In Spanish class we were learning the phrase, “donde es” (where are you from) and each student answered with a city or town name. I answered “Westport” and the teacher stopped me to explain the phrase means, “where do you hail from, as in where were you born.”
Interesting how he interrupted me, the obviously non-American looking person in the room. Nobody else was questioned about her origins. Granted I was born in Taiwan, but emigrated as a toddler and sound as Amurikan as the blue-eyed blond woman next to me.
Ever the perpetual foreigner.
Happy Jew Year! (early, because I’ll be at services when the sun actually goes down.) May it be a sweet year for you all.
The Bank of Canada purged the image of an Asian-looking woman from its new $100 banknotes after focus groups raised questions about her ethnicity.
The original image intended for the reverse of the plastic polymer banknotes, which began circulating last November, showed an Asian-looking woman scientist peering into a microscope.
The image, alongside a bottle of insulin, was meant to celebrate Canada’s medical innovations.
But eight focus groups consulted about the proposed images for the new $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 banknote series were especially critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination.
“Some have concerns that the researcher appears to be Asian,” says a 2009 report commissioned by the bank from The Strategic Counsel, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
“Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences. Others feel that an Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”
A few even said the yellow-brown colour of the $100 banknote reinforced the perception the woman was Asian, and “racialized” the note.
The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing a “neutral” ethnicity for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her “Asian” features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.
“The original image was not designed or intended to be a person of a particular ethnic origin,” bank spokesman Jeremy Harrison said in an interview, citing policy that eschews depictions of ethnic groups on banknotes.
“But obviously when we got into focus groups, there was some thought the image appeared to represent a particular ethnic group, so modifications were made.”
Harrison declined to provide a copy of the original image, produced by a design team led by Jorge Peral of the Canadian Bank Note Co.
Nor would he indicate what specific changes were made to the woman researcher’s image to give her a so-called “neutral,” non-ethnic look. He said the images were “composites” rather than depicting any specific individual.
The Strategic Counsel conducted the October 2009 focus groups in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, at a cost of $53,000.
The Toronto groups were positive about the image of an Asian woman because “it is seen to represent diversity or multiculturalism.”
In Quebec, however, “the inclusion of an Asian without representing any other ethnicities was seen to be contentious.”
One person in Fredericton commented: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.”
Mu-Qing Huang, a Chinese-Canadian who has peered into microscopes for biology courses at the University of Toronto, called the bank’s decision a “huge step back.”
“The fact that an Asian woman’s features were introduced to the bill … I think itself is a huge step forward in achieving true multiculturalism in Canada,” Huang, 24, said in an interview in Ottawa.
“But the fact that the proposal was rejected represents a huge step back.”
She said the “overly sensitive” decision to remove the Asian features suggests prejudice against visible minorities persists in Canada.
“If Canada is truly multicultural and thinks that all cultural groups are equal, then any visible minority should be good enough to represent a country, including (someone with) Asian features.”
She told me, more than once: ”We didn’t have kids like these here, before.”
In fact, that statement is mostly true. In perception, it is absolutely.
My district is in a town built on white flight; on one side, it’s bordered by a river some seemed to imagine a moat. In decades past, families moved there to escape those who were different or at least their imagined ghost. But time has moved on, and the suburbs have raced westward, and the old town that was for a time a new refuge is becoming a version of what some of those citizens once fled. That’s why, frankly, there was a job for me out there.
Perhaps you can imagine what that slow transition’s been like, what with the gradually growing numbers of Those People and their kids, what with the path to the present lined with assumptions and attitudes and fear.
But this is a different story. Or at least a different conclusion. A teacher who for twenty-some-odd years had never had a student who spoke a different language at home managed to bring an open mind and heart to the end of her career— as it should be but sometimes isn’t. She had the first of my students in that building, and though she was nervous, in the end, she was delighted. After she retired, she became my enthusiastic sub, mostly just for the chance to talk to them.
This spring, as I may have mentioned, she’s helped me help the senior who intends to go to college this fall. She took her for testing; she showed that nervous, new driver easier routes. When I couldn’t go to commencement, she went, even offering to pick up the girl’s family in the city to make sure they were there. She took pictures, and even had them printed, and even mailed copied to me so I’d have them to put up on the board that is the graphic organizer of my career.
This isn’t an ending, I don’t expect. But it is certainly happy.
Got my @BadPortraits. Sooo Bad!
Applies to so many of us - just replace the word,