What does ‘race’ mean to me…

This week’s reading: History of Education by F.V.N. Painter (1886)

Why people at this time desperately needed to create and define race in hierarchical sense? Perhaps the world as people knew it was expanded rapidly and first class citizens need to ensure the others the superiority over the rest of them. I see this similar behaviour in the history of Japan as well; the government’s propaganda of superiority of Japanese race over other Asian racial groups, to invade into China and other Asian countries… Ignoring the facts that we have same trait.

The worst part of teaching ‘race’ in hierarchical sense in this time period was that the teachers did not question (or could not question) what was presented to them from the government. Perhaps, it was a part of ‘common sense’ not to question nor disobey the authority. 100 years later, we can question and challenge this if we chose to. And it is up to us, student-teachers find ways to do that comfortably.

What does ‘race’ mean to me… has changed and evolved over time. I grew up in Yokohama city where the thrive in international trade, yet the schools I went was mono-racial, mono-cultural and mono-lingual. Without being taught in school, we learned to separate ourselves from ‘foreigners’ regardless of nationality, based on the ‘looks’ and called them ‘gaijin (guy-jin).’ As I reflect on my past, I realized that we were quite racist, not in the out in the open bashing ways, but we were quite exclusive. Depending on where each countries stand on the global economy or trade, we treated foreigners different ways as well. There is no doubt that we have ‘white adoration’ in Japan. I had a strong sense of ‘must master English for me’ to be able to become a valuable adult. So for me to choose Canada to immigrate could be trace back to this sense of adoration. Let’s expand on this ‘white adoration’ and Canada. Until I immigrated to Canada, I did not realize how diverse Canada is. Whatever I saw on TV or movies about Canada were representing Caucasian, British or French culture, polar bears, aurora (northern lights), maple… as well, Olympic athletes were mainly Caucasian.

I have been in Canada since 2000. My perspective of ‘race’ has changed.

In my early years of being new immigrant, I didn’t like how people talked (and some still do) about First Nations people, but those exact words became my first impression toward First Nations adults I saw in town. I was afraid. Did not know how to approach to them, so I simply avoided the interactions at first. Fortunately, I have volunteered and worked in schools and I was able to connect with and learn from wonderful First Nations people. I think it is crucial not to pass these stereotyping images to anybody, but especially to children and newly immigrated families in your community.

As an immigrant, I felt very much obligated to represent Japan and to become a model Japanese citizen, so I would not offend or give wrong impression about my country. I guess it was like duty. I was the only Japanese in a rural town and everybody treated me well, but maybe I was like a brand new animal came to a zoo, like a panda. I was never offended though, because I was finally somebody different and unique and perhaps because I finally felt a sense of pride and belonging to the racial group of Asia. I was happy to be recognized as Asian, because it is part of who I am. Perhaps, because the reputations the Asians have… hard working, good with math, polite… and I do have these traits, and that is not a bad thing. (though, I wonder did I try to be that person?)  [some modern Asian Stereotypes & Attributes : I don’t mean to offend anybody, but I cannot be proud of these ones. If you thought about any of these comments, please get to know the person first.]

So now, I am well integrated in Canadian life and I have different feel towards ‘race.’ I see beauty, heritage and culture within individuals, curious about what kind of stories individuals have. My sense of pride is toward my own experiences, traditions and heritage I have as a Japanese and immigrant in Canada, and who I am as individual. We want to create inclusive classroom and celebrate diversity of your students; however, we need to aware of pressures immigrant families have to integrate and sustain their culture at the same time; as well, I must not treat them like a novelty in your community.

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