posted by missmsian
I feel like I’ve blogged about skin lightening before. Oh, wait … I have.
posted by missmsian
I’ve been putting off a recap of Azns in North American media for November because I know I’ll have to bring up the ‘too Azn’ controversy and, frankly, I’m tired of it.
In case you missed the whole shebang, Maclean’s published a story on Nov. 10 that Azns (they meant Chinese) were taking over campuses, creating ethnic ghettos (their words, not mine) and destroying fun for boozy white kids.
The article said elite U.S. schools like Harvard use unofficial race quotas to keep ambitious students of Azn descent out, in order to maintain their white heritage, and essentially suggested Canada do the same. The magazine published a second piece on Nov. 25 claiming they actually meant they wanted Canadian campuses to maintain merit-based admissions. Durrr.
The only good in this is that many groups committed to anti-racism have mobilized against not only Maclean’s (and the Toronto Star) but a lot of the discourse on Azn presence in Canada. Victoria city council passed a resolution condemning the Maclean’s article. Vancouver city council is set to vote on a motion demanding media accountability and ethical reporting in relation to the Maclean’s and Star pieces this week. Toronto city council is voting on a resolution that Orientals work like dogs next week. Just kidding. Or am I … ?
West Vancouver, how ya enjoying Osaka Supermarket? Recently opened by T&T Supermarket Inc., this store boasts 80 kinds of Japanese noodles … yum! The only slightly confusing part of the Vancouver Sun‘s story: “Osaka Supermarket will provide the ethnic Chinese food that has made its parent T&T Supermarket chain so successful, but it’s character will be Japanese-themed, as befits its name.” Huh? Do all Azn foods look the same too?
Soft white people
Edmonton now has an anti-racism program aimed at white people, teaching them how to recognize (and presumably choose to give up) their white privilege, much to the distress of, well, white people. Don’t call them racist, okay?! Their feelings are hurt. Boo hoo.
Celebrating David Lam
You may remember him as the first Azn-Canadian lieutenant governor, a highly successful real estate businessman, a philanthropist or founder of Vancouver’s dragon boat festival. But to Tung Chan, he was a friend and hero, and so we use Chan’s words to describe this powerhouse, who lost his battle to prostate cancer on Nov. 22:
“When he became LG, he showed the way to all of us, that you can maintain your cultural identity, you can continue to promote the good values of your heritage while maintaining and not compromising your Canadian-ness.”
An Azn Cosby Show?!
In a similar vein to ‘Azn Jersey Shore,’ U.S. producers are working on a show tentatively titled “The Chin Chens,” about a Chinese-Vietnamese-American family a la Cosby. Errr … thoughts on this?
posted by jroselkim
I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up lately, especially growing up as a minority identity after watching Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project unfold. If I were influential enough to start a similar campaign for young girls of colour everywhere, would I be able to confidently tell them that it will in fact get better when they get to be 18, 22, or 35?
The truth is, life gets more complicated as one’s racial consciousness awakens, and the burden of being a visible minority never gets lighter.
In a way, perhaps it has the potential to get worse as we learn the ways of the world, about concepts like institutionalized racism. How can I express the feeling of betrayal and hopelessness I felt when it became crystal lear that racism is so embedded, so naturalized within society that we are trained to not see it, to self-hate and hate others for not being a blank slate?
How can I describe the fear I felt at reading about hate crimes targeted towards interracial couples that happened in Canada as recently as this summer?
How can I articulate the shame I felt about having an egg-and-ketchup sandwich at the age of 12, when these things mattered all the world, and couldn’t help but hate my own mother for trying, trying so hard, but failing to be “Canadian” like other mothers? How can I express my guilt and sadness for hating my parents for where they came from for so long?
So how should I go on, and how should we all go on? I have no answers, and I cannot, with good conscience, look at a camera and say confidently that life will get better.
But I can say this.
Dear young woman of colour,
I apologize that I have no real words of comfort for your future.
But please know that I understand:
every ounce of shame you’ve shed for feeling different
even though that person only was curious,
only had good intentions when he or she reminded you of your otherness.
that you may question your motive for being attracted to someone who is
outside of your race
because if you may wonder
does he/she like me for me?
or my skin colour?
(and you’ll never know, or at least, never trust the answers)
And your friends and family may wonder out loud:
is she a traitor to her culture?
does she just want to move “up”?
And maybe you just want to give up because it’s easier
to follow everyone’s expectations;
you may not know what makes you happy anymore,
amongst mixed messages that say you should be both
obedient and integrated
I don’t know if it gets better
as you grow older, as you grow into the othered consciousness
that you express mostly through self-deprecation,
And I’m sorry that we may fail you in battling racism
that difference is (still) more or less a dirty word.
But please know that there are allies. Others who feel the same way as you do.
Of course, nobody feels the exact pain that you had. Do not let anybody tell you that they know exactly how you feel, and prescribe a solution.
More importantly: do not let anybody tell you that your emotions are not real. Never ever succumb to those that want to rationalize your legitimate hurt. Because if they succeed in doing that, they succeed in taking your history away. They succeed in quashing the uniqueness that makes you powerful, just so they could sleep better at night.
And please know that while life may not get so much better, it does get better when you can find your voice, and others like yours.
I still make do because other stories from women of colour opened my eyes to tell my own.
And your stories will inspire others that come later to continue fighting, and hopefully exist in a society where our skin colours, our cultures, and our languages are no longer a burdern
but just a part of you.
posted by jroselkim
missmsian already wrote a great post about the negative press about too many Asians trolling Canadian universities, so I won’t talk about the offending articles from yesterday in detail. I do, however, want to discuss the growing trend in this paranoia-mongering “research” that The media’s obsession with asking whether Asians are going to dominate the world and make the whites suffer is not unlike its other obsession: whether men will be less successful than women because education is becoming more and more “feminized”. The Globe and Mail ran a week-long feature on the “failing boys” syndrome series last month.
My first reaction to these questions, as both a woman and a person of colour, is to say, “seriously?”
Let’s do the math.
How long did it take for people to notice that maybe women should also receive the same accessibility to education as men, and civil rights?
How long did it take the media to worry that boys were falling behind the women?
About 2 or 3 decades.
How long did it take the governments to realize that people of colour deserve the same rights as the whites, and apologize for their past wrongdoings to minority groups?
Centuries. And sometimes, never, if we’re talking about apologies.
How much time does it take the administrators to get nervous about this so-called takeover of the people of colour?
Much, much less than a century.
Don’t get me wrong, it worries me too that Quebec’s male adolescents have a 40% high school dropout rate. Studying how demographics shift in institutions can be a very interesting study. But what I really want to point out is the sense of urgency and panic that many of these articles seem to have about the threat to maleness and whiteness. When there’s even an inkling of a chance that maybe the white patriarchal hegemony is maybe kind of on the way out, society is IN DANGER, people. And of course, when one asks “is XXX too white?” the answers always tend to be “you’re so sensitive,” toward the interrogator, but when the question “is XXX too [insert minority group here],” the response seems to give the interrogator more rational credit.
One day, I hope to open a newspaper or a magazine and not be compelled to throw it out the window. One day.
posted by missmsian
In a throwback to the Yellow Peril days, Maclean’s ran a “report” this week about how there are a heckuva lot more Azns in school than there should be. The Toronto Star took it a step further and told Azn parents to stop encouraging their kids to get an education.
To Maclean’s, briefly: you bring up the fact that “U.S. studies suggest Ivy League schools have taken the issue of Asian academic prowess so seriously that they’ve operated with secret quotas for decades to maintain their WASP credentials” but spend the rest of the four-page article essentially saying the opposite. Are Azns being kept out of universities or are there too many of them in university? You can’t have it both ways.
I think it would have been worthwhile in your piece to look at the issues of (real or perceived) race-based quotas and merit-based enrollment, both of which were raised with that Ivy League statement. What a wasted opportunity.
To the Star, equally briefly: your online version’s headline, “Asian students being forced into university,” implies that students like me are incapable of making our own choices. The tone of the article suggests that it’s wrong for Azn parents to have dreams for their kids or encourage them to work hard–qualities we would call “good” in any other parent. You reported on an internal conversation some of Toronto’s east Azns had about parental expectations and university students’ mental health. That’s a discussion I think parents of every ethnic group should be having. Way to generalize.
You also said people like me don’t have social skills. That’s a low blow.
I’m not going to deconstruct these articles further because, frankly, it’s a waste of time providing a thoughtful response to two thoughtless pieces.
For a great response, check out what angry asian man wrote about the Maclean’s piece.
And look at what these crazy Azns are doing (hint: not studying!)
Final thought: see any similarities between this and the time Don Lewis proposed an all-white basketball league because he thought the NBA was getting “too black”? Harharharharhar.
posted by ellephanta/Celine
I told my mother that I wanted to be an actress a long time ago, and she said, I support you no matter what you do, but here are two things about it you should consider before making that decision and pursuing it.
1. A woman’s beauty is prone to constant decay in the eyes of the society, and this is extremely the case when it comes to show business, which is aggressively superficial. It wants a specific kind of beauty and as a result, my professional career will depend entirely on the judgment of others. Intelligence and wisdom, however, knows no gender and it is certain and relatively within your control. It doesn’t decay with time, it only deepens and widens, and it is certainly a better horse to bet on.
2. Being a colored person, you will not get the title roles. You will get to be the title character’s best friend or brief love interest. If you do get a role, you will often be expected to discuss your identity as a racial minority, either insultingly vaguely or painfully in depth. It will be used against you everywhere. This is painfully wrong, but it will happen because show business is a place run by people who will do that to a colored person, for an audience that will eat it up exactly as is and demand more of the same. If it’s hard to make it as an actress, it is unimaginably harder to be a colored actress.
This was really painful to hear, not because I was that invested in wanting to be an actress (I had basically wanted to be everything in those days, from a teacher to a rock star) but because I realized in my young age that the North American promise of “endless opportunities and infinite possibilities” was a gross exaggeration.
There is a reason why there aren’t enough Azn/colored people in the media, why there are so few out there for the casting directors to hire (“well, bring me a sexy Azn girl who’s right for the role, we’ll hire her for sure!”). It’s because most casting directors don’t want them.
posted by jroselkim
If you haven’t marked Denis Villeneuve’s new film Incendies as one of the films to check out this year, you should. It’s a beautiful and compelling story of two Montreal siblings on a journey of self-discovery to their homeland Lebanon (which they left as infants with their mother). The film screened at TIFF to a very positive and receptive crowd and opened in Montreal on September 17 – I believe (I hope?) there will be a Canada-wide screening soon. The non-linear storytelling is both intricate and startling, leading to a very shocking twist at the end – which, I must say, does not really make sense chronologically. I can’t say much else about it, because I would have to spoil the ending for you.
However, the movie still displays some problems when it comes to its casting. Both of the main actors, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette, are of Québécois decent and not Lebanese. This leaves Lubna Azabal, who plays the mother Nawal, as the only actress of colour in a film that centres around a Lebanese-Canadian family (Azabal is a Belgian-Moroccan actress).
This is not to say that white people can’t “act” in other ethnic parts. But when opportunities for actors of colour are already so limited as they are at the moment, why is it that studios would give opportunities to other white actors where an actor/actress of colour would be perfect for the part?
I am reminded of Jacob Tierney (director of The Trotsky, yet another excellent Québécois fare, anglo-style)’s recent interview with La Presse, where he bluntly stated: “Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself. Our art and our culture shows only white francophones. Anglophones and immigrants are ignored. They have no place in the québécois dream. It’s shameful.”
posted by jroselkim
In other words – I feel a complicated mix of self-loathing and outrage after watching the premier of America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 15. Self-loathing because I am a) constantly sucked into this hysterical and cringe-worthy “reality” and b) admitting that I have watched all of the freaking 14 previous cycles (wow, how many hours of my life is that where I could’ve enriched my brain with, say, foreign language learning?) The outrage, however, stems from how the idea of “high-fashion” (though, this is still Tyra’s version so it probably means nothing to someone like Karl Lagerfeld) still being so exclusionary and exclusive.
So, America’s Next Top Model is like, totally changed, you guys. Instead of a fashion spread in Seventeen magazine, the winner now gets a fashion spread in Italian Vogue, which apparently is the mecca of all models and launches high-fashion model careers all the time. This means nothing to the plebians like me who can’t even sift through American Vogue on a regular basis.
But what does this REALLY mean for the show? So far, it means:
1) no more body diversity: there has been at least one plus-sized girl that gets picked every season, and Tyra gives some mandatory spiel about how all body sizes are beautiful. The plus-sized girl would stick around for a while, only to be booted off after the judges would start making comments about them looking too ordinary, commercial, old, or all of the above. Except for that one time when that plus-sized girl won, because I guess they needed to pay lip service or something. But there is NONE of that – not even the superficial lip-service part – this season.
2) no Asian girls: I admit, Asian contestants are pretty rare on the show to begin with, but there’s been a smattering of them. April in season 1 was half-Japanese and went pretty far in the competition. I remember Gina from Season 6, who was a textbook bimbo case and said she only liked dating white guys, and was generally embarrassing to watch. Then there was Sheena in Season 11 who was Japanese and Korea, who eventually got booted off because she was too “sexual.” This cycle, I did not see a single Asian face even in the “semi-final” stage.
Granted, ethnic diversity is hard to come by in the fashion world. But Asian-Americans are so rarely represented as potential for top models. Not that I look to this show as some kind of an anchor for American culture. But from the continuation of the show and the frenzy some of the contestants display, it certainly serves as some kind of a cultural milestone for some. So where the azns at, Tyra??
Reality TV, I wish I could quit you.
[Photo from realitytvmagazine.sheknows.com]
posted by missmsian
Because I could be the victim tomorrow. It seems that all it takes is for a news network or political party to create an invisible, overpowering fear and we, as media consumers, either become really stupid or remain purposely ignorant to the truth (which is worse?)
I know it’s almost ludicrous to put myself in a Muslim person’s shoes in the West where Judeo-Christian values are so celebrated–and I have relatively light skin, to boot! But there are places where Christians are discriminated against as badly as Muslims are here. It just shows how precarious our “rights” are and how much they depend on respect and the recognition of one another’s humanity.
Because disagreeing theologically isn’t the same as being racist. Do I believe that my religion has the answers to questions about faith? Yes.
However, this belief doesn’t give me any right or reason to be Islamophobic. Islamophobia deals with feelings of hatred and/or suspicion of Muslims that is often coupled with actions meant to curb their civil and/or human rights. The Park 51 Islamic centre (misnomer: “Ground Zero mosque”) debate is one example. In Canada, we have the proposed niqab ban in Quebec and the unfair detention and trial of Omar Khadr, to name a few high-profile cases … not to mention the numerous “everyday” situations where we attempt to expel Muslims from the community via verbal threats, economic exclusions, etc.
Disagreeing about faith, on the other hand, means that I still treat those who disagree with me over who Jesus is as precious people, loved by Him.
Because the church doesn’t have a clean slate, so how dare we speculate on what Muslims are or aren’t.
We don’t even need to go as far back as the Crusades to see this. When people say Canada and the U.S. were founded on Christian values, I always feel uncomfortable, because these nations were founded on the rape, plunder and killing of Indigenous peoples and their land. How can we call Muslims “terrorists” when churches have allowed and encouraged the Atlantic slave trade and Canadian residential schools, to name only a few injustices done in the name of God?
Because I believe in a gospel of love and that’s a gospel nobody’s going to pay attention to if I’m speaking about it while holding matches and a Quran in my hands.
*When I use “we,” I’m loosely referring to Western society, which I believe is overwhelmed by white, Christian discourse even though not everyone in the West adheres to those beliefs or even fits into those categories.
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.