Ethnic Uncool Moments

Posted by Beth Hong & filed under Identity.

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Monday, May 2 | Rock the Vote!

Calling all cultural navigators: today is the day. Get out there and rock the vote!

Sunday, May 1 | The #EthnicVote Youtube Highlight Reel

On April 22, I began curating WTF is the ‘ethnic vote’? on Storify to chart the narrative of the ‘ethnic vote’ leading up to the election.

What emerged was a fascinating, evolving picture of lively discussion, debate, and opinion from not only traditional news outlets (such as the CBC, Globe and Mail, and regional newspapers), but also from freelance journalists and Canadian citizens using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Here is a final highlight reel dedicated to some of the most creative YouTube responses to the ‘ethnic vote’.

A humorous parody from the crew at ‘Canada’s best underground TV show,’ TruthMashup:

The original citizens singing back, from Ontario-based coalition Colour of Poverty- Colour of Change:

Very active tweeter and amateur video producer VeryEthnic:

Wednesday, April 25 | Why it matters to question the ‘ethnic vote’

The Toronto Sun’s Queen’s Park columnist Martin Regg Cohn had an interesting take on the outcry against the Conservative’s leaked ‘ethnic vote’ strategy in his April 24 column, called Tories beating Liberals at their own game of ethnic politics.

Cohn makes three points, listed in order of least, to most interesting:

1. ‘Ethnic politics’ (that is, strategically targeting voters based on their ethnic background) is neither new, nor un-Canadian.

2. The only reason the Liberal Party of Canada spoke out so strongly against the Conservatives’ strategy is because it’s losing their stronghold in many ‘ethnic’ communities. Cohn writes:


“The Tories’ ethnic juggernaut is threatening vast swaths of traditional Liberal support, pulling the multicultural carpet out from under them in key swing ridings across the Greater Toronto Area, southern Ontario and much of British Columbia.”

3. Campaign literature explicitly targeted at ‘ethnic voters’ may irritate second generation Canadian citizens, but a lot of new immigrants actually appreciate it, in his view. Cohn writes:


“No doubt many Canadians of foreign descent bristle at being typecast, but it would be wrong to assume everyone dislikes it. Many new immigrants welcome receiving campaign literature in their mother tongue, even if second-generation immigrants find it grating.”

Yes, ethnic politics are not new. And no, the Liberal Party of Canada may not ‘end the language of division’ in Canada, as Michael Ignatieff proclaimed with much bravado at a March 28 campaign rally.

But is the so-called ‘ethnic vote’ targeting really just a grating instance (or many instances, depending on how ‘ethnic’ your electoral district is) of typecasting? Or is it something that should go a little deeper?

This is the question that goes to the heart of why Schema is focusing on the ‘ethnic vote’ as a news media buzzword and political campaign strategy in the federal election. We want to raise dissenting voices against this homogenizing of the complex identities of many Canadian voters who do not agree to categorizations of ‘ethnic’ or ‘non-ethnic,’ ‘immigrant’ or ‘second-generation.’

As Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health replied in Chasing the Ethnic Vote on the Agenda with Steve Paikin on April 19 to the question, “Does the ethnic vote exist?”:

“I think there’s an ethnic vote as much as there is a women’s vote, or there’s an older vote, or there’s a younger vote. People have complex cultures and complex personalities. And their ethnicity is part of that. So is there an ethnic vote per se? There are certainly issues that are more likely to be more important to ethnic minorities, such as what’s happening in the urban environment, such as transportation, and such as some of the immigration policy issues that have come up. But people are more complex than that. There’s no single ethnic vote, I would say.”

Monday, April 24 | Dwayne Morgan’s The Ethnic Vote

Dwayne Morgan is a Toronto-based poet, speaker and social critic. He wrote a poem called “The Ethnic Vote.” It is re-posted here in full with permission.

The Ethnic Vote

The census confirms that I exist,

Yet I am the invisible Canadian,

Whose experiences and concerns are ignored,

Except for when an election is called.

Suddenly, everyone cares about the plight

Of those who identify as non white;

They call me the ethnic vote.

Our votes are like lottery numbers,

The more of them you have,

The better your chances at winning,

So we hold candidates hostage

With our ballots,

Watching as the roles reverse

And we are now the ones in power.

There can be no majority,

Without us minorities,

So we wait to see who will have the courage

To put their promises in writing,

Because talk is cheap,

And our experiences are too rich

To be given away with nothing in return,

So photo ops with souvlaki and butter chicken

Won’t be enough this time around.

Mrs. Singh, and Mr. Chow,

Are now demanding more,

And this is the new face of Canada,

A new reality that must be addressed

If we are to move forward.

Multiculturalism has to be more than rhetoric,

Because we are more than just a strategy

To get you into office,

More than a statistic,

More than just a demographic to be conquered,

Like many of our homelands.

Who will show us that they care and truly understand?

We are a land suffering from a shortage of medical staff,

yet we have policies that keep doctors driving taxicabs.

Who will speak for the faces

Being displaced to gentrification?

We are a nation that still fears what lies behind the veil,

As we tighten our borders to keep the undesirables out.

We still don’t recognize

That when the funding of our youth is cut,

The growth of our most needy and brilliant is also cut.

When having young people play on monkey bars

Is less important than having them play behind bars,

There needs to be a shift in our thinking.

We are still a country that has Native women disappearing

Faster than their land, rights, and autonomy,

What promises can you make to me

That you can actually keep?

Up until now,

You’ve been see through like windows,

And we’ve seen enough.

We are sick of promises,

And are demanding actions.

Who will speak to us in our language

With empathy and compassion,

Knowing that our experience of being Canadian,

Is just as diverse as our cultures.

We are the new face of this country,

And without us,

The future lacks hope.

So we’ll be saving our decisions until Election Day,

Sincerely,

The Ethnic Vote.

Saturday, April 23 | A Letter to the CBC

canadian flag.jpg

This is a letter from a Canadian who asked to remain anonymous. Emphasis has been added by the editor.

I wrote this to CBC today after listening to their broadcast on the ethnic vote. My response to the whole ethnic vote debate is WTF.

Dear CBC,

I listen to CBC radio when I drive to work in the morning and when I get back from work. I love CBC radio. This morning, I heard your talk show on the ethnic vote. There was a panel of three ethnic voters representing the Conservative, Liberal and NDP ethnic supporters. I am a physician by profession. I was born in India, I moved to Canada when I was 13. Went to UBC. Studied medicine. Did my residency in Nova Scotia. Took French in grade 8, the first year I moved here, for the next 3 years.

I have french CDs in my car which are helping me improve my French. I currently am a family doctor who tried so hard to come back to Canada because I love Canada and consider myself a CANADIAN. I travel extensively and tell people wherever I go that Canada is one place in the world where I have personally never experienced racism. My little brother who is currently a law student and myself can attest to this fact.

I adore Canada. I consider myself Canadian. I have dated people from various backgrounds. I have a grandmother in Cape Breton who adopted me and her last name is Dunn. I was very hurt today when I heard your program.

I thought I was Canadian. I tell everyone proudly that I am Canadian yet my vote is considered the ethnic vote.

I am hurt with this label and I do not agree with it. I do not want my children to be labeled ethnic children. I hope they will be looked upon as Canadian children. I tell my patients here in Delta and Surrey who do not speak English when they come see me that they are Canadians now and should try hard to learn English. I hoot for the Canucks, yet I am ethnic. I am very hurt and hope that CBC will not condone such labels. For CBC represents Canada and the Canada I know and love does not label anyone – much less its visible minorities. We are not Americans.

Friday, April 22 | Ethnic Uncool Throwback

mackenzie king.jpg

Because a little history about race and Canadian politics can’t hurt:

Who can forget the original ethnic uncool moment from then-Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King‘s 1947 speech to the House of Commons on immigration:

“There will, I am sure, be general agreement with the view that the people of Canada do not wish, as a result of mass immigration, to make a fundamental alteration in the character of our population.

Large-scale immigration from the orient would change the fundamental composition of the Canadian population. Any considerable oriental immigration would, moreover, be certain to give rise to social and economic problems of a character that might lead to serious difficulties in the field of international relations. The government, therefore, has no thought of making any change in immigration regulations which would have consequences of the kind.”

Let’s remember as we head into the polls on May 2 that the ‘character of our population’ is no longer the default white Canadian of King’s time.

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