Monthly Archives: June 2010

happy humiliation day!

posted by missmsian

I always approach Canada Day with some hesitance. On one hand, I have good memories of going to Queen’s Park with my parents (when we first immigrated to Toronto) and getting 25-cent hot dogs and paper flags.

Over the years, I’ve seen the annual celebration slowly change to better reflect our demographics. There used to only be English and French performances on the main stage, but recently there have been shows featuring other languages. The hot dog prices have also gone up, but that’s another story.

On the other hand, July 1 marks another significant Canadian event that far fewer people know about, but that has had tremendous consequences for certain Azn communities. On July 1, 1923, the Canadian government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which effectively barred East Azn* immigration until it was repealed more than 20 years later.

*Japanese people were sometimes subject to this Act because, y’know, we can’t tell ’em apart. The Act could also be used to prohibit South Azns from entering the country, if they somehow got past another discriminatory piece of legislation, the Continuous Passage Act.

“The first federal anti-Chinese bill was passed in 1885. It took the form of a Head tax of $50 imposed, with few exceptions, upon every person of Chinese origin entering the country.” — Chinese Canadian National Council

The Act came as a response to public and political concern over the growing number of East Azn immigrants in spite of the head tax (which was increased from $50 to $500 in 1903, $500 being the equivalent of two years’ wages).

Between 1923 and 1947, when the Act was repealed, less than 50 Chinese people entered the country. Most who were already here were men, leading to the development of a “bachelor society”–one factor that undoubtedly contributed to the desexualization of Azn men we see in popular discourse today.

"Harro, I Mickey Rooney playing ching chong man. I ruined Breakfast At Tiffany's wif my yellowface performance."

Similar legislation was passed in the U.S. In fact, then-president Roosevelt only called for the Act to be repealed in 1943 because the U.S. Army needed more recruits. Whether in war or on the railroads, East Azns were considered unimportant enough to blow up.

After WWII, people of East Azn descent still didn’t have the right to vote. Canadians of Japanese descent had been uprooted and sent off to concentration camps in the prairies during the war. Their now-empty properties in the Fraser Valley were conveniently given to white Canadian soldiers returning from overseas.

I could go on, but I think I’ve given you enough to understand why July 1 is known as “Humiliation Day” among some Chinese-Canadians. You probably didn’t learn about this in high school; I grew up in the Canadian public school system and I certainly didn’t.

Think about this as you’re celebrating “Canada” Day. And chew on the fact that we sing “our home and native land” in the anthem when, really, it’s our home ON native land.

Oh, Canada.

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gliberals

posted by missmsian

I made up a word while watching news coverage of the G20 rioting yesterday. Let me explain.

glib: having only superficial plausibility; marked by lack of intellectual depth

liberal: having political and social views favouring reform and progress; tolerant of change

gliberal: a self-righteous, theoretical liberal with a big mouth and little purpose. Generally middle- to upper-middle class. Almost always vegan. Frequently spotted at protests yelling uncreative slogans like “F*ck the police!” and “Corporations kill!” (Yes, they do. But so could you with that brick.)

And, yesterday, Toronto had an onslaught of them.

“Dear Protesters, now that you have destroyed an Urban Outfitters where will you get your Che Guevara T-shirts? #g20.” — @TDotOpenLetter, 4:42 p.m., June 26, 10

Thanks to gliberals, the TTC was virtually shut south of Bloor for more than 12 hours. City workers started cleanup at 2 a.m. and continued into Sunday.

Who do you think is most likely to take public transit? Who would be hired to do city garbage and cleanup? Not the bigwigs of the corporations and banks they tried to dismantle. That’s glibs for you: removed from real life while claiming to be anti-corporate and anti-colonial. Please.

I’m not talking about those who were out there with a message. Taking it to the streets is legitimate and important and necessary. Sometimes, covering up to prevent recognition is, too.

And I’m not saying non-violence and police-approved protest is the only way. But there’s a way to use purposeful violence and then there’s gliberals.

As if throwing a rock through Starbucks is going to solve anything. Yeah, their coffee’s expensive, but no more than your organic beans and soy. We’re all in the same game, player.

“Trashing American Apparel? Urban Outfitters? Starbucks? Are you protesting the world leaders or hipsters? What’s next, the Apple store? #G20.” — @tspreen, 6:45 p.m., June 26, 10

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whose body is it, anyway?

posted by jroselkim

the slurring man on St-Laurent
announced me an

“Asian whore.”

the stooping man in Dublin

guessed that
I would have a tight Asian pussy.

in their eyes, I am

too loose
and too tight,

offensively innocent,
and innocently offensive.

I could never respond to them

not because of fear
but because they always fled

immediately

constructing me as a
non-responsive entity –

(a lack,
psychoanalysis labelled women.

but I am
a lack,
lacking

its discreet white normality)

dear white men,

my impossible existence
on a balmy sunny night

is not yours to judge
or hold
or violate

but mine only.

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boyfriend vs. blackberry

posted by missmsian

I met Smalls a few months ago at a Fido store. It was love at first sight. He showed up at my house a few days later (May 14, to be precise). We’ve been together ever since.

Smalls is my phone. I named him after Biggie.

I’m starting to think he should be my boyfriend …

Saturday night plans
Boyfriend: “Call me.”

Call.

He’s sleeping.

BlackBerry:

Boyfriend 0, BlackBerry 1.

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my anger wants to write

posted by dj trishna

I’m so angry right now. It’s one of those nights where you’re so angry, you can’t sleep, no matter how hard you try to distract yourself. I didn’t even know I was this angry. I let myself cross off a few things from the old list of to-dos and felt at 5AM it was finally time to retire. I thought I exhausted myself so that I would be able to sleep.

Turns out my anger has other plans.

My anger wants to write.

Write about the racial profiling and police harassment I was the target of tonight. Surprise!

And it’s not even that that’s really bothering me. It’s that I didn’t think that my race was a factor in it. That’s what bugs me.

I assumed my activist history and involvement in G20 organizing were the grounds for their harassment.

Tonight I was pulled over by the cops.

On my bicycle.

When I was biking around a low-income neighbourhood of town.

Shocking, I know.

The officer was so freaking smug, believing himself to have caught me in the midst of doing so much wrong.

“Have you ever been in trouble with the police before?”

“No.”

He asked me that about 4 different times before calling in my license and pulling up squat.

Before that happened though, he enjoyed lecturing me on speaking back and being rude after I had asserted my rights to him.

He was sittin pretty, waiting for the call to come back saying that I had a history or was involved in something scandalous.

Nope. Just ridin my bike around with my white male friend.

“Why didn’t you want to give me your I.D.?”

“Because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

“And you weren’t. But how was I supposed to know that? What do you expect would happen if I let off every person who refused to give me I.D.? There’d be an awful lot of offenders out there wouldn’t there?”

“And what do you expect when you decide to pull over a woman of colour at night who isn’t violating any laws?”

Except that the last sentence was in my head, burning behind my tongue, fighting to make its way out.

I silenced myself. I silenced my anger.

And here I am up at 6 AM paying the price.

He didn’t choose to harass my friend, he didn’t even speak to him. He chose to harass me. He chose to threaten me, lie to me, and try to get me in trouble, he tried to make me take the bait, and I didn’t.

So why am I angry?

Because he still won. Because he thought he was doing me a favour by not giving me a ticket. Because he was able to feel comfortable in harassing me without just cause. Because he got away with doing it.

But mostly because I silenced myself in the face of his blatant racism.

And it’s because I couldn’t conceive of it in that way. As the sentenced formulated in my brain, I struggled with the thought of bringing the “race card” into play. The fact that I could even think of it like that signifies a huge problem, it’s called “internalized racism” and it apparently just doesn’t go away no matter how much theory you read, campaigns you organize or how deeply you identify with anti-racism (this isn’t to say we can’t deal with it, but that is another post in itself). It’s a reality that comes with being brown (read: non-white).

I reacted that way because I’ve internalized those global systems of oppression that tell us the officer was “just doing his job”. It’s true. He was. But I forgot momentarily that his job is to harass people of colour and those who occupy other-ed identities. His job is to police what is considered normal.

He said I was suspicious for being out so late at night in a “seedy neighbourhood”. Here, “out so late at night” can be substituted with “of colour” and “seedy” with “poor”.

I was unable to confront him because I was faced with confronting the global system of oppression in that moment.

But here and now, in my room breathing steadied and feet on ground, I recognize that his ultimate victory lies theoretically in quelling my resistance.

And while I feel violated, dehumanized as well as disgusted with the system and upset with myself, my resistance is far from being over.

If anything, he just reminds me why I need to do the work that I do.

See you in the streets, officer.

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i’m not past it

posted by Celine

Don’t you get it? Race is the most important part of who I am. I am what I am because of my race — and my history and my culture and my two languages and my family and my interactions with the world as a racialized girl — just as a white person is what they are because of their race.

(Oh, by the way, white is a colour too. White too is a race.)

Race is the most important part of who I am because I wear a big star on my forehead. Hello stranger, did you know that I am an azn? Of course you did, my eyes are remarkably smaller than Heidi Klum’s and I look like Jackie Chan (IN RUSH HOUR WITH CHRIS TUCKER) and Ken Jeong (BEST KNOWN AS AN ACTOR IN THE NEW HIT TV SERIES COMMUNITY, DEVELOPED BY DAN HARMON, STARRING JOEL MCHALE AS AN INTELLIGENT AND ATTRACTIVE WHITE LAWYER COURTED BY THREE DIFFERENT WHITE WOMEN) and that girl Ross brought home from China and dated instead of Rachel.

If I was honest with myself, I sometimes wish I was indeed living in a “post-racial” princedom of unicorns, because truly, as we all know, that’d rid us of the awful weight of history — but too bad for us, it doesn’t exist and it may never will.

(By the way, oh, just so you know, you can’t force a “post-racial” princedom of unicorns to exist by making those brown women take off their head scarves.)

My race is not a phase. It is not an inconvenient and inconsequential and meaningless part of me which I must seek to rid of as soon as possible — or make explanations for on demand. I’m not past it.

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the karate kid? yeah i did.

posted by missmsian

AAAARRRGGHGHHHHGHGHGHAHAAARHGHGHGHGHAHG.

That’s my best Karate Kid impression. Also, my conflicted feelings about the movie. I saw it last night with three friends. And, to my surprise, I really enjoyed it.

But what to make of a movie that smashes as many stereotypes as it reinforces?

*Spoiler alert*

For starters, the plot in three lines: Jaden Smith and mama move to China. Chinese kids beat up Jaden. Jaden learns kung fu from Jackie Chan to try to beat the boys in a competition.

The Good

This shoulda been/wasn't my childhood. So jealous.

Cutie-patooties Jaden Smith and Han Wen Wen: they’re young, they’re in puppy love and they traipse around Beijing a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday.

Fiiiiiinally, a love story goes right for a black person, a Chinese person and, significantly, an interracial couple.

Jackie friggin’ Chan SHEDS A FEW TEARS: I haven’t seen all 80 million of his movies, but I’m pretty sure it’s not often Hollywood lets a ninja cry. Or gives his character a wife and kid. Think about this!!! That means he had SEX!!! That means Azn men aren’t sexless fighting machines!!! They have lives and histories and emotions …. like real humans!!! It’s, like, a breakthrough for Azns here!!! Get pumped!!!

Jaden Smith gets his behind whupped–twice: hey, not all Black men are thugs. Sometimes they’re victims. And Jaden’s not the annoying, whiny, helpless, silent victim, but the one who gets knocked down and gets back up.

Harry, the white guy who speaks Chinese: without making fun of it. Luke Carberry’s character blended perfectly into the landscape, without pretense of overtaking it or appearing awkwardly out of place.

In fact, all of the non-native Chinese characters navigated life in China well. While Taraji Henson was stunning in a cheongsam, there were no proclamations of, “Oh em gee, that’s so foreign and hawt!” like Carrie and the girls would have shrieked had they gone to Beijing instead of Abu Dhabi in Sex & The Racist–I mean, City.

Han Wen Wen’s DDR moment: yeah, it was awful, but, to be fair, she was imitating Gaga. If Azn men are almost always the fighters and terrorists in Hollywood, Azn women are almost always humourless wallflowers. It was good to see her fling off all reserve and groove to “Poker Face”.

Jaden Smith loves kung fu: he even wants to go back to China to master it. Jaden’s genuine appreciation and, more importantly, respect for the martial art was evident in every scene where he was training or competing.

The soundtrack: Jay Sean (hot Azn alert!) gets the opening song–“Do You Remember”–and Jaden/Wen Wen have their love montage to K’naan’s “Bang Bang”.

The Questionable

Karate is Japanese: kung fu is Chinese.

Do Azn actors cost more to hire?: is that why they’re left out of movies like Dragonball: Evolution and The Last Airbender, and why The Karate Kid had to use white people as extras in almost all of the scenes? I’ve never been to Beijing so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe more than half of Beijing is white.

Bullies got (no) back: no back story, that is. Sick and nasty skills, yes. But there was never an explanation for how the boys got started with Evil Kung Fu Master’s classes or why they were out to get Dre. We’re back to the sexless fighting machine stereotype again.

No foolin' around!

At least with Meiying’s parents, we could guess they didn’t like Dre ’cause they hate Black people. Speaking of Meiying’s folks …

Black-yellow animosity and racism: it’s important to show that racism occurs in all cultures but, in this movie, racism and ethnic tension function as a cutesy side story, devaluing the issues it raises.

And white kid Harry could be read as a character who’s meant to represent all white people’s supposed neutrality and goodwill in race issues. Dre hates China, the bullies essentially tell him to go home, Meiying awkwardly wants to touch Dre’s hair … and cute, little Harry’s just smilin’ and lovin’ through it all.

Nuh uh. White people can’t wipe their slate clean that easily.

So there it is. The good, the bad, the ugly. I liked the movie. Your thoughts?

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what’s in YOUR name?

posted by jroselkim

The receptionist at my gym always has a trouble with my name. She’s taken my membership card for more than a week now, but every time I pronounce my name for her – “Jihyun Kim” – she assumes a blank look and asks: “what letter does that name start with?”

In fact, there is no “J” sound in Korea. The phoneticization of the first syllable – 지 – is pronounced somewhere between a “J” and a “Z.” You put your mouth in a more of a straight plane than you would with forming a “J” with your mouth. In fact, speaking English has taught me about all the hidden regions and art of moving one’s lips that Korean simply does not have. However, as time goes by I find myself exaggerating my lips to pronounce my name in an “Americanized” way – to my gym receptionist, for example – and I can’t say I like it.

(On a side note, if you speak another language than English, do you notice that you move your lips a lot more when you’re speaking English? When I was staying in Paris for a brief period, my Italian roommate would be constantly amazed by the amount of lip movements Americans and Canadians would have when they conversed, compared to the British. Apparently North Americans do everything big, from bulk stores to pronunciations.)

Then there’s my other name – Rosel – a name that was supposed to clear up the confusions of Westerners. My very Catholic family baptized me when I was just about a week old. In Korea, the church gives you a (Westernized) baptized name at the ceremony. (My brother’s baptized name, for example, is Francisco) Mine happened to be Roselle, who was supposedly a French saint. Even for a baptized name in Korea it was unusual. Then there was my father dealing with my immigration papers, in which he (mis)spelled my name as “Rosel.” Cue even more confusion. My “Canadian” name has been pronounced just about everything from Rozzle, Russell, and Rosil. One of my professors never bothered to learn the correct pronunciation of “Rosel” (even though I corrected the pronunciation during a private office hour meeting). My host dad in northern Quebec once ventured timidly into the territory of “….Marcelle? The dinner is ready.” (after I had been living in his house for three weeks)

So, between my unpronounceable first name and my equally confusing middle name I lead a pretty fun, confused (and postmodern?) existence. And I’d like to ask you, azns: what kind of a relationship do you have with your name? What’s the story behind your “English” names, if you have one?

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can’t be …

posted by missmsian

Ugh.

The only thing worse than Miley Cyrus’s culturally inappropriate performance of “Can’t Be Tamed” at last night’s MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto was Justin Bieber’s wannabe-urban getup and gang sign fronting.

This is what happens when you give two white, suburban kids millions of screaming tweens and a recording contract.

Hmm … three, if you count Drizzy Fake.

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game over, boston!

posted by irazn

The 2010 NBA Champs Los Angeles Lakers have the heart of champions, and the passion of young lovers it seems.

Though they may not have won it in 4 as I initially predicted, they were the classier team and allowed the Celts to have high hopes in hoisting Mr. Larry O’Brien’s championship trophy above their heads in all its glory, only to have all their hopes and dreams snuffed out and come crashing down in the dying minutes.

Once again, amazing, greatness, at least I score more than zero points *cough* Ray Allen *cough*, Kobe Bryant took it into his own hands and closed it out when it mattered (and when I say took it into his own hands, I actually mean relied on his teammates, for once, in the final minutes). I will admit, this series was one of the most exciting I’ve experienced in years, especially with it coming down to the wire in Game 7.

However, the better team always prevails, and it just so happened to be Kobe and Co. Congratulations on having one more ring than Shaq!

For all you Celtics fans, don’t be bitter. If Artest and Pierce can lead by example to kiss and make up, can’t we?

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