culture, race, and food

March 12, 2010

all things (e.g. decor, ingredients, location, etc.) equal, are you willing to pay an equally high bill for “ethnic food” and “french food”?

why are we so caught up with “hole in the wall” dining establishments? is the food better? maybe.

would you eat at a dingy purveyor of california cuisine?

why are people so hung up on the skin colour of the chef, rather than his/her skill set?

ever heard of ethnically Chinese people rationalizing giving lower tips at Chinese restaurants?

please leave contact info if this post is of interest to you. i’m looking to start discussions towards action!

my latest task is to figure out how to include “the excluded” in food security actions. namely, ethnic and racial minorities in a Canadian context.

within this overarching query, the quotation marks represent two underlying issues of utmost concern (and others that i hope to bring to light):

a) those ethnic and racial minorities who are excluded, are faced with multiple social, economic, and political challenges n their day-to-day lives; barriers to food security, as well as overall health and well-being. as such, a large majority of initiatives to improve food security have values and objectives aiming toward inclusivity

b) yet, (and i have to start searching for literature to support for this), there has been little attention paid in the form of outreach to recruit allies with ethnic and racial communities, and where/when it has been attempted, what has been gained (lost?), what was the process, etc?

“a” is fairly well established. “b” encompasses my next task to pursue. as i see it, the doors are open and the food security (mostly white, upper-middle class) are waving in “the excluded”, but few are crossing the threshold.

how then? asking how to involve the excluded in food security actions is to jump the gun and make assumptions that “food”, “security”, and “food security” carry the same meaning for all.

my interest in “how” depends greatly on what i find about “why”.

why then? i have strong hunches that need to be assessed in the existing literature, and examined explicitly in the particular context in which i am working.

if you happen upon this posting and have some good resources or know of doctoral supervisor/funder that would support this work, please post as a comment.

DO ASIAN MEN HAVE MUCH (if any) INTEREST IN BLACK WOMEN? 
The following post is written in response to a curious blog reader of the post, “interracial approach to asian women” found on this very same blog: ignorance could have been bliss.
I opted for a separate posting since, while many of the considerations are the same (e.g. thoughts re: the “stuff” of dating as it pertains to individuals in various inter- & intra- racial, cultural, and ethnic groups), gender can be a big deal [breaker] when it comes to interracially dating wherein one partner is “asian”.
Below, I try (to be brief, but detailed) about interracial approaches to dating asian men. But first, of course, I must direct readers to the same ol’ precautions.
I would also like to add that, unlike my broader and generalized approach about asian women (AW) based on my frequent communication with members belonging to this group in and from various part of world, what I write here is mostly based on my interactions with asian men (AM) in North America – specifically, across Canada, New York City, and Chicago. I suspect however, that parallels could be drawn between California and Toronto…but that’s another story.
And finally, (my last precursor, I promise!), I’ve cut & pasted in the comments (in italics) from the reader I mentioned above in order to maintain a sort of dialogue. Talk with us!
Back to the topic:
DO ASIAN MEN (AM) HAVE MUCH (if any) INTEREST IN BLACK WOMEN (BW)? 
I do realize with the worship of whiteness, many non-whites would choose a white over a black, never giving a black person a chance, even if the black person is decent and law-abiding, and has high morals.
By “person”, and in reference to the question, the comment suggests some “good” BW may be being overlooked. Yes, I tend to think that AM are much less likely to have an interest in BW. There are certainly many speculative reasons as to reasons why. I hash out a few below, of which I think they work in concert to the effect of an uneven interest among AM to BW. BUT! I really do believe this begin way BEFORE the BW – good or bad – ever enters the mind of AM.

BEFORE…

BM are:
… sexualized/machoified (haha – I made that up!, you know, tough, thug, “bad boy”, hyper-masculinization, etc., e.g. stereotypes of large, strong body parts, protection). Yes, I know BM are also de-sexualized too (e.g. stereotypes of disease, downlow, etc.), but follow me with this one…

AM are (in contrast to BM):
… asexualized/feminized (e.g. stereotypes of small, skinny, weak body parts) and this is internalized as low self-confidence (e.g. ‘I can’t get a BW’ that they assume would want what is “natural” (e.g. intraracial dating) and socially“desirable”(e.g. macho men).

AFTER…

distinct stereotypes about BW (e.g. strong, angry, loud, etc.) and AW (e.g. pleasers, quiet, subservient, “natural” as an intraracial partner for AM, etc.)

then, squish’em all together:
Without ever really consciously thinking about any of the above, the AM is often convinced they are ‘just not attracted to black women’.

Interestingly revealing however, is that the discourse that AM have about AW dating interracially. In contrast to the saying amongst BW in reference interracial dating amongst BM, along the lines of “there’s no/so few good black men”, I have known many AM to say things like, “we didn’t want her anyways” or “they (men of other race) get our garbage”. In a very sour grapes way, the AM exudes their discomfort and low-confidence around dating dynamics.

Of course, there are those AM that see past all of the squish (e.g. a few of my male friends and my brother date women of any race, culture, ethnicity). I call them the AM ALL-AROUNDERS in a post to follow…

sorry, i didn’t mean to startle you. please please!, don’t get mad and send someone out to get me, i know that in many places such utterances would signal troops for my arrest. continue reading please to see where i’m headed with this one…

the above statement was told to an audience of approximately 45 undergraduate students (including myself) during a lecture on the morning of 9/11. the professor rationalized, “if you really want to shake a country, you hit’em where it’ll hurt most – [in canada,] their kids, future leaders. and for greatest impact,” he continued, “it would be right here or x”. 

since x was only miles away, and in the same city, you can imagine the horror this professor incited upon students who were already awestruck by the morning’s news.

thereafter, academic institutions across canada and in the u.s. announced implementation of security measures. this was surely also affected by columbine shootings and other violence covered in the media.

nonetheless, i believe that in canada, we continued to believe nothing so sensational could happen. the shootings, injuries, and deaths at montreal’s dawson college changed that.

the flurry of media attention was, for the most part, deserved and well-communicated. in recent years, pre-cautions have been taken to avoid mongering unwarranted fear amongst the public, exploiting victims, and raising the status of criminals.

HOWEVER!

i have observed over the years many, MANY incidents and threats of violence to the university community that never hit major news outlets. of course, i am especially keen on university security since i have been involved as a student since 1999. during my attendance at various major universities in canada and the u.s., including living on campus or very near it, i have become aware of a significant divide between: a) mass media about university safety affairs; b) affliate-oriented security briefings, c) what really happened.

sure, this gloss of the news occurs in the coverage of many events (although, the press tends to be quite thorough when i comes reporting certain things like restaurant reviews). but how does one assert the ‘truth’, or more specifically, how do i know we’re getting told the whole story, if at all? the presence of “added” security measures is an instant indicator, since in my experience it’s always been “added” retroactively. but i have personally witnessed such unannounced occurences and threats of violence in the hall, gym locker room, dining hall, etc.

for instance, a few years ago, my friend was tearfully shocked after having been nearly pulled into a passing car as she returned from skating practice. i went with her to report the event to campus security but never saw any press about it at all. i’ve heard many stories about sexual assault that never hit the news either.  campus rape tends not to make news unless in multiple numbers. what about the first, or the second…

interestingly, of all campuses t which i have spent longer durations of time, they are all located in (or just on the cusp) of neighbourhoods considered to be very dangerous relative to the rest of the city. the populations are often black, which has, in my opinion played out in many ways. one of the most important is tendencies toward hostile othering based sheerly on first impressions of race. while i cannot be sure, (even my nosiness and sleuth-skills won’t allow me to), but i suspect the murder of graduate student Amadou Cisse was racially influenced. i suspect the thugs did not identify him as a student because of his darker skin tone. sadly, if he had been white, i think he would be alive today. the irony of a predominately white-populated school coming in to a black neighbourhood to “revitalize” it, makes its white students seem “untouchable”. very unfortunately, Cisse’s black appearance did not provide this university-affiliated glow and thus shield of protection.

i’ve said so much and yet there is much more. mid-terms are this week and i really must get on to wrapping up here…

in a roundabout way, i just started thinking about all of the above in relation to the tightlipped “news release” about the University of British Columbia’s lockdown. read the article if you wish, but basically the RCMP can’t and won’t say or deny what happened on campus at the Biological Sciences Building.

for now, i ask that you question the intent behind secrecy of these and other campus related events. who is really benefitting in campus-community partnerships? what root problems have been superficially covered with the pretty academic landscape? 

how many threats are necessary before the university puts it’s reputation on the line to admit it’s not just admission requirements and tuition rates that are scary?

oh, canada…

January 31, 2008

oh canada!

what’s been going on since i’ve left? yes, i’ve been being skimming the headlines. but i never thought that some of the outlandishly proposed or cautioned would actually materialize.

in the news today:

afrocentric (black-focus) schools have been approved in Toronto, starting 2009 – news articles HERE! and HERE TOO!

  • personally, i’m worried about the consequences. living in chicago now, i can only think of greater neighbour segregation, racism, and all that bad stuff down the road. admittedly, i haven’t read all of the literature, but for now: oh dear…

lockdown at UBC – cbc report HERE!

  • i haven’t been able to find an update, but i’ll prolly post it RIGHT HERE since i want to write a separate post about it anyhow.

i was recently asked by a black man in Chicago: “do asian women like black men or not?

he continued, “if so, how do you know?” and then quite confidently stated that he knew when white, latina, and black women were interested. (we didn’t get to his reasoning though)

i had a million things to say and to ask, since i’d been wondering something similar myself (i have a good hunch that black men are checking, but not approaching me. causing me to wonder if maybe they think i’m off bounds?).

given that i find race relations to be different in Chicago, as opposed to where i’ve recently lived in toronto, my answer below is very open to others’ opinions – so please, your input is welcome!first, i warned him that the things i told him were based on my own observations – not necessarily local, and certainly generalized. i also cautioned him to be considerate of variation and focus on the individual. then, i told him in no particular order, the following:

  • “asian women” covers a whole wide range of females from many countries – in the UK, “asian” refers to southeast asian (e.g. indian, pakistani, etc.)
    • he said meant “oriental” – i said: NEVER refer to asian women as oriental. an educated AW (from anywhere over there, or born here) will at the very least know about orientalism, the west made up the orient to “other” us. 
      • some AW will take offense too (i don’t, but i will roll my eyes and you’ve revealed yourself as ‘likely someone who has an asian fetish’).
  • general groups of AW:
    • group a: – these AW have ethnic origins in 1 of 3 countries (Korea, Japan, and China (and arguably singapore))
      • they are especially good at sneaking peeks at the opposite sex (it’s partly the eyes, but partly just b/c they’re just good at being inconspicuous)
      • most of these AW are not looking at black men, they tend to date intraracially (amongst these countries) or white men
        • there’s actually studies about this. they consider it “dating up the racial hierarchy” based on stereotypes, fear, ignorance, culture, etc.
      • a few of them are open to black men, but know that you are expected to talk to them, a holla will not work!
      • group b: – these AW have ethnic origins in the phillipines, malaysia, laos, etc.
        • these AW that like black men fashion themselves to give cues
        • garish presentation of economic wealth and social prestige works for all men
        • i’m not sure a holla works here, or if it works anywhere actually
      • he asked: “OK, aside from the AW wearing baby phat and such, how do i know?”
        • eeep! this one is tough, very tough.
        • consider the above, plus: AW and asian men often have seriously platonic relationships that appear as though they are dating (e.g. they eat out together, go to movies, etc). Two AW may also do this – no they are not necessarily lesbian though they’re holding hands.
        • your best bet, and this may sound bizarre, but just talk to her!
          • you should know immediately if she’s scared (i would caution you away from this one).
          • if she’s open to convo, take it slow. during this time you can figure out her as a person and not just an AW and hopefully find out if she’s ‘involved’ with someone (can’t promise this one, you may have to just come out and ask)
      • NEVER say: “i always wanted to date an AW”
        • it may be true and you may be genuinely interested in learning all about asian culture blah blah blah, BUT! for most AW’s it’s the equivalent of saying ‘i always wanted to dominate a quiet, exotic, insert stereotype here’
        • to which he said, “but what if i really am interested in learning – it doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or a girl, i just want to learn?!”
          • first, make some asian dude friends – they might help your game
          • second, i don’t care! pretend if you must! you have to make her believe it’s HER as an individual that matters and not her asian-ness
      • and finally (for now), i recommended that he should watch or read “the Joy Luck Club”, by Amy Tan
        • sure the acting is terrible
        • but the stories within are representative of many of the issues AW face in north america