Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Bananas.... (long pause)

Bananas. Bananas are a fruit. They grow on short trees in semi- to tropical climes. in North America, they are generally shipped here from countries like Ecuador, Panama, Cuba and the like. 

This is not exactly what I had in mind when I started ranting with "Bananas" in the subject. Let me explain.

In grade 8 when I first went to high school (in my district there was only one "Junior High") there was this gorgeous little girl, Pam Terrai. Pam was the daughter of the Algebra teacher. Mr. Terrai was the son of a Japanese Fishing family who lost everything during their internment during WW2. I never met Mrs. Terrai, but she must have also been of Japanese blood, because they created a beautiful daughter in Pam. It was her that I am sure sparked my infatuation with Asian culture (especially Japan).

Not to go into my entire life's history (right now), lets just say that I am quite happy with my family, my dear wife who is a Japanese import (remastered from analog), my young son (now 10!) who has travelled to and from his Japanese Grandparents more times than I have. 

Bananas! I'm getting there! Please have patience.

I was not familiar with this term until I met Nami. We've all heard of the term OREO (maybe not... "A person of brown or chocolate skin pigmentation who has more "white" cultural attributes than what are more normally associated with his or her skin colour"). Well, my wife used the term "Banana" when describing one of my (our) dear friends, Johnny. After slowly grasping the meaning of her words, it all fits. She says that "banana" is a term coined in Japan used to describe the third generation ex-pats living in America and Canada. It's not as derogatory as it sounds, however. As some of the Japanese (as well as Korean, Chinese, Laotians etc.) strive for this outcome. My wife Included (up to a point... we'll get there later). 

Let's use my friend John as an example. Quick Caveat: I honour and respect my friendship to Johnny, and am not trying to defame him or his family in any way. If I do them any disservice, let me apologize now. John's history is that of many who are Canada. Son of two immigrants who settled here, worked hard, made something for themselves and raised a thriving family.

Here's where my rant begins. (get yourself a beer now).

In the time after WW2 when we repealed some of our antiquated Immigration policy and families like John's chose Canada, they came to be a part of a new beginning! And to prove this they named their children accordingly etc.

John's Parents in their late-sixties wisdom, like so many "visible minority" families of that generation decided to leave their respective "Cultures" on the tarmac. They would only speak English at home. They would try to assimilate into their new country's culture as much as possible. They wouldn't force their children to 'date only your own' etc. They essentially did a good job creating another kid in the world of Canada. Kudos!... -Kawai-so! (What a shame!) In doing this they may have stolen the chance for John and his brother to connect to a wonderful, diverse heritage. 

This can be seen today in many of the immigrant cultures choosing to call Canada home. There are many Koreans and Chinese who, once here start by giving their kids "Western" names. "Michelle" "Lucy" 
"Tim" "Mike" and the like. Not that we have any given right to have these names either, many of them having a biblical reference. However having rented rooms in our house for many years, the last Korean girl who lived with us "Elena" (actually named Sunsil!) probably was not named after the Greek Helen or any other reason, other than her dad opened an English book and pointed.


Lot's of Asian (oriental) Canadians now fall into this epithet. Yellow on the outside, but white in the middle. My son, Hyoga, is soon to grab this one as well (although he still looks too white to me). 

My wife, Nami and I are daring to ensure that the Boy has an equal grasp of "both" cultures (not sure what mine is, exactly... Irish? English? Icelandic? Mutt?). We speak half-and-half at home and make sure he can do the same. 

Let's drop all Hyphens; "Japanese-Canadian". Gone. I tell Hyoga "you are Canadian!" "You are ALSO Japanese!" No more Oreos, no more Bananas, no more "African-Americans", no more "French-Canadians". No more pre-conceived notion of what to expect from people before you meet them. The more that some of us try to remove all bigotries, the more minorities cling to their own self-imposed status.

Be proud of your heritage. Accept your Country for what it IS. If you must be a "Hyphen" then I hope you would chose the name of the country of actual residence first; "Canadian-Japanese" (not quite the same ring, but...).

My wife is going to be one of the "New" style of Immigrants that I think we'll see more of here. She has told me that she will never seek to become a "Citizen of Canada", preferring "Landed Immigrant". Her reasons are completely reasonable. If she becomes a Canadian, then Japan will never issue her a passport or let her own land in Japan (thus making it impossible for her to inherit). 

So, as white as she becomes in her politics (not accent! you should hear her try to say "Blues Traveler" still makes me pee!) she will always be Japanese! No Hyphens!

By the way, I'm a "Hard-boiled Egg". So says Nami.

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