According to multiple Canadian news sources the new Canadian $100 bill featuring a female scientist was modified after a focus group looked at the original and said the scientist looked too Asian, thus feeding into a stereotype. Then the Bank of Canada went back and made the figure neutral. When the news got out that this modification occurred, various groups complained. The bill below is the current bill:
According to the Bank of Canada, that figure is ethnically neutral. To my eyes she looks white. To be truly ethnically neutral is probably impossible, but to be at least ambiguous I would suggest darker skin and some wavy or curly hair.
What I found amazing in the stories is that the bank spokesman cited a policy against portraying specific ethnic groups on bank notes. That statement strikes me as odd given the front of the bill.
The gentleman, Sir Robert Borden, is clearly of a certain ethnic group. Did the bank spokesperson mean that when presenting generic scenes they aim for ethnic neutrality? That may be more likely the case given the number of real live historical white people on Canadian money.
On a larger scale, this news leads me to wonder why it is wrong to have representative figures with identifiable ethnicity on currency? I could imagine issues of marginalization developing so there would have to be a mix, but that could be done. I think the opposite, claiming generic ethnicity for the figures is nonsensical. If that is the goal there should be animals or buildings but no people at all. People see race when they look at other people. To try to defeat that impulse is a futile quest.
Now I will have fun imagining American currency without identifiable ethnicity. Good by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Sacajawea. Hello eagle, buffalo, and Statue of Liberty. Wait a second, isn’t she white?
Because the school at which I teach has a White House (named after Cleveland’s White family), I was thinking recently of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay’s poem “The White House” and the difference between a house being called the White House because of color and the house being called that because White is a family name. I was also wondering how Barack Obama’s residence in the White House changes the meaning of the poem.
“The White House” by Claude McKay
Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.
As a genuine, authentic pale person (or melanin impaired if you prefer), I smiled when I read about Allen West attacking a 10% tax on tanning as racist. West, who is African-American stated, ”You want to talk about something that’s really racist? They have a tanning tax..I’m not tanning.” Now this tax is not really an issue for me; if they taxed sunblock on a sliding scale with a higher rate the higher the SPF, then I would have trouble. Nonetheless, I found the assertion unique, outside of affirmative action, one does not often find arguments about government discrimination against white people. The only problem, non-white people tan also, so this is really only as I said, discrimination against the pale of all races.
Now that they are taxing tanning, should I get some of these pills?
Sometimes in doing research for this blog I learn something I totally did not know. Until today I did not know how serious gingerism, prejudice against redheads, can be especially in England. I was not even aware of the term. Check out Gingerism.com for posts on people being harassed and beaten due to hair color. This post from Yahoo talks about how redheads in America do not suffer the same level of persecution and in fact names prominent redheaded entertainers. I think the writer may go a bit too far when he tries to draw parallels between gingerism in England and racism in the USA. For example, he states that even while Queen Elizabeth was in power gingerism still thrived, and even with Barack Obama as president racism still continues. Not knowing enough about the situation in England, I cannot fully speak to that point, but from my provincial American perspective I do not really see an equivalence. Then again there is this news piece about a sperm bank no longer accepting donations from redheads.
Conan O'Brien, an example of overcoming gingerism
Saw an article on canine color bias that begins with the line “Since there is prejudice toward Blacks, is it that hard to believe that this bias extends to the canine world too?” The article then goes on to talk about Black Dog Syndrome (BDS), its definitions and the question as to whether it exists. The tie to the black hat for evil, white hat for good cowboy movie tradition also appears. There seem to be so many variables here, that I cannot really give much credence to BDS; in fact, I thought this was an early April Fools joke or escapee from The Onion. I guess this sort of supposed bias is an issue, but should I worry about color stereotyping next fall when I link witches and black cats.
Who could be biased against this dog?