Semotiuk: What Is The American Identity And How Should Immigrants Be Absorbed?

From Canadian immigration lawyer practicing in the USA, ending his commentary on a Canadian note:

It is no exaggeration to say that the United States always was, is now and always will be a nation of immigrants. From the first migrants who crossed the Bering Strait to Alaska and migrated down the West coast, possibly as early as around 20,000 years ago, to today’s immigrants coming from all the four corners of the earth, America was built by immigrants. In a sense, America is like a huge puzzle, completely finished on one end, but continually growing as new pieces are added to the other, representing newly arriving immigrants.

American Identity

These new immigrants are continually changing America’s identity. It is often said that America is a melting pot in which newly arrived immigrants merge with those already here to produce a new breed of Americans. To draw an analogy, the idea is that integrating new immigrants is like baking a cake. The ingredients of flour, shortening, eggs and sugar are mixed together to bake the American cake. Contrast that view, with say that of Canada’s, that sees itself as a cultural mosaic of brightly colored bits of ethnicity, culture, racial identity and language embedded side by side. These visual metaphors attempt to portray each country’s policies and how they incorporate new immigrants into their societies. Critics of these older formulations advance the notions of diversity and inclusion as better views on how immigration and cultural policies should deal immigrants to their societies.

Personal Identity

Just as immigrants are changing the identity of America, however, the country is also changing the identity of immigrants. Consider that on the first day of arrival on American soil, immigrants bring with them their identities forged back home. These identities may include a different language, culture, religion, dress and values – differences that are not ‘normal’ in North America. In time, many immigrants adapt and take on the ways of the majority in America. An example is that male Sikhs sometimes abandon their turbans and clothes and cut their hair. Externally they may look more like other typical Americans, but inside they may still identify with the Sikh faith and customs. By and large, such immigrants love America and are glad they were allowed to come here. Yet many also love their former homeland as well. There is nothing strange or wrong here: just as one can love her mother and father at the same time, she can also love America as well as Italy, for example, if that is where she is from.

What’s In A Name?

An interesting portrayal of how America influences personal identity is in former President Barack Obama’s book A Promised Land. While he was native born, as he grew up he was called Barry Obama. It was only later in life, as he came to grips with his identity that he changed his name to Barack Obama. This is a common identity experience – many Chinese immigrants adopt English first names to better cope with life in English-speaking America. I myself vacillate between Andy in everyday settings, and my native Andriy, related to my Ukrainian origins.

Being True To Yourself

The underlying question is can you live in America as your true self and still be an American? Or is America the kind of country that expects you to change your identity to ‘fit in?’ In other words, do you have to surrender your cultural identity to become an American? More importantly, is America welcoming when it comes to speaking other languages, or does America expect you to effectively forget your native tongue and just speak English? There are Americans with very different answers to these questions and different expectations related to newcomers to this country. This is what needs to be settled for America to find her way in these troubled times.

A Different View of America

Never was this difference in views about America more evident than in the presidency of Donald Trump. His evident hostility to Mexican and Muslim immigrants, and his apparent empathy, or at least tolerance, for those who want a White America, resulted in clashes on the streets of many cities and in Washington D.C. that seriously tarnished America’s image abroad. The efforts of historic figures like Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant to eradicate white supremacists, not to mention the American civil war fought in part to put the legacy of slavery behind it, appeared to be forgotten. Even the efforts of more modern political leaders, like those of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, President Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were all set back by the recent policies of the Trump administration. It may take years for America to heal and return to honoring its founding creed.

A Return To America’s Founding Creed

But return it must. The days of a country with a single race, single religion and a single culture are gone. They disappeared with the end of World War I and the collapse of the great empires that dominated world politics back then: Tsarist Russia, Austro-Hungary, and the Ottoman and German empires. Today America has no choice but to transform itself into the multi-ethnic, multiracial and diverse country it needs to be to play a leading role in the modern, multinational, multilingual and secular world. It is time for Americans to return to their founding principles in that regard.

Source: What Is The American Identity And How Should Immigrants Be Absorbed?

How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

Interesting:

The Rolodex of terms that can describe identity seems to expand and change on a steady basis. So, how do dictionaries both physical and online keep up? Sometimes they don’t.

The term “BIPOC” meaning Black, Indigenous and people of colour, has become the topic of many explainers since June, when this year’s racial reckoning began after George Floyd’s death. According to the New York Times, BIPOC was first used on social media by a Toronto-based account in 2013. Yet the date stamp on Merriam-Webster’s entry for “BIPOC” is just Sept. 3, 2020, and Google has yet to generate its own dictionary landing at the top of search.

It took some time for the word “racialized” to move from academic papers to colloquial use. Even as it has become more common, it’s a toss up if it can be typed out free of a crimson spell check flag depending on the online browser or platform being used.

And according to Merriam Webster’s online time traveller tool, which shows the year words were first recorded, “genderqueer” first appeared in 1995, but when typed into the messaging app Slack, it generates a red underline.

Kory Stamper is a New Jersey-based lexicographer and author of the book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.” Stamper said that the challenge is that many English-speaking countries have set up the dictionary as an authority on language, which is not the case.

“As a lexicographer, you’re always way behind. You’re basically behind (language), picking up the crumbs, so that you can follow where it’s heading,” she said. Dictionaries record a snapshot of language at a particular time, she adds.

Even for words that are age-old but in need of updating, it’s still a process. Stamper once had to update the definition for “god” which hadn’t been updated in 60 years when she was an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. It took her four months.

For a term like “BIPOC” to enter the dictionary, it has to come across a lexicographer’s desk, have a good amount of printed uses, and is ultimately a subjective decision of that worker and the dictionary, if it’s widely used enough to make the cut. And from there, a lot of thought consideration and research is required to make sure that the definition crafted is nuanced and does the word justice.

But just because a word hasn’t made it through this process, doesn’t mean it’s not a real word or accepted term.

“Just because a word is not in the dictionary, does not mean it is not a word,” Stamper said. “That just means that a lexicographer has not found enough evidence or the production cycle has not moved quickly enough (for it to be entered).” If two people are having a conversation, and they understand the meaning of the words they are using, they are using real words, she said.

Still Stamper thinks about what out-of-date tech and dictionaries can mean for people who aren’t native English speakers.

Once, she typed out “person of colour” and got a grammar suggestion which recommended “coloured person,” a phrase that has long gone out of fashion and leans more offensive, in North America today.

Stamper said that while she and a good amount of people are aware that “people of colour” isn’t grammatically incorrect, and is a fixed phrase, she still thinks of people who may be learning English as a foreign language and may be heavily reliant on these prompts. “Would I have enough knowledge of the nuances of the language to know?”

As for the spell check inconsistencies, Vancouver-based software engineer Dawn Chandler notes that tech companies don’t all refer to the same dictionaries or data sets to operate these tools. Nor do they publicly share exactly what those algorithms are.

There would always be a chance of a lag or bias depending on where the data is being collected from, Chandler said. “Dictionaries are written to record and reflect the language people use.” Still, she said, “they can’t capture languages in every region, in every subculture.”

Kola Tubosun is a linguist currently based in the U.K. who created an online dictionary of Yoruba names after noticing that computers often red-underlined common Yoruba names, and also disregarded tonal accents necessary to write them correctly. He advocates for Nigerian languages to be more accessible and recognized through tech. He’s noticed, for example, that in Nigeria, ATMs are usually only in English, which ends up discouraging Nigerians who only speak local dialects from using banks.

Tubosun does note that media in North America, whether publications or dictionaries, do pay attention to new words, new ways of speaking, the language, the interpretation.

One instance he’s noticed where there can be tech and dictionary gaps in English, are in cultural colloquialisms. A phrase like “see you next tomorrow” which is commonly used in Nigerian culture and means “the day after tomorrow” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2020. But with or without the dictionary recognition, it is still a phrase with a fixed meaning.

“There are many levels in which words get adopted and accepted,” he said.

Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering inequity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: afrancis@thestar.ca

Source: How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

How Hispanics see themselves varies by number of generations in US

Interesting how identity changes over generations, not atypical for many with immigrant ancestry:

The terms Hispanics in the United States use to describe themselves can provide a direct look at how they view their identity and how the strength of immigrant ties influences the ways they see themselves. About half of Hispanic adults say they most often describe themselves by their family’s country of origin or heritage, using terms such as Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican or Salvadoran, while another 39% most often describe themselves as “Hispanic” or “Latino,” the pan-ethnic terms used most often to describe this group in the U.S.

The terms Latinos use to describe their identity differ across immigrant generations

Meanwhile, 14% say they most often call themselves American, according to a national Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults conducted in December 2019.

The use of these terms varies across immigrant generations and reflects their diverse experiences. More than half (56%) of foreign-born Latinos most often use the name of their origin country to describe themselves, a share that falls to 39% among the U.S.-born adult children of immigrant parents (i.e., the second generation) and 33% among third- or higher-generation Latinos.

How we did this

Meanwhile, the share who say they most often use the term “American” to describe themselves rises from 4% among immigrant Latinos to 22% among the second generation and 33% among third- or higher-generation Latinos. (Only 3% of Hispanic adults use the recent gender-neutral pan-ethnic term Latinx to describe themselves. In general, the more traditional terms Hispanic or Latino are preferred to Latinx to refer to the ethnic group.)

The U.S. Hispanic population reached 60.6 million in 2019. About one-third (36%) of Hispanics are immigrants, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Another third of Hispanics are second generation (34%) – they are U.S. born with at least one immigrant parent. The remaining 30% of Hispanics belong to the third or higher generations, that is, they are U.S. born to U.S.-born parents.

A large majority of Hispanics who are third or higher generation see themselves as typical Americans

The December 2019 survey also finds U.S. Hispanics are divided on how much of a common identity they share with other Americans, though views vary widely by immigrant generation. About half (53%) consider themselves to be a typical American, while 44% say they are very different from a typical American. By contrast, only 37% of immigrant Hispanics consider themselves a typical American. This share rises to 67% among second-generation Hispanics and to 79% among third-or-higher-generation Hispanics – views that partially reflect their birth in the U.S. and their experiences as lifelong residents of this country.

Speaking Spanish seen as a key part of Hispanic identity

What it means to be Hispanic can vary across the group. Hispanics most often say speaking Spanish is an essential part of what being Hispanic means to them, with 45% saying so. Other top elements considered to be part of Hispanic identity include having both parents of Hispanic ancestry (32%) and socializing with other Hispanics (29%). Meanwhile, about a quarter say having a Spanish last name (26%) or participating in or attending Hispanic cultural celebrations (24%) are an essential part of Hispanic identity. Lower shares say being Catholic (16%) is an essential part of Hispanic identity. (A declining share of U.S. Hispanic adults say they are Catholic.) Just 9% say wearing attire that represents their Hispanic origin is essential to Hispanic identity.

The importance of most of these elements to Hispanic identity decreases across generations. For example, 54% of foreign-born Hispanics say speaking Spanish is an essential part of what being Hispanic means to them, compared with 44% of second-generation Hispanics and 20% of third- or higher-generation Hispanics.

For U.S. Hispanics, speaking Spanish is the most important part of Hispanic identity across immigrant generations

Most Latinos feel at least somewhat connected to a broader Hispanic community in the U.S.

About six-in-ten Hispanic adults say what happens to other Hispanics affects what happens in their own lives

For U.S. Latinos, the question of identity is complex due to the group’s diverse cultural traditions and countries of origin. Asked to choose between two statements, Latinos say their group has many different cultures rather than one common culture by more than three-to-one (77% vs. 21%). There are virtually no differences on this question by immigrant generation among Latinos.

Few Hispanics report a strong sense of connectedness with other Hispanics, with only 18% saying what happens to other Hispanics in the U.S. impacts them a lot and another 40% saying it impacts them some. Immigrant Hispanics (62%) are as likely as those in the second generation (60%) to express a sense of linked fate with other Hispanics. This share decreases to 44% among the third or higher generation.

Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Source: How Hispanics see themselves varies by number of generations in US

Quebecers and other Canadians display similar concepts of national identity, according to Concordia researcher

Good summary of an interesting survey, with some similar conclusions as the 2020 Survey of Canadians: REGIONAL PERSPECTIVES on the ECONOMY and CLIMATE CHANGE regarding regional differences being somewhat less pronounced than public and political discourse would have one believe:

It is no secret that Quebec distinguishes itself through its unique culture, particularly its historical and linguistic background.

In a recent study, Antoine Bilodeau, professor of political science in the Faculty of Arts and Science, and University of Ottawa professor Luc Turgeon wanted to address the topic of national identity in Quebec and the rest of Canada. They tackled the question of whether Quebecers hold a more exclusive sense of identity than other Canadians.

Their article, published in Nations & Nationalism, the Journal of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism, examines how majority-group members in Quebec and the rest of Canada define members of their respective political communities.

“We wanted to see how Quebecers define what it means to be a true Quebecer and compare it to how other Canadians define what it means to be a true Canadian,” Bilodeau explains.

The co-authors analyzed a set of “boundary markers,” which Bilodeau explains consist of traits people use to characterize members within their national communities.

“These are mental boundaries that we use to define who belongs inside the national group and who does not,” he says. “Boundary markers are images that people have in their head, so it’s not because you’re a Canadian citizen that other people might see you as such.”

Bilodeau and Turgeon examined two types of boundary markers — ascriptive and attainable characteristics. Ascriptive markers of identity are more hereditary or non-acquirable traits such as ancestry, religion and birthplace. Whereas attainable markers are developed traits such as feelings of belonging, respect for the laws and institutions of the political community and knowledge of national languages.

The researchers examined three ways Quebec and the rest of Canada might differ. Their conclusion? Quebecers and Canadians are quite similar in their approach to defining a member of their national community.

More importance attributed to attainable traits

A total of 3,688 individuals were surveyed — 551 respondents from Quebec with a French mother tongue and 3,137 respondents from the rest of Canada with an English mother tongue.

First, they examined how each group would separate ascriptive and attainable characteristics. Bilodeau explains that Quebecers and other Canadians give relatively more importance to acquired characteristics than other traits.

“In both communities, the main emphasis in defining group membership appears to be on attainable characteristics,” he notes.

“Increasingly, people are putting emphasis on criteria such as feeling like a Canadian or speaking the language, rather than being born or having ancestors from the country.”

Similar value of language

The second aspect they examined was the importance attributed to language.

“We found out that language was not a major point of differentiation between Quebec and the rest of Canada,” Bilodeau notes.

Given the historical and cultural significance around language in Quebec, Bilodeau was surprised to see that it was attributed almost the same importance in Quebec as in the rest of Canada, in the context of defining national identity.

Comparable views on immigration

Bilodeau also points out that group members in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada expressed somewhat similar views toward immigration.

“Respondents expressing a stronger attainable conception of national identity did not provide more positive attitudes toward immigration,” reports Bilodeau. “The effect is not significantly different in Quebec than in the rest of Canada.”

However, respondents who focused on ascriptive traits to determine national identity, such as ancestry and birthplace, tended to have less positive attitudes toward immigration.

“It was quite interesting to see the distinction between those two aspects.”

A rather rigid sense of identity

“The way Quebecers define what it means to be a Quebecer was not fundamentally different than the way other Canadians define what it means to be a true Canadian,” Bilodeau concludes.

And despite the fact that attainable characteristics were overwhelmingly more important than ascriptive ones in both groups, the researchers were extremely surprised by the relatively high support for the ascriptive characteristics overall.

“There is a significant residue of a more exclusive definition of national identity that really puts emphasis on being born here, having spent a lot of time in the country, but also even having ancestry in both Quebec and the rest of Canada,” Bilodeau says.

“For a country that is so proud of its inclusive definition of national identity and its policy of multiculturalism, I’m not sure we’re really there yet.”

Source: Quebecers and other Canadians display similar concepts of national identity, according to Concordia researcher

Why Labeling Antonio Banderas A ‘Person Of Color’ Triggers Such A Backlash

Interesting reflections on identity and who is Latino or Hispanic.

Same issues emerge with respect to Canadian visible minority classifications: Argentine and Chilean are not formally classified as Latin American by StatsCan yet ethnic media regularly portrays Canadian politicians of Argentine and Chilean origin as Latino (e.g., Heritage minister Pablo Rodriguez):

As Oscars night approaches on Sunday, movie fans are being reminded of a persistent diversity problem in the film industry’s most anticipated awards event: Few nominees aren’t white.

Only one person of color was nominated in the acting categories: Cynthia Erivo for her role as Harriet Tubman in the biopic Harriet.

Some media, however, also alluded to another actor as an exception to the #OscarsSoWhite dilemma: Outlets called Antonio Banderas, nominated for best actor for his role in Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory, an actor of color.

The thing is, Banderas is from Málaga, Spain, and does not identify as a person of color. There are nonwhite Spanish people, but this isn’t the case for him.

In an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos in January, Banderas was asked about the controversy. He chuckled and said he prefers to take it with a bit of humor.

“I don’t know what I am,” he told Ramos. “When I’ve gone to the U.S., I’ve considered myself Latino, because those are the people I’ve connected with the most.”

Banderas then recalled filling out an official form in the U.S.: When he went to check the box for “white” under race, he was told that was wrong, that he was Hispanic.

“I said, ‘Hispanic isn’t actually a race,’ ” Banderas told Ramos, but he went ahead and checked the Hispanic box. “Great, I’m happy to be Hispanic, Spanish, Latino, and if I’m a person of color, well then I’m a person of color.”

The idea that Banderas is a white European may be obvious to many, especially those in the Latinx community, but it’s not the first time a white Spaniard has been referred to in the U.S. as a “person of color” or Latinx.

After all, Spaniards are technically considered Hispanic by the U.S. Census Bureau, which defines the term as “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

And Latinx is a gender-inclusive variation of Latino/Latina, which generally includes any person of Latin American descent.

Banderas has often taken on Latin American roles in movies, including a Mexican mariachi assassin in Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado.

A person of color?

After the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees last month, the news site Deadline wrote that the men’s acting categories “were dominated by white actors with Antonio Banderas being the lone person of color” and later tweeting that “only two actors of color were nominated in the major acting categories.” The publication eventually deleted both comments, although the previous version of the article is on other sites.

Vanity Fair wrote — and eventually deleted — that “while Spaniards are not technically considered people of color, it should be noted” that Banderas was also nominated.

And Reuters initially referred to Banderas and Erivo as the only “not white” actors nominated. The news agency later corrected the mistake, but some publications had already run the original version.

The backlash in Spain has been fierce.

Spanish media pounced on the word choice. Some publications accused the U.S. of having an “absurd obsession” with race. Others criticized Hollywood, saying that it was “convenient” to consider Banderas a person of color to appear more diverse.

To make things more confusing, Spanish media translated “person of color” literally — persona de color — a phrase that, in Spain, isn’t used in the same way as in the United States. While different Spanish-speaking countries have variations of the concept, in Spain the term persona racializada is usually used instead.

To many Spaniards’ ears, persona de color made it sound like Americans were saying Banderas was black. Twitter users made jokes about the term, saying Banderas is a person of color — the color white.

Putting Spanish in the same box

But others thought the term offensive and called it racist.

Juan Pedro Sánchez, 25, who lives in Madrid and weighed in on the Twitter discussion, criticized those who responded negatively, saying the concept of race and ethnicity varies according to where you are. He said Spaniards were all too quick to point out that they’re white.

“A lot of people in Spain are bothered if others confuse them for Latin American because Spaniards see Latinos as people of color, and they don’t want to be associated with that,” Sánchez tells NPR.

He says this confusion happens often to Spaniards traveling outside Spain. He experienced it firsthand when he spent a summer in Chicago in 2017.

“It’s a reoccurring problem — they put Spaniards in the same box as Latinos,” says Sánchez. “What bothers me is not being considered a person of color, but that people ignore that Spain was a colonizer country. It erases that history.”

There’s another part of history that’s sometimes overlooked. Whiteness within Spain itself is complicated. There have been historically marginalized communities, including people with Roma or North African ancestry, who are often considered nonwhite. At times in history, many Spaniards have also felt like the “other” in Europe.

Not just about language

Spanish-speakers have a variety of backgrounds. Many people labeled Hispanic also identify as white, black, Middle Eastern, Indigenous, Asian or any mix of these. But many Hispanic and Latinx people don’t speak Spanish.

Confusion around labels can lead people to assume that someone identifies as Latinx or as a person of color simply because Spanish is their mother tongue, according to sociologist Jennifer Jones at the University of Illinois.

“There’s just a presumption that anyone who speaks Spanish is of a certain background,” says Jones. “I think there’s this interesting slippage, which has happened from the beginning of the invention of the so-called Hispanic category, that it was primarily understood by a lot of folks as about language and less about country of origin.”

Jones says there’s a reason the term Hispanic is so vague. When it was first introduced into the U.S. census in 1980, the idea was to be as inclusive and all-encompassing as possible, so as to not leave out any groups. Before 1980, people of Latin American descent were labeled white by the U.S. government — but by being grouped with whites, there were few statistics on the Latinx community and therefore no way of knowing what its concerns and needs were.

“There wasn’t a lot of consensus about what it meant to be Hispanic in the first place, and so [those lobbying for the term to be created] were kind of reluctant to give very clear parameters around that,” says Jones. “But they realized there was power in numbers to be able to make claims to the state, in terms of resources and support, to create a voting bloc and to get lawsuits around these kinds of issues. So they sort of banded together as a way of asking for a category.”

Linguistic anthropologist Jonathan Rosa at Stanford University says it’s precisely because of this inclusive language that people from Spain can now strategically access certain political and economic markets — and benefit from the ambiguity of the definition of Hispanic.

“People fought really hard to have these categories or to make recognition possible for artistic or athletic or intellectual prowess,” Rosa says. “And I think there’s legitimate concern when someone who isn’t associated with the kinds of histories of marginalization and exclusion … is benefiting.”

Latin music?

He gives the example of Spanish flamenco-trap singer Rosalía, who has won various Latin music awards since her career took off internationally in late 2018: an MTV award for best Latin video, five Latin Grammys and, just last month, a Grammy for best Latin rock, urban or alternative album.

“She then ends up being a sign of these really troublesome layered forms of marginalization where not only is there only one category [for Latinx music] but the only person who can be honored within that category isn’t even associated with the experience that that category was allegedly created to recognize,” says Rosa.

But that experience can be hard to define. Even within the Latinx community itself, people face different kinds of marginalization. Many factors are at play, including race, socioeconomic class and education level. A white, middle-class person from Chile may be treated differently in the U.S. from a working-class person from El Salvador with Indigenous roots.

“Things need to be complicated”

And then there are the different experiences between new immigrants and Latinx people born in the U.S. or whose families have been stateside for generations. What’s more, the terms Hispanic and Latinx have frequently fluctuated to include or exclude different communities and nationalities.

As Banderas notes, in the U.S., Spaniards are considered Hispanic. That may mean that they receive similar treatment to those in the Latinx community.

In Rosa’s view, that’s not as much a problem as the risk of overlooking Spain’s history of colonialization.

“People say you’re making things more complicated, but things need to be complicated,” says Rosa. “I just worry that we end up flattening out history. My goal here is not to police Latinidad [Latin-ness],” he says. “My goal is to draw attention to these power dynamics.”

Source: Why Labeling Antonio Banderas A ‘Person Of Color’ Triggers Such A Backlash

What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit (immigration and diversity)

Not new, but again belies those who believe that he does not believe Canada has an identity:

At a moderated discussion held on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau fielded questions on a wide range of issues related to Canada’s membership in the defence alliance—from the level of Canadian military spending, to how the European Union complements NATO, to his expectation of future migrations of people fleeing hardship.

On immigration and diversity as a foundation of Canadian foreign policy.

Trudeau: “We have learned from people who come to Canada [from] everywhere around the world, whether it’s Afghan refugees, whether it’s Syrian refugees recently, or whether it’s some of the previous generations of people fleeing from Uganda in the Idi Amin years, the boat people from Vietnam, or the wave of migrations we got in the post-World War II years from Europe, we understand tangibly how things could be worse and where things have been bad around the world.

And being able to remember that, or reflect on how we can do better, how we can create a society that is based around values and not identity, based around principles and rights, and opportunity, real and fair chances for everyone to succeed— those kinds of principles, I think, are going to be extraordinarily important in the 21st century as we get flows of migrations of people looking for better lives, people fleeing resource depletion, environmental calamities and conflicts.”

Source: What Justin Trudeau had to say at the NATO summit

Is Canada a nation or a notion? Kingwell

As always, Kingwell both amusing and serious ruminations on Canadian identity (“nation as conversation”), with some worthy suggestions on how to strengthen it:

Those of a certain age may recall the first episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, aired on the BBC in October of 1969. It was called “Whither Canada?” Canada doesn’t actually figure in the episode, naturally. That interrogative, seminar-style phrase was also among the finalists for the legendary comedy troupe’s name. Why? Well, you have to imagine that the question was so inherently hilarious that it seemed appropriate for a gang of clever English absurdists in their 20s.

I think that’s funny, but not everyone does. And we’re still whithering on. You go to bed one night thinking that the existence of Canada is a more or less a settled issue, or at least one of those things, like Donald Trump’s hair, that are no longer open questions. And then you wake the next morning to headlines about cross-border beer disputes reaching the Supreme Court, and fuel-pipeline arguments that threaten to overturn the confederation. Hands are suddenly wringing. Canada: nation or notion? Provinces: evil or just standing up for themselves? How many best-selling Québécois authors can you name? How far north have you ventured?

We have been on this cultural merry-go-round so many times before that this semi-hysterical discourse about Canadian identity might in fact be what constitutes Canadian identity. In polite Canadian fashion, I acknowledge that this meta-level argument is not original to me. I also note, reputation aside, that Canadians are often more passive-aggressive than polite.

And so the grab-bag of clichés and stereotypes opens, with everyone taking a hockey slash at everyone else’s list. Poutine, hockey, canoes, toques, Ski-Doos (not snowmobiles), distance in klicks, the Hip, couches (not sofas), garbage (not trash), beer, maple syrup, hating Americans, hating Americans hating us, hockey again, maybe some duck-confit poutine this time, snowshoes, anything winter really, eh, oot-and-aboot (in fact, more like oat-and-aboat) and the Mounties always get their man. He shoots, he scores.

You can now add a couple of other parlour games of identity-insecurity. Famous Canadian who succeeded elsewhere! Bieber, Jepson, Rogen, Mitchell, Young; Trebek, Nielsen, Carrey, Meyers, Sutherland, The Shat and all those people who run New York magazines. For the olds, Hume Cronyn, Raymond Massey and Mary Pickford. Spot fictional Canadian characters – Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited, Richard Hannay in The Thirty-Nine Steps, Frances in The Sun Also Rises. Keep a chart!

Next, map your national travel. As a brat of the Air Force and a blessed adult traveller, I’ve been lucky to go from St. John’s to Tofino and lots of places in between. As a teenager, I was a guest of the Bloodvein First Nation in central Manitoba, which felt a lot farther north, at 51 degrees, than Edmonton does at 53, or Lake Waskesiu at just under 54, two other stops I’ve made. Sadly, I was only ever north of 60 in Reykjavik – hipster north. This game is what Glenn Gould called “northmanship,” one of those competitions that you can’t win for losing. I’m pretty sure that my neighbours in Toronto’s Regent Park won’t feel they ever need to play it, for example. The local basketball team, meanwhile, claiming the motto “We the North,” is actually situated farther south than two of its American competitors. Canada, where north is a state of mind.

Nation-states may be defined many ways, from textbook-version ideas such as a distinct land mass defensible at the borders and an identifiable citizenry. Or shared bloodline, ethnicity, history and culture. Or an enforceable monopoly on the legal use of force. Or maybe the set of laws themselves which govern a populace. Or even, at a minimum, a scheme of swapping taxes for services in a more or less reliable way.

As a loose confederation of regions and jurisdictions, assembled over a period of more than 80 years, Canada is an unlikely country, yet not an impossible one. The optimists among us find it impressive that such a place exists at all, let alone with sustaining vitality. Like so many other Western states, it was founded on force, money and colonial bigotry. There are deep wounds in our body politic, but so far they fall short of fatal ones. There is no monoculture here, as we all know, nor even a myth of one when vast differences become obvious, marked in red and blue.

This vaporous quality of the country has led many people to label Canada a postmodern, or postnational, or postpatriotic country. We might debate the possible meaning of those terms forever. I prefer to think that Canada survives as a collective act of suspended disbelief, a feat of constant reinvention. Call it the discursive state, or the nation as conversation – not always polite conversation, indeed, yet civil in the sense of confronting disagreement without violence.

Even the current pipeline dispute is subject to the judgment of the courts, after all, and while a decision there could leave nobody happy, that’s how liberal justice works. Parties to dispute accept the authority of an outcome because that is what a just regime demands. Equalization payments and national pensions enrage some citizens, just as threats of secession have done and may well do again. Even secession could not be achieved by provincial fiat, however. We came together through deal-making and discussion, and so far the deal continues.

A country can’t be all talk, though. What would bolster the national consciousness practically? Well, there should be compulsory national service for young people, as in Austria, Switzerland and other countries. Those not willing to serve in the military can opt for national parks, tree planting or community assistance. Guaranteed basic income is likewise essential, even if flawed. Wealth inequality is a much more divisive force in Canada than provincial haggling will ever be – not that the two aren’t sometimes related.

Although education is a provincial file, college and university tuition should be equalized from coast to coast. Likewise – sorry Alberta – we need a consistent sales tax, not just GST. A civics and history curriculum must be standardized for every high school in the land. National debating and youth-parliament programs, which already exist, should be funded lavishly. Subsidies should be available for all students to visit Ottawa.

The list could go on, and some are dreams destined for failure. But no practical measure will matter unless there is decisive leadership in Ottawa and respect for the rule of law everywhere else.

The current Prime Minister’s father was much criticized for his staunch nationalism. Cranky Westerners can still be coaxed into apoplexy with mention of the National Energy Program, official bilingualism or progressive immigration policies. (Not just Westerners.) What we should remember is that Pierre Trudeau’s vision of the Just Society was a powerful vision of equity without leveling differences or diminishing opportunity. It was an idea to connect the country in a manner more concrete than the airwaves of the CBC ever could – and can still less now.

Justice is long and hard work, never-ending, the work of citizens. In our increasingly networked and decentralized lives, we may only rarely consider citizenship the most important fact about us. Metaphysically speaking, it’s probably not. “Canadian” is not an identity; it’s a relationship.

I have a PhD student, from Whitehorse, who chaffs me for saying I’m proud to be Canadian. I see his point: Despite our habitual complacency, there are depredations and deficits of trust, systemic injustices and cultural bigotry that must be acknowledged. Also poverty and misery everywhere from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to the streets of Inuvik and the dirt roads of Nova Scotia’s South Shore.

No nation is perfect. Our job is not to make Canada perfect, only better.

via Is Canada a nation or a notion? – The Globe and Mail

A Conservative Case for Identity Politics – The New York Times

Jon A. Shields, an associate professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, makes a convincing argument:

How should professors respond to the trend of identity politics that is now roiling American college campuses? Although I am a conservative professor, I recommend making a concession to it by explicitly assigning writers of different races and social backgrounds. Let me explain.

When I was in college, I took a class in logic. There I learned that one should never reject an argument because of the characteristics of the person making it. Instead, one should assess the argument itself on its rational merits. And while I agree that the power of an argument should not depend on the person making it, nonetheless, it does.

I learned that lesson during my first year as a visiting professor at Cornell University. I taught a course on American evangelicals, which attracted a mix of secular and religious students. When we discussed “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind,” a 1994 book by Mark A. Noll about anti-intellectualism in the evangelical tradition, my evangelical students were critical of it. But they were willing to take the book’s thesis seriously because the author was an evangelical.

Perhaps Mr. Noll’s identity shouldn’t have mattered. His historical evidence and the power of his arguments would be worth considering even if he were Catholic, Jewish or secular. But his identity did matter. It mattered because my evangelical students could not simply assume bad faith on the author’s part. They knew Mr. Noll cared about evangelicals as a group of people. Instead of dismissing Mr. Noll as a bigot, my students thoughtfully engaged with his work.

Since then, I have taken identity into account every time I have assigned new books for one of my courses. I currently teach a course called Black Intellectuals, which is focused on debates around racial inequality in the post-civil rights era. It tends to attract progressive students who, in analyzing racial inequality, are drawn to arguments that stress structural obstacles to equality and the enduring power of white racism, especially in our criminal justice system. The course features black authors who do defend that view, but I also teach the work of others who depart from it in some measure, including heterodox thinkers like Thomas Chatterton Williams and conservatives like Jason Riley. Much like my conservative evangelical students at Cornell, my progressive students at Claremont McKenna College are less likely to assume these contrarian black thinkers are acting in bad faith or are motivated by bigotry — even when the thinkers criticize hip-hop culture or defend white police officers. So the students engage the challenging arguments and ideas instead.

As conservatives have long observed and psychologists have since confirmed, human beings are hive-minded animals whose moral judgments are shaped more by sentiments than by reason. Thus, when we are confronted by arguments we disagree with, we can easily find reasons to reject them. The search for disconfirming evidence, however, can sometimes be short-circuited, especially when we feel close to the person making an argument we disagree with. As the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt concluded in his 2012 book, “The Righteous Mind,” if we have “affection, admiration, or desire to please” other people, we lean toward them and attempt to “find the truth” in their arguments. Social proximity matters.

If we want our students to consider the work of authors they’re inclined to disagree with, we professors must take the identity of those authors into account. This doesn’t mean scrubbing all white men from our syllabuses. But when we design an education for our students, we should remember that humans are partial, tribal beings — not rational automatons.

Some readers — especially those on the right — may suspect that embracing identity in this way will only embolden campus radicals. But that objection ignores an important truth: Practicing the new identity politics in the right way can subvert the dogmas that drive its excesses. When students read books by a broad intellectual range of evangelical or female or black authors, for example, they learn that there is no single evangelical or female or black perspective. Disagreements about ideas transcend these social categories.

The left has often placed too much faith in the power of human reason. Conservatives make the same error when they insist that the identities of intellectuals should never matter. The fact is, they do. And they would, even absent new movements on campus.

via A Conservative Case for Identity Politics – The New York Times

‘Racial Impostor Syndrome’: Here Are Your Stories

Have just included a few of the mixed identity anecdotes but as mixed union rates increase, more people will be grappling with these identity issues:

It’s tricky to nail down exactly what makes someone feel like a “racial impostor.” For one Code Switch follower, it’s the feeling she gets from whipping out “broken but strangely colloquial Arabic” in front of other Middle Easterners.

For another — a white-passing, Native American woman — it’s being treated like “just another tourist” when she shows up at powwows. And one woman described watching her white, black and Korean-American toddler bump along to the new Kendrick and wondering, “Is this allowed?”

In this week’s podcast, we go deep into what we’re calling Racial Impostor Syndrome — the feeling, the science and a giant festival this weekend in Los Angeles that’s, in some ways, all about this.

She asked, “Do you hear from other listeners who feel like fakes?”

Good question. So we took it to our audience, and what we heard back was a resounding “yes.”

We got 127 emails from people who are stumbling through that dark, racially ambiguous forest. (And yes, we read every single one.)

Here are excerpts drawn from a few of the many letters that made us laugh, cry and argue — and that guided this week’s episode.

Let’s start with Angie Yingst of Pennsylvania:

“My mother is a Panamanian immigrant and my father is a white guy from Pennsylvania. I’ve always felt liminal, like I drift between race and culture. When I was young (20s) and living in the city, I would get asked multiple times a day where I was from, where my people were from, because Allentown, Pennsylvania, clearly wasn’t the answer they were looking for … It always felt like the undercurrent of that question was, ‘You aren’t white, but you aren’t black. What are you?’

“But truthfully, I don’t feel like I fit with Latinas either. My Spanish is atrocious and I grew up in rural PA. Even my cousin said a few weeks ago, ‘Well, you aren’t really Spanish, because your dad is white.’ Which gutted me, truly. I identify as Latina. I identify with my mother’s culture and country as well as American culture. In shops, I’m treated like every other Latina, followed around, then ignored at the counter. I married a white guy and had children who are blonde and blue eyed, and I’m frequently asked if I’m the nanny or babysitter. And white acquaintances often say, ‘You are white. You act white.’ And I saltily retort, ‘Why? Because I’m not doing your lawn, or taking care of your kids? You need to broaden your idea of what Latina means.’ ”

Jen Boggs of Hawaii says she often feels like a racial impostor, but isn’t quite sure which race she’s faking:

“I was born in the Philippines and moved to Hawaii when I was three. … I grew up thinking that I was half-Filipina and half-white, under the impression that my mom’s first husband was my biological father. I embraced this ‘hapa-haole’ identity (as they say in Hawaii), and loved my ethnic ambiguity. My mom wanted me to speak perfect English, so never spoke anything but to me. After she divorced her first husband and re-married my stepdad from Michigan, my whiteness became cemented.

“Except. As it turns out, my biological father was a Filipino man whom I’ve never met. I didn’t find out until I tried to apply for a passport in my late twenties and the truth came out. So, at age 28 I learned that I was not half white but all Filipina. …

“This new knowledge was a huge blow to my identity and, admittedly, to my self esteem. ‘But I’m white,’ I remember thinking. ‘I’m so so white.’ After much therapy, I’m happy and comfortable in my brown skin, though I’m still working out how others perceive me as this Other, Asian person.”

Source: ‘Racial Impostor Syndrome’: Here Are Your Stories

Are white Canadians becoming conscious of their whiteness? – Terry Glavin

Good long read by Glavin.

While the survey results are interesting, how the questions are posed changes the response. Statistics Canada has grappled over the years with how to formulate its ethnic origin question, with the current version being: “What were the ethnic or cultural origins of this person’s ancestors?” with the following examples and clarification provided:

An ancestor is usually more distant than a grandparent [ordered by frequency of last Census/NHS].

For example, Canadian, English, Chinese, French, East Indian, Italian, German, Scottish, Cree, Mi’kmaq, Salish, Métis, Inuit, Filipino, Irish, Dutch, Ukrainian, Polish, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Korean, Jamaican, Greek, Iranian, Lebanese, Mexican, Somali, Colombian, etc.

The “race” question is the visible minority one, where Glavin is correct that non-visible minorities are by definition white (and very useful in comparing outcomes by minority groups and the “white” majority (which of course are composed of a variety of European ancestries). So in practice, the Census allows people to identify themselves within the majority European origins (the earlier waves of immigrants) and visible minority origins (the last 40 years or so).

Both ethnic ancestry and visible minority can be used to indicate variation in economic and social outcomes (e.g., those of South European ethnic origin have poorer economic outcomes than North European origins).

But his fundamental questions regarding a strengthening “white” identity and its implications are worthy as is his point that debating over terminology (e.g., visible minority, people of colour, radicalized communities) will not address underlying inequality issues (and may, IMO, divert attention to these more substantive issues):

In a McAllister Opinion Research survey of Americans and Canadians carried out this month, Americans are twice as willing—41 per cent of them—to identify “white” as their ethnicity. If you include the response “Caucasian,” a peculiar 18th Century term that also means “white,” the proportion of Americans who identify their ethnicity by these terms rises to 54 per cent (the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that “Non Hispanic whites” made up 64 per cent of the American population in 2010).

In the McAllister survey, only 20 per cent of Canadians identified “white” as their ethnicity, and if you add in “Caucasian,” only 30 per cent of us identify in that way. Contrast that with Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey, which identifies 80 per cent of us as white people (more precisely, StatsCan identified 26,587,570 of Canada’s 32,852,325 non-Indigenous people as “Not a Visible Minority”).

So where did all the white people go?

“It is weird,” Angus McAllister, the survey firm’s director, told me. “What it shows for sure is that Americans are way more obsessed with race than Canadians are.”

The McAllister survey was undertaken from August 13 to August 20—the immediate aftermath of the white-supremacist outrage in Charlottesville, Virginia. The ugly spectacle of marching Nazis and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen sent a great many Americans into paroxysms of alarm. Their despair was compounded by the gleeful allegiance the worst of Charlottesville’s racists pledged to President Trump, and by Trump giving every impression of being content with it. Canadians responded in unanimous revulsion.

McAllister polled a sample of 1,025 Canadians, leaving an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The American sample of 835 Americans falls within an error margin of plus of minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

A couple of other points: McAllister, 56, is a good friend. He’s also Japanese, or “mixed,” or whatever the circumstances demand of him, as he puts it. He’s no stranger to the nuances and ambiguities that tend to get papered over in fashionable uproars about race and identity.

What worries McAllister is something in the survey results’ granular details that is only hinted at in copycat Canadian iterations of far-right American pseudo-journalism, and in the mimicry at work in transgressive Canadian school-renaming and statue-toppling shouting matches. Over time, we’re becoming more like Americans. Or at least some of us are.

Older, well-educated Canadian respondents in McAllister’s survey were the least likely to claim “white” as an ethnic identity. Among Canadians older than 65 with only a university education, only eight per cent identified as white. Among Canadians in that same age bracket with only a high school education, 28 per cent identified as white.

Among Canadians under the age of 45 with a university education, 19 per cent identified as white—the national average. Among Canadians in that age group with only a high school education, 38 per cent claimed a white ethnicity —a proportion that tracks closest to the overall American average.

It’s not as though there’s a large bloc of Canadians who are becoming racists, McAllister cautions. The pull of the American cultural orbit and the mania for “identity politics” have a lot to do with it. An overweening preoccupation with race and ethnicity as identity markers can only exacerbate an unhealthy trend that over time will inevitably expand the number of Canadians who identify as “white.”

Before we were Canadians, the colonial settlers of British North America were British and French. “White” only rarely came into the conversation, and the emancipation of “multiculturalism” allowed the rest of us to find a way to identify with the Canadian mainstream.

We all became used to identifying ourselves as “hyphenated” Canadians, or just Canadians. But unlike people lumped into the Visible Minority category, European immigrants lose their hyphenated old-country identities more easily as each generation supplants its predecessor. Eventually, people who fall within Statistics Canada’s cumbersome Not a Visible Minority category are gradually left with only “white” as an ethnic identity.

In the United States, where “whiteness” makes most sense in the context of slavery, the generational pattern appears to have stalled. To be “white” in America – a political category that began mainly with Englishmen and gradually enveloped other groups, like the Irish, the Italians and the Jews – is to be “not Black.” It is to perpetually hover above the status of the slave, sometimes to the point of perpetuating black slavery by other means.

Among McAllister’s American survey respondents under the age of 45, roughly 45 per cent identified themselves as white. Among Americans 45 years old or older, 60 per cent identified as white.

North of the border, Statistics Canada’s awkward Not a Visible Minority Category works well enough as a signifier for people with comparatively pale complexions, but practically nothing else. It unhelpfully tends to associate “white” privileges and advantages with people whose only commonality is low skin pigmentation.

In small-town Canada, for instance, second and third-generation “white” boys tend to education and income levels far below the prospects for urban, first-generation immigrants in the Visible Minority category. Those rural white boys will all tend to enter the Canadian group in McAllister’s survey who are most likely to identify their ethnicity as “white.”

Even more absurdly, the Not a Visible Minority category is the just the flipside of a classification the United Nations’ Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considers to be quite possibly racist. Intended to protect and advance disadvantaged ethnic and racial minorities along with women, Indigenous people and disabled people, it isn’t working out that way.

For one thing, the term Visible Minority “seemed to somehow indicate that ‘whiteness’ was the standard, all others differing from that being visible,” as the UN Committee’s Patrick Thornbury puts it. For another, the category’s sweeping imprecision is liable to erect more systemic barriers against genuinely marginalized minority groups.

Canadians who have been getting shoehorned into Visible Minority status since the 1980s are by no means uniformly disadvantaged. They never were. East Asians tend towards income and education levels that exceed the Canadian average, for instance, while African-Canadian men face severe disadvantages and marginalization across the board.

The UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination first pointed out these contradictions in an assessment of Canada’s Employment Equity Act a decade ago. In the attempt to bring Canada in line with the UN Committee’s criticisms, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government worked itself into a tizzy of professor-quizzing, workshop-convening and province-consulting, but ended up deciding to leave things as they were. It’s only now that Ottawa is revisiting the matter.

Statistics Canada is taking a lead role in the effort, examining ways to disaggregate data on visible-minority equality indicators like employment rates and income levels. This is long overdue, and mimicking the American custom by simply amending the nomenclature from “visible minority” to “people of colour” or “racialized communities” won’t do.

Over the past decade, in the language of common speech, the term “Indigenous” has almost thoroughly displaced “Aboriginal” to describe Canada’s constitutionally-described Indians, Metis and Inuit peoples. But these same peoples continue to suffer the most vicious extremes of poverty, outrageously high incarceration rates, the most disgraceful levels child suicide, joblessness, and drug and alcohol addiction.

Thinking and speaking more carefully about racism is vital to the purposes of basic civic hygiene in Canada. Mimicking the most dysfunctional American cultural habits will not heal any wounds, and neither will flattering ourselves with proverbs about the strengths to be found in diversity. Being “white,” out of either pride or shame, either as a boast or as a confession, will only wound us all.

Source: Are white Canadians becoming conscious of their whiteness? – Macleans.ca