By Craig Funston
I don’t know if you missed me or not, but I recently spent a few days in Richmond, BC. That was my home for my toddler years, my Grades 1–12, and most of my post-secondary education. Once I got smart enough, I left Richmond the year I got married—1981, I believe.
I have made the occasional visit back to Richmond over the decades; having a mother there will do that every time.
The Richmond I was raised in was full of open spaces (vegetable fields and cow pastures), single family dwellings (just the odd apartment and high rise), ditches (though they were more like small canals), and a few clusters of ethnics here and there.
Ethnics? The Japanese, for example, were the heart of the then-sleepy fishing village of Steveston, until the beginning of World War II–and you know what happened to them. Few ever came back.
Other than that, there was the usual mix of immigrants and (grand)children of immigrants. That would make me a grandson of immigrants who chummed with other grandsons of other immigrants. I didn’t know any better than to enjoy their company.
I am grateful to say that I still do, no matter what their colour or culture is, and no matter how I come across in this column.
The Richmond I visited recently could have easily been mistaken for Taipei, Hong Kong, or Bejing. Between the heavy influx of Chinese from Hong Kong twenty years or so ago, plus the shuffle from mainland China in recent years, there has been a disproportionate amount of Chinese nationals move into Richmond.If we ackowledge them—say, skin colour, culture, food preferences, religion, and language—we are seen as racist. How ironic: What could rid us of racism apparently labels us with racism.
I hope I can still say that without sounding racist. I’m just stating a fact, not an opinion.
I also wanted to make a crack about making a phone call, but was afraid I might “Wing” the “Wong” number. (I think I better hold off, just in case the Politically-Correct Police might nab me.)
I have heard that Richmond is now about 75% Chinese. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Is that a bad thing to even point out? I don’t think so. They need to live somewhere, too, and Richmond is as good a place to live as any. I know they are shrewd buyers, good students, and hard workers, so that can’t help but help.
And they pay well for their houses: One reason that Vancouver’s real estate market is so out of control is because of these foreign investors. Richmond, being a Vancouver suburb that it is, has many of the same dynamics.
I agree that we need to envelope cultural diversity, maybe just not lose our heads over it. I think it’s great, and the Filipino and Korean service clerks here in the South are are a case in point.
Can I even say that without sounding racist? I surely hope so.
If I slip in a negative adjective (such as “stupid,” or “ugly,” or some other racial slur), then I would be guilty of racism.–but I don’t. Again, I think we should celebrate our cultural differences.
One of the blunders we call “multiculturalism” is this walking-on-eggshells mentality we have developed. I have fallen into that trap myself by asking about “racism” twice already in this column.
For example, to my many Mennonite friends, I am considered “English.” I don’t see that as a slur. That’s just a creative way to show we’re different from each other. I take no offence in that.
Somehow we have developed a complex whereby we can’t talk openly about our differences.
Where I draw the line in Richmond is when I cannot read the signs, because an ethnic segment has taken over a locale. That’s already happening in parts of Germany, Britain, and Sweden.
Oops: Can I say that without sounding racist?