Sunday, January 28, 2007

Belated Posting

1. Guilt, Chinese style
This blurb from a recent post by O-Dub over at Poplicks got me all a-flutter:

"White privilege or not is a larger debate but when it comes to educational privilege, in places like San Francisco, Mississippi and New Jersey, certain Asian Americans (whether individually, in small groups, or in specific communities) are quick to abandon any pretense to supporting diversity if they perceive their admissions are on the line. (To be fair, we're mostly talking about Chinese Americans rather than all Asian Americans, across the board. I'm not proud of this)."

Couple that quote with this piece in the NY Times (courtesy of Angry Asian Man), which discusses the absence (or reluctance) of wealthier Chinese-Americans to help poorer Chinese-Americans, the latter group of which is largely comprised of recent immigrants from mainland China. The article hints at intra-racial schism between Cantonese-speaking and non-Cantonese speaking Chinese:

"Some observers, like Kenneth J. Guest, an anthropologist at Baruch College who has studied the latest immigrant stream from Fujian province, see a divide even within Chinatown between the newcomers, who have little education, and those who run the nonprofit organizations.

"'There’s some very strong prejudice within the Cantonese community,' he said, drawing a parallel with assimilated German Jews who looked down on Jewish newcomers from Russia."

These aren't uncommon comments regarding the Chinese in North America, particularly Cantonese speaking immigrants from HK. We're a community that's writhe with classist tendencies, both intra and inter racially. I've seen this explained by writers, at times, as irritation by a group that has grown out from in its first immigrant stages (circa Gold Mountain days) of any reminder of underprivilege. I'm not too sure I buy that theory (though completely sympathetic to the experience of the first wave of Chinese immigrants; little attention is drawn to institutionalized anti-Chinese (or anti-Asian, for that matter) sentiments of Canada's past), considering the same sentiment is just as rampant back in Hong Kong.

I've been at odds with how to respond to both of these sentiments. It's easy to blame laziness on my end (which plays a part, as always), but it's really about the embarrassment. While I'll go to no end to extol the virtues of Chinese culture, I stop like a deer in headlights when it comes to discussing its shortcomings, particularly when it comes to the Chinese-American/Canadian experience. It's not that I'm hesitant to admitting these faults, it's that I have nothing of value to add, particularly when it comes to solutions.

2. The Only Black People I Knew Growing Up Were The Huxtables

Growing up in suburban middle-class Calgary, I had, at most, three or four African-Canadian classmates from Grade 1 to 12. That's three or four in all twelve years, not three or four per class. Thus, you can fairly say I had no concept of the black experience outside of what I saw on television or the music I listened to. To me, there was either the affable Huxtables or Boys II Men on one side or the frustrations of Public Enemy or Spike Lee on the other, with the various few (eg De La Soul) falling somewhere in between.

This didn't really change when I entered university. If the NYC rock and roll crowd is still widely a white affair, as according to this NY Times piece on black rock fans, you can imagine how ivory it was in 90s Calgary. Out of the few black people at the college radio station, most were either involved with the hip hop show or ethnic shows.

In fact, I can clearly remember that, during one funding drive, the hip hop djs (Christ, was Drew's show called "The Groove"? I can't remember) played ten minutes of Superchunk or some such, threatened his audience with more if they didn't call in to pledge, and suddenly had jammed phone lines on their hands. When it came to black people and indie rock, the two just didn't seem to commingle.

This, of course, was generally due to lack of exposure (mine), but also because of a lack of exposure (their's): there just wasn't an overly prevalent black presence in 90s rock and roll, and before you say I'm over-generalizing, do a roll count of the various Matador and Sub Pop bands from that period. Living Color wasn't exactly getting much airplay; In Living Color was.

3. Back to Frivolities

Back to the lazy You Tube posts. I came across this skit Woody Allen wrote and stars in with Gene Kelly:

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