to teach me about my culture because my name isn’t Ming Lei or something like that? I even get that from so-called “cultural sensitivity” trainers (more on in another post…..let’s just say that I have major issues with many of them). What’s wrong with having a western name, anyway? I only know perhaps two or three people of Chinese descent under the age of 40 or 45 who DO NOT have western names.

I realize that some cultures are more likely to not give western names, but you shouldn’t assume that all do not do so. One should also not criticize. You shouldn’t go on and on about how giving a western name is “giving in” to the former colonists.  I’ve heard of stories where someone from a very traditional culture decided to name a kid, say, Jacqueline, and then family members went beserk. I’m sorry, but unless there’s someone named Jacqueline/Jackie who did something really horrible to you, there’s nothing wrong with Jacqueline. I think it’s a very graceful, lady-like name. ONE DOES NOT LOSE TOUCH WITH ONE’S CULTURE JUST BECAUSE ONE HAS A NAME FROM ANOTHER CULTURE! I don’t think family members should get upset if the name the parents of a baby chooses isn’t from their culture.  Especially if the child is growing up in an English speaking country.  I think it’s rude to criticize, even if you factor in religion.  My first name has pagan roots.  I was baptized in a Catholic church (though I ended up in an Anglican school….more on that in another post).  Sure, you can talk about Christianity’s roots with paganism, but still, my name isn’t a saint’s name.  And it isn’t an “y” name either (nick names and names that were common in previous generations seem to be common for Hong Kong Canadians….growing up, I knew a girl named Peggy.  You don’t hear too many white women under 45 named Peggy.  They are Megs.

Anyway, what do you think?  Why do people criticize westernized names?  Why are some cultures less likely to give their children western names? Even if they’ve been here for decades?  Do you think it’s wrong?  Do you think relatives should criticize?  What’s worse, criticizing family members or non-family members?

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Immigration and Integration – An Intro

Posted by chinesecanuck on April 8, 2008

I’m starting this blog because I’ve realized that mainstream media rarely talks about people like me, someone who has integrated quite well into so-called “mainstream” Canadian society, and yet still knows her roots.  The media, especially Canadian media love to talk about how “great” our “official” multicultural policy is, but then criticize the lack of English skills that many recent immigrants, and even young Canadian born children have. Never, do they talk about people like me.

Let me give you a bit of a backgrounder here.  I was born in Canada, in the late 70s, to immigrants from Hong Kong.  I didn’t attend pre-school and was raised by my primarily by my maternal grandmother (both my parents worked) until I started Junior Kindergarten (aka JK – many kids in Ontario take two years of kindergarten, beginning in the year they turn four).  Poh Poh didn’t (and still doesn’t) speak English, so I only spoke Cantonese.  The few words I knew were the basics, such as my name, hello, goodbye, please and thank you.  Both my parents speak English very well, but didn’t teach me beyond basic words because they felt that it was best for me to learn from native speakers.  That way, I wouldn’t have an accent.   I learned pretty quickly.  Probably because schools the early to mid 80s weren’t as diverse…there were fewer “ethnic enclaves” that were non-English speaking (my neighbourhood was an enclave – it was primarily middle class and Jewish, but it certainly wasn’t non-English speaking)  Had I been twenty years younger, my English would probably be a lot worse.  In fact, I might even be like the kid in this report, and still be taking ESL in Grade 2!  I was reading chapter books by Grade 2.

There are other issues that I’d like to talk about in this blog, including class, gender and other traditions that the mainstream media almost never raise.  I want to talk about the different degrees of integration that various communities have, and how some communities are criticized, both by other recent Canadians and by people who have been here for generations (especially so-called liberals).  I’ll also bring up new stats from the last Canadian census, the information is made available to media.  I hope to update at least once a week.

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