Monthly Archives: August 2010

you are racist against yourself

posted by ellephanta/Celine

This very interesting stereotype about asian parents unwilling to let their offsprings date or associate with white people (or any other race besides their own), I think suggests in subtle ways that “well, asians are racists too”.

But of course. Asians are capable of doing and saying racist things and holding racist beliefs. Or did you think that they were objects that are incapable of thinking, screwing up, changing, learning?

My race certainly doesn’t immune me from being racist towards my own race or any other race. It’s our actions, not our identities themselves that are either racist or not. I certainly run into a lot of racism (against white people, black people, etc.) in, for example, the Korean first generation immigrants community in Toronto (the one I’m most familiar with), especially in our parents’ generation (people of our generation are often just as bad, but in a subtler and different ways than our parents’, something I hope to write about at one point in the future) that remain thoroughly uninformed on race theory and the marginalized status of racialized people in our community.

But consider this: Most of those in Toronto’s Korean community with language barriers separating them from anybody who is not a Korean-speaking Korean are effectively segregated from the rest of Toronto, like a bubble in the middle of a bustling metropolis. I think this has real negative consequences. This certainly does not aid them in dispelling their messed up preconceptions about whole races of people — which, by the way, was first conceived by them through messed up representations in media, their one of very few source of contact with non-Koreans — and instead, as a small town might, intensifies xenophobia and other in-group out-group attitudes.

My parents have lived here for ten years and they do not have a single friend who is an English-speaking white person. This is not closed-mindedness on their part, but simply a refusal to take shit from people. They rightfully don’t want to be patronized because they’re grown-ass adults of remarkable intelligence and insight, but every encounter they have had with white people, they were patronized. They don’t want to be treated like “an identity” and they don’t want their failure to speak fluent English to mean that people can treat them like children – but every encounter they have had with white people in Toronto, they felt like they were in kindergarten – so they got fed up and quit. I’m not sure if I condone them quitting, but at the very least I understand it.

My parents have always been committed to feminism, anti-racism, anti-homophobia, anti-ablism, anti-nationalism, pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights, anti-classism, anti-war, free speech, and freedom of religion (yes, even before they moved here and were “enlightened” by the flourishing “multiculturalism” in Toronto) as all of their friends back in Korea have been. They’re brilliant and kind and wise and in love with humanity and I love them very much, even though they’re super flawed as we all are and we fight often (my dad sometimes gets weirdly nationalistic when his masculinity is threatened but then my mom calls him on it), they are way more open and caring than a lot of young people I met at Queen’s University.

They’ve always been critical of bigotry in South Korea, and now of what they find in Canada and the U.S., as they obviously should and would be, given that they’re sane — just as a sane white person would be of their community if it is racist, anti-feminist, etc. My parents and their friends don’t give a crap about the race of the people their offsprings date as long as they’re cool and awesome, as they should. As white people should too. As any sane people should. They’re not exceptions to the rule (“asians have racist beliefs, and Celine’s parents are exceptions”) because there is no rule. One just think there is because they just love putting a whole race of people in an imaginary group and generalizing about them.


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cd review: cho dependent by margaret cho

posted by jroselkim

The first time I listened to Margaret Cho’s stand-up performance, I was taken by the careful and deliberate pace, as well as the meaningful pauses that gave you time to think about the inequalities and the wrongful assumptions we often make in our society. (For a great example of her deliberateness, check out the clip of “Asian Chicken Salad” posted below) Given her style, then, it’s no surprise that her new album Cho Dependent not only focuses on comedy, but also musical craftsmanship itself.

The roster of collaborators includes an impressive number of indie musical darlings: Andrew Bird, Rachel Yagamata and Ani DiFranco as well as veteran Canuck musical heavyweights like Tegan and Sara, Carl Newman (New Pornographers) and Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene). There’s even a throw-back to the (naughty) past, as Kevin Chong (yes, that Chong of Cheech & Chong fame) makes an appearance in an aptly titled track, “Calling In Stoned”.

I admit, the pure joy and fun of hearing many of the indie stars’ voices in one album took most of my attention away in the first listen of the album. But Cho doesn’t let the guests outshine her. Staying true to her comic sensibility, Cho doessn’t shy away from taboo topics, including funny zingers about reality TV shows delighting in people’s addictions (“It’s not your birthday but all your friend and family are there” – “Intervention”), extreme stalking gone wrong (“I’m sorry I killed you dear / I only wanted you to be near”- “I’m Sorry”), smoking pot, and of course, dicks.

It doesn’t hurt to have an all-star backup, but Cho’s vocal chops can definitely hold their own. She can hit the high notes as well as add texture and strength like a front-lining vocalist should in songs like “Eat Shit and Die”.

Cho Dependent is not only rich in comedic gems but some serious musical talent and what we could call good music – catchy melodies and snappy, witty lyrics. In the press release announcing the new album, Cho describes her inspiration for the album, where she wanted to create and contribute to a genre of music that is “hilarious but also seriously good.”She’s succeeded and some more, I’d say.

She’s also going on tour to promote her new album, with stops in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Let’s go give her some love, invazn!

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azn women as eye candy?

posted by missmsian

How do you feel about Azn male artists who use Azn females as eye candy (or muses or love interests or whatever you call them) in music videos?

On one hand, I love seeing Azn female faces in media. In fact, I’m almost willing to overlook the fact that they’re squeezed into the same stereotypical ‘sex kitten’ roles women of other colours portray in these videos. I mean, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

On the other hand, ~aZn pRyDe~ can only go so far before I start to feel some righteous feminist indignation. How sad that we have to enter the market, so to speak, on terms defined by men’s eyes. And, I would add, generally white eyes.

But even misogyny has sharp distinctions for me. Whereas Western (and white) men’s Azn fetishes are automatically written off as belittling and creepy, I find it a lot harder to get worked up when Jay Sean or the boys of Far East Movement ogle Azn chicks.

In some way, watching Azn guys and gals in music videos flirting and grinding reaffirms Azn men’s sexuality.

… But does it have to be at the expense of Azn women? (Errr … no pun intended.)

In their defence, some of the videos make it look like the Azn woman is making her own choice to hook up with Jay on the dance floor. At least she’s not in cheongsam with her eyes downcast, I guess.

I don’t want to pull a

and say you can only look at it one way or the other.

So how do you deal?

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what are you majoring in?

posted by eunac

When I first started college, I decided that I was going to be a Biology major. This was a shocker to my family (and myself, actually) because I always said that I would never in a million years go into the sciences or anything related to math. Thinking back, I’m sure I decided to major in Biology because I wanted to do something that would make my parents proud. I wanted my parents to be able to impress their friends by telling them that I was studying to become a doctor – it sounded so perfect. The problem, of course, was that I was utterly miserable. I thought about my future in the sciences and I was lost. I couldn’t think of a single career in the sciences that was worth going through all those years of unhappiness.

After contemplating it thoroughly, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t do this to myself and switched majors to a subject I’ve always loved: English. I was afraid that my parents would disapprove and tell me that an English major would be useless, but that’s the funny thing about parents – they always know how to catch you off guard. My parents were surprisingly supportive and told me that if I did what I loved, I’d be successful. They even told me that they were glad I wasn’t trying to become a doctor because they didn’t want me to live a stressed out life dealing with patients and all that doctor stuff.

Whenever I tell my friends or people I meet that I was a Biology major and switched to English, they all give me the same poorly concealed baffled look and ask, “Oh… So what do you plan to do with that major? Are you going to teach?” As for now, I’m not totally sure what I want to do with my major (just a few ideas) but I’m not worried. I have plenty of time to decide what exactly I’m going to do, but I know one thing for certain: I’m going to be rich and rub it in all their faces.

What? You thought I was going to end this post with something cheesy about me being happy? Puh-leeze ;)

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revenge fantasy

posted by missmsian

Note: Immigration does not have to be a drain on city resources. Immigrants are not synonymous with people of colour/refugees/public housing/poverty.

But if they are more likely to be associated with these terms, we have to look at structures, systems and institutions that create these connections. And we have to understand the effects of colonization.

Got that?

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i want to get your name right!

posted by djtrishna

This video is effing hilarious.

“That’s it, I’m leaving. I need some whisky.”

I hear ya girl, I hear ya.

I am mostly laughing at Steve here. And how often this happens to folks of colour on a daily basis. It’s funny cause it’s true and I understand how it feels. And it’s totally absurd.


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the “where are you from?” dilemma

posted by notmyname

The other day, someone I had never seen before in my life came into my office and the first thing she said to me was, “Where are you from?”

“Where are you from?” is unfortunately a frequent question that racialized persons recieve from a curious many. Often, the implication of the question is that the person in question cannot possibly be from the Western world because they obviously look different as they are from a different race and, thus, different place of origin. The implicit understanding often is that only White people are from Canada/USA/UK/etc. The problematic nature of these probes (though perhaps innocent) is something that has been widely covered.

However, what made the instance with the woman in my office different was the fact that the woman asking the question was racialized herself. She was on a student visa and did not have a very strong grasp of English. After first cheekily responding, “Toronto” to her question, she inquired further with a “Where in Asia are you from?” While this question is also abounds with problematic assumptions, it turned out that her and I were “from” the same country. She came into my office to seek help, and the rest of the time, she spoke her first language (which I happen to understand due to my ethnic background), which made me more accessible to her.

This happens a lot with fellow racialized people. They ask me where I am from regularly, and I always respond as I would with White people: I am from Toronto. But the motiviations behind their query are perhaps different, as many seek to find commonalities with me, a stranger/potential friend, and similar backgrounds and experiences lend to this pursuit.

All of this made me think about the fine line between asserting oneself as a Canadian to combat the inherent “Whiteness” of “being Canadian” and having internalized racism and needing to be legitimized by the state/citizenry to affirm my status as a Canadian citizen by birth and NOT as an immigrant. I am from Canada, I was born and raised here, which perhaps affords me some greater right or ownership to the country, hence the need to distinguish myself as a Canadian citizen before any Azn country. Perhaps we also insist on being from Canada also because there is a sense of inferiority affixed with being an immigrant, which is an extremely perilous nationalist narrative.

So whereas the “Where are you from?” question may affirm citizenship/origins as exclusive to White people, it can also be an exercise in nationalism. How mind-boggling.


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azns in hip-hop [1]

posted by djtrishna

In the land of hip hop, female MCs are a rare breed. At least that’s what the mainstream would have us believe.

Right now there are countless female artists fighting intense discrimination in the industry while producing some of the best hip hop out there. Many of whom are reppin it for us Azns.

Case in point? Shadia Mansour.

If you’ve never heard of this extremely talented artist before, you are in for a treat. I would describe her as the more intelligent, politically conscious, Palestinian female version of Drake. Just kidding, that would be a complete diss to Shadia because she could totally tear Drake apart in a throw down, just sayin.

Why should we be paying attention to her? Shadia’s flow is intuitive, expertly dropped over well produced beats and vocals that could carry her career on their own. Her lyrics resist the current trend of mainstream hip hop to produce formulaic lines that ignore social and political realities, which she does without getting cheesy. And the first single “El Kofeyye 3arabeyye”, off of her new album features M1 of Dead Prez.

Yes, as in Dead Prez, Dead Prez. If you don’t think this is a testament to her skills and potential as an MC, perhaps you should examine what you think you know about hip hop.

El Kofeyye 3arabeyye is a brilliant track that explores the cultural roots of the Kofeyye and challenges its appropriation.

Her depth and dynamism as an artist can be seen in this track but also through her collaborations and performances with other Arab artists such as Canada’s own The Narcicyst and the UK’s Lowkey in which she holds her own amongst the presence of such strong men.

Shadia is also uncompromising her in image as a Palestinian female performer. She rocks keffiyehs and traditional Palestinian dress onstage, constantly reminding us of her identity. Shadia has been nicknamed the First Lady of Arab Hip-Hop. To me, this is particularly important in an era of hip hop in which artists would rather wear Louis Vutton in an effort to assimilate to whiteness than have their audiences deal with their racial other-ness.

Her album is set to drop sometime before year’s end. You can be sure to expect big things out of Shadia in her reclamation of hip hop.

Check out her myspace here.

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update: what does it mean to be azn?

posted by theinvazn

two months ago, i put out a call for azns to respond to the question: what does it mean to be azn?

if you’ve been following our “being azn” tag, you’ve seen guest writers and regular bloggers negotiate mixed identity, the ‘banana’ label, body image, mother-daughter relationships, sexuality and so on.

i’ve said before that this question reaches into unsettling territory. what you may not know is that half of these writers asked to post anonymously and a few later changed their minds and asked to be identified. 

one person told me she didn’t want her thoughts on racism, self-esteem and identity to be the first result in a google search of her name. another writer mused in her post, “who would have thought the girl who was scared to be azn for the first half of her life would announce her ethnicity like this?” she had submitted her entry with the note, “i’m admitting that i’m azn.”

i’m humbled by their vulnerability.

our “being azn” posts have consistently received the highest number of views, comments and ratings, outdoing posts that contain more popular search terms like “blackberry” and “karate kid.”

i think this speaks of a need for a space to explore azn identities. as i was reading and crying my way through mshehe’s account of a conversation she had with a salesperson in china today, i realized (trying not to sound like a conceited dick) that i’m really glad this blog exists. so thank you, readers and writers, for making this happen.

if you want to respond to the big question, “what does it mean to be azn?” in a few lines or with a full blog post (which, actually, can also be a few lines!), contact

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being azn: thin azn women

posted by mshehe

I’m 5’3 without shoes, and wear sizes XXXS – M depending on the store. I grew up in North America (New Jersey and Toronto, to be specific) and have always felt tiny.

What’s funny is that although I was small by North American standards, every time I visited my grandparents in China, I was greeted with: “Wah, fei jor wor!”. That essentially translates into: “Wow, you got fat!”. Of course, grandparents love to fatten up their grandkids so they genuinely meant it in a good way. However, I couldn’t argue with the fact that I was still bigger than the other girls I saw on the streets. It seemed like everyone around me was super thin.

In most parts of the developed world, there is pressure for women to stay thin. However, is this pressure heightened in Azn cultures?

In street boutiques in China, clothes are one-size-fits-all. That is what girls use to benchmark themselves against – if you can’t fit into one of those dresses, you’re too big. If you turn on the television, actresses from drama series are almost always a size 0 or 2. The ideal beauty is tall, thin, fair skinned, thin, has shiny hair, and … oh did I mention thin?

Diet ads are everywhere, from subway stations to shopping centres, and I don’t mean diet and fitness programs. These are full-on diet pills (often harmful) and slimming centres. During my trip back to China this summer, I was approached by a girl on the street advertising $500 diet pills. Our conversation went something like this:

Girl: Hi there, would you be interested in our diet pills?

Me: (politely) No thanks.

[Girl keeps talking and conversation goes on for 5 min.]

Me: Seriously. I don’t think I need to diet.

Girl: Why not? Everyone does it. But honestly, I think you do. Your arms and legs have a bit of fat you could get rid of with these pills. They will make you so much prettier. Only $500!

Me (offended): Miss. Did you listen to anything I just said?

Needless to say, I left. This conversation was offensive and amusing at the same time. I was surprised she was so open in commenting about my weight even though she was trying to get on my good side to sell her product.

Hence, what I did realize this summer is that there isn’t the same stigma associated with talking about weight. In Canada, it is kind of taboo to comment on someone’s body. The same can’t be said in China. When having dinner with a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while, you can be assured that they will make a comment on whether you got skinnier, fatter, or stayed the same. So after they make the verdict that you are fat, they will spend the entire dinner convincing you to eat more. While they are just trying to look out for you, this does make you more conscious of your weight.

So would I say that Azn women have more pressure to be thin than other ethnicities? Slightly. (1) There is the stereotype that all Azn girls are skinny, and (2) the fact that everyone around you in Asia seems to be skinny.

In fact, the magic number in China seems to be 110 lbs before you need to start losing weight.

What do you think? As an Azn, do you feel more pressure to be thin?

*Note: My opinions are only based on my background (Chinese) so I don’t know if this is just a Chinese thing.


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