Immigration, Assimilation, Ethnicity and All That Jazz

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!

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Etiquette Camp for kids and immigrants

Posted by chinesecanuck on September 16, 2008

The Globe and Mail has an article about finishing school type camp for tweens.  One of the girls interviewed is of Chinese descent, and apparently, her parents sent her to etiquette camp (run buy a business imaging company in Vancouver) because she needed to learn the proper way of eating without chopsticks.  Umm, what kind of Chinese Canadian family DOESN’T know how to use a knife and fork, even if they’re fresh off the plane?  If they were immigrants from rural areas, I highly doubt that they could afford this program.  Really, if this girl’s parents really said that, then they must have only done that to get their daughter’s name in the paper (which, in traditional etiquette WOULDN’T be considered proper – a lady’s name is in the paper three times, when she’s born, when she marries and when she dies).  I do agree that it’s important to learn manners – many kids today don’t and many don’t feel comfortable in fancy restaurants.  It’s sad, IMHO.  Some of us are so casual today that it’s making me uncomfortable.  My boyfriend’s friend thinks it’s okay for his 2 year old son to address me by my first name before asking me.  At my prom ten years ago, there were kids who were confused at the table setting – upper middle class, private school kids!  I bet their grandparents would be very sad if they heard.  Some of these kids had grandmothers who were debutantes!

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

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 »

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 »

Aiyah! Gum Yook Suen Ah! – Being Asian raised in the west

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 25, 2008

The Racialicious post on biracial people of Asian descent having “mental issues” got me thinking about how immigrant Asian parents treat their western born/raised children.  There’s so much pressure to succeed in Asian culture and it seems that everyone is expected to be as perfect as possible.  Perfect, meaning good-looking, popular and smart.  And the old country definition of good-looking isn’t always the same as here.  For example, I’m a little on the dark side for Chinese and I also have some freckling from an acne problem I had as a teen.  My mom has been, for the past ten years, bugging me to get rid of the spots.  She hasn’t gone as far as implying that I look ugly, but has come close.  She also thinks I’m too flabby.  OK, so I’ve been a little lazy about doing weights (but at least I exercise!), but does she have to point that out?  All the freaking time?  Her idea of beauty is not the same as that of my poh poh (maternal grandmother), who hates muscles.  She thinks young women need to look delicate.  I guess I’m somewhere in between, but in between isn’t satisfactory.

I’ve also been criticized about work.  I realize that by planning a start-up, I’m way behind my age group/education level in terms of salary, but like looks, do you have to constantly bug me about it?  What’s crazy is that half the time, my mother is bugging me about it and the other half, she’s like “well, at least you’re living at home, so you don’t have to worry about rent/food/laundry.”  In my mom’s mind, I should have gone into finance.  I’d probably be in lower-middle management by now and making close to six figures.  It’s so hard to live up to these “standards.”  It’s no wonder some second generation kids have issues.  And those who’re of mixed descent are probably worse off, because they have the pestering side vs the more free-spirited side constantly clashing.  If it confuses and upsets me, someone who is monoracial, then it must be worse for someone who is mixed.

Of course, there are also people who are very well adjusted, regardless of whether they’re mixed or not.

Cantonese terms:

* Gum Yook Suen Ah! = So ugly!

Posted in Asian, assimilation, race | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Chinese may be winning medals, but sports aren’t popular at schools

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 21, 2008

According to the Wall Street Journal, the lack of organized sports at schools may make it difficult for companies like Nike to sell in China. Most schools just don’t have organized sports teams.  Athletes (such as those winning medals for China), on the other hand, attend special training schools.   The Wall Street Journal blames the culture – traditional Chinese culture still seems to prefer academics over extra-curricular activities.  This may be true, but only to a certain extent.  What the article does not mention is funding.  Many schools, especially those in rural areas have very little money.  Some of these schools make inner-city schools in the US and Canada look like they’re the most equipped and up-to-date.

My experience, of course, is very different.  Most Chinese people I know are not from the mainland, and never grew up with the stigma that sports was not for people who want to succeed in proper jobs.  Different ethnic groups did participate in different sports at my high school (e.g. in the most extreme, badminton was 99.9% non-Canadian born Chinese, while hockey (both field and ice) was 99.9% white.), but almost everyone did SOMETHING (even I ran cross country for one season).  However, I do hear stories from the older generation that school sports just wasn’t part of academic culture in elementary or high school.  My parents certainly never talked about it.  My parents DID have phys. ed at school though.  And I guess schools had house leagues.  But i don’t think inter-school sports existed until recently.

What do you think?   What about the culture?  Do you think the success of the Chinese Olympic Team would change parents’ perception of sport, that it’s something everyone could participate in, rather than “special kids” who’re sent to schools at a young age?  Were you on a school team?  What did you play?

Posted in Asian, China, culture, education, school, sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 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 »

A Gentle Reminder About Comments

Posted by chinesecanuck on August 18, 2008

I recently had to delete a few comments left on this blog because they were personal attacks, either to a previous commentor or to myself. Just a note that Chinese Canuck DOES NOT WELCOME comments like this.

Thank you

Posted in Etiquette | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »