We’ve Moved!

Hello WordPress followers, thanks for following! But, we’ve moved the blog over to http://www.theethnicaisle.com. There’s a hot new Election Issue to read over there, so please come check it out.

The Ethnic Aisle

Ontario Oreo: Court the Ethnic Vote, Keep the Centre White

Paikin's non-indian tweetBy Desmond Cole

How do you court the approval of white voters while trying to make everyone else feel included? In Ontario, you do it very carefully. Our province is home to a large percentage of Canada’s visible minority population, and has received the biggest share of immigrants to Canada for the last 10 years and beyond. But you wouldn’t know it by following our political campaigns.

As Ryerson professor Myer Siemiatycki pointed out in a recent Toronto Star piece, white voters need to believe they are at the centre of political conversations. Politicians seen as giving too much attention to immigrants and people of colour face potential backlash. Immigrants and people of colour are disproportionately struggling in today’s economy, but saying so during an election is risky because it may make white people feel left out. When party leaders do talk about immigrants, the piece illustrates, it is most often to celebrate their vague potential value to the economy.

This dynamic is real, and it only works in one direction. There can never be too much focus on issues that appear to impact middle-class white voters—especially since such voters are rarely named and scrutinized as a group.

Politicians dare not campaign on the health of Ontario’s immigrants, even though many of them are being denied basic health care. They can say little about the disproportionate numbers of black and aboriginal people incarcerated in provincial jails. Our politicians refuse to address these issues directly–they seemingly prefer to pose for selfies with people with dark skin, or turbans, or exotic flags.

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This One’s For the Children

N927S32ABy Denise Balkissoon

I’m a former child bookworm who was hurt and confused by the racism in some of my favourites (I suppose Frances Hodgson Burnett was just “a product of her time”). I’m also a very new parent who wants my babe to love books, but avoid those icky feelings. So I was unhappy to see the stark stats in a recent New York Times piece about characters of colour in children’s books–of thousands of books published in the U.S. last year, not even 500 have African-American or Latina protagonists–and pleased that it sparked some good convos on Twitter.

I figured that compiling all of the suggested books into a handy list would be handy. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions, most especially Amena Rajwani of the Toronto Public Library . If you’ve got more, add them in the comments!

After the jump: a WHOLE BUNCH of multicultural books for babies, kids and teens (in absolutely no particular order):

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The Graveyards of New Orleans

By Renee Sylvestre-Williams

Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day all are occasions  to remember and celebrate the dead. It’s a time we spend in cemeteries cleaning up the graves of our loved ones. It’s also a time to wander through the cemetery, reading the epitaphs of those buried and admiring some of the elaborate tombstones and mausoleums.

Cemeteries have become tourist destinations— witness the constant desecration of Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris’ Pere Lachaise Cemetery, the Discovery Walk through Mt. Pleasant cemetery — and none more popular than the cemetery tours of New Orleans’ grave yards.

The New Orleans mausoleums allowed people to buried above the ground. Lore says it was to prevent flooding, or perhaps because burying the dead above ground in the mausoleums means the bodies can decompose faster in the heat, so that multiple family members can be buried in the same space. Whatever the reason, graveyard tours of New Orleans remain popular.

This gallery features the graveyard in the Garden District. I was there last October for Halloween and wandered through the cemetery. Apart from the sense of age, there was a quiet eeriness to the place (aside: I am not a fan of cemeteries). Those who could afford to went big. Those who couldn’t had smaller crypts. Some were very old and looked abandoned, while others had so many people buried in them that they had to add extra marble slabs to accommodate the names.

Photos courtesy of Renee Sylvestre-Williams and Gail McInnes

Why Should We Get Married?

By Kelli Korducki

Before I left my parents’ house for university, my father made me sign a contract he’d written up himself. It included a list of conditions under which he’d help me pay off my student loans that I guarantee he’s since forgotten. I don’t remember all of them, but one was to graduate with above a certain GPA (which I did) and another was to abstain from moving in with a boyfriend before graduation (which I didn’t). A few years later the crash happened, and then Scott Walker, and my dad’s loan relief promise fell through the same empty well as my pledge to feigned premarital chastity. Such is adulthood.

There are plenty of reasons for committed, long-term partners not to marry, and they needn’t even involve questions of “right one” -ness. Many—maybe most—involve the wedding itself. Weddings are expensive. Weddings are stressful. Weddings are archaic. Weddings are fleeting. Wedding planning is a time suck.

I enjoy attending weddings. I cry at them, every time, wrinkly pink cries that slant my eyebrows into Muppetesque ramps toward the chandeliers, or Pinterest triangle banners, or Mason jar lighting fixtures, or ceiling Jesuses of whatever venue the happy couple have chosen. They’re powerful—a public declaration to stand by the same person forever, which is a long time to stand by anything and even just to stand. But they’re heavy with expectation, and I don’t know a lot of people who handle that well. Which might be why, as my friend R recently told me, “Our generation doesn’t get married.”

It’s not exactly true. Our generation does get married, as my Google calendar will attest. But the generation-mates I roll with live in sin at least as much as they half-step down aisles, even when that means going against the wishes of religious or immigrant parents. For some of my friends, just dating pushed parental comfort zones. It certainly did for me.

Unlike in the U.S., where I’m from, here in Canada common-law partnerships are federally recognized. It’s easier to put off signing paper on your relationship when a year’s cohabitation grants most of the same legal benefits. But that doesn’t make it any easier on families for whom living together before marriage is seen as the social equivalent of prancing down the street in nothing but a scarlet letter and fuck me heels.

I will get married, eventually. I’m not above tradition, and I think it’s important to make a grand gesture when you’re uniting a pair of families—which, for me, is really what the whole ceremony is about. But I probably won’t tell my Catholic, immigrant grandparents about the several years’ old shared apartment and three communal cats. Telling my parents was headache enough.


King For A Day

There are two kinds of gay party hosts: those who welcome add-ons graciously, and those who air-kiss their friends and then only the tag-alongs they want to fuck. At a birthday party a friend dragged me to, I received little more than a half-introduction to the back of the guest of honour’s head.

I stationed myself by the vodka and the cantaloupe and honeydew chunks. After ninety minutes, having demolished anything edible, I sunk into the couch waiting for my friend. We were to split cab fare. Then a man struck up a conversation.

I hadn’t noticed him before, but he was different from the other guests. First of all, he was gorgeous. A Brazilian swimmer. He was closer in age to me than to the puffy-faced white 40-somethings, and he wore a cashmere sweater that breathlessly clung to him.

After being mostly ignored all night, he was a salve. He found my being a writer interesting. He spoke English well but wanted to improve, and suggested we meet up for a lesson. He grabbed my phone to enter his number.

And then: “You know,” he said, “I don’t normally find Asians attractive, but I really like you.” You could pinpoint the moment my face froze into mild horror, Ralph Wiggum after Valentine’s Day.

Was this a compliment? It was obviously intended as a compliment. He looked at me like it was a compliment. “I really like you.” That would have been enough, right? No need to qualify the statement, just as there’s never a need to say someone looks good for their age. “You look great… for sixty.” Lovely. I’m thrilled you’re not a pile of bones yet, champ!

In one sense, this made me a pioneer. I could break—or bang?—new ground. But, is being king of shit mountain actually an honour?

This is an excerpt from Ethnic Aisle writer Jaime Woo’s piece “Asian Society Beyond the Ethnic Aisle” at Hazlitt.