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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Yeah, I Don't Think So: Romanticized Racism

You know, I love a whole bunch of people even though they do things I disagree with to the core of my being.

For instance one of those forwards that arrived in my inbox from a family member today. Here, instead of trying to explain it, I'll excerpt some for you. Basically it's a rant against immigrants, one that claims today's immigrant is full of selfishness and has no interest in being Canadians, they just want free money and a handout. Uh, okay. But here you go, a bit about the "good" immigrant back then, and the "bad" immigrant now. Their words, not mine.
Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labor laws to protect them. All they had were the skills, craftsmanship and desire they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity. Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. Canadians fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Sweden, and so many other places. None of these first generation Canadians ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Canadians fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending the Freedom as one people. When we liberated France, no one in those villages was looking for the Ukrainian-Canadian or the German-Canadian or the Irish-Canadian. The people of France saw only Canadians.

And here we are in 2007 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it by playing with a different set of rules, one that includes a Canadian passport and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country. I'm sorry, that's not what being a Canadian all is about. Canadians have been very open-hearted and open- minded regarding immigrants, whether they were fleeing poverty, dictatorship, persecution, or whatever else makes us think of those aforementioned immigrants who truly did ADOPT our country, and our flag and our morals and our customs.

Sounds great, right? Heart-tugging, go Canada, all for one, one for all, yada yada, right?

Except for the small matter that we're in an entirely different world now. Those immigrants came to a Canada that didn't have unemployment insurance or welfare or even a medical system... yet. Those immigrants came to a country half-way across the world that didn't have the internet, or television, or cable, or even easy access to phones. It was the time of telegraphs and mail sent by freighters across oceans.

When you left your home, you came to another world where you literally had to sink or swim. When you came, going home was not an option. Necessity being the mother of all things, you're goddamned right they felt they had to do everything in their powers to fit in. If they didn't, it was also a world where blacks down south would be lynched and Jews were being murdered by the millions an ocean away, and Japanese were interned in concentration camps-- oh, sorry, prison camps-- here in Canada. People were being sterilized because they were mentally handicapped in Alberta. You think they were gonna wear their heritage proudly? They were SCARED. Naturally they said they were Canadian. Immigrants today are Canadians, too. They're just also what they were born into this world as... Indian or Chinese or Jamaican.

But go ahead. Romanticize yer past. If these people with these notions of what a "Canadian" is moved anywhere else, ever, they'd still be Canadian. They'd just be a hypocrite, too.

Here in Vancouver, in 2007, our city has maybe 45% white folk left in it, maybe less than that now. We've had an Asian invasion and we've got an incredible mix of Chinese, Taiwanese, Indian, Korean, etc, immigrants that make this city pretty damned metropolitan now.

And, you know what? I absolutely find myself irate and racist against Asians sometimes. Yes, I do. I liked the good old days of living in a mostly white world, and I'd be lying if I didn't say sometimes it was easier. But then I'm also really proud to live in a city that's managed to mix so many cultures together and that has so many different ethnic pockets here. And I'm loving learning about all the cultures that are around me, I love feeling like I belong to a WORLD and not just a city.

And while I have my days when I get sick of being surrounded by people yammering in Mandarin or Punjabi, I'm proud as hell that my country's the most multicultural country on the planet.

These narrow-minded people who look only at the outside of this situation don't realize that today's immigrant is doing exactly what the early immigrants did -- they're using any means necessary to gain a foothold in this new country, and they're doing it to succeed. The old immigrants came with nothing, the writer says. Some new immigrants are now, too. The rules of the games are different. Now we have a social system in place to help people, so naturally they try to use it to their advantage. You think the people a hundred years ago would have been morally superior and said, "oh, no, we're not Canadian enough to use the system yet... let's give it a few years." Fuck no. They'd have jumped at the chance. Look at those who did anything they could to grab a parcel of land being given away by the government in settlement days. Who had their hands out then, huh? What's different about that?

Christ. Think about it. Same thing, different era.

Immigrants today come with more money. There's internet and long-distance telephone, and there's already culture pockets everywhere so that they have a piece of home in this new world of theirs.

And what's wrong with that? Trudeau set the stage for who we are as a nation when he encouraged the rest of the world to see us as a place that wanted to have open doors. And that's great. That's worked.

But now it's time Canada redefine itself once again. We've let all these people come here, and now we've made it impossible for them to work here. Our licensing for nurses and other technical careers like engineering, where we have employee shortages, makes it practically impossible for people who've been trained as professionals as doctors, teachers, nurses, and so forth, to get into a career here. Here in BC we have a drastic labour shortage and it's hurting us in a big way. That's why we NEED immigration to work for us.

So, these modern immigrants are stuck driving cabs, being janitors, and whatever the fuck else they can get by on, all because they believed the myth of Canada offering an open door and opportunity for all who come. Many of them arrive feeling they've been duped when they go to practice medicine or get a job using their degrees, because they find it impossible to get anything at all. Then they're made to need the social system that others are irate they're using.

I want my Canada to be a fair and open place. I want it to offer opportunity to everyone. I want investors from other countries to come and build businesses here in Canada. I want people's skills to be used in full, because I'm tired of nurse shortages at hospitals and doctors from India driving cabs here. I want the red tape to finally catch up with the times and allow these people to contribute to making Canada a better place. It's not their fault. (Most of 'em, anyhow.)

Our system isn't working like it needs to, so immigration is a drain. It's a problem. But it's only SOME of the immigrants who are taking advantage of things. I know, were the situations reversed, I might try to get a leg up, too, so do I hold it against them? No. You do what you gotta do. 

I've also taught ESL to Asian families who've proudly shown me pictures of their naturalization ceremonies, where they became Canadian, and the mom's crying, the kids are beaming, the dad's grinning ear to ear. I've had an 8-year-old Asian boy start sniffling and choking up as he said "Becoming Canadian is the best thing ever!" Then he cried. 

So don't fucking tell me they're all here stealing from us. They're doing what our government has made possible for them to do. Besides, I read a Vancouver Sun study the other day where they said that it turns out daughters of immigrants are twice as likely to be successful professionals than their longtime Canadian peers. They may take, but they inevitably give back, too.

I hate racism that pretends to be nationalism. Y'know? Trouble is, I think we all feel some of that sometimes. This city of mine's changing far faster than anybody could have wanted, and sometimes the past feels pretty romantic. The reality is, the past is just out-of-date. Like Ovaltine and the Little Rascals, the world's moved on and yesteryear wouldn't cut it this year. We're in a different world. Of course there's a different kind of immigrant. But that's who we are. A country of immigrants, and every new wave adds a new dimension to the Canadian flag. It's a wicked thing, and it's a unique thing. It's Canada. That's who we are. And our past will always, always be there. Hockey will always be here. But let's keep going where we're going.

You want assimilation? Move to the fucking United States. This is Canada. Get with the program. Cultural mosaic, people, for better or worse.