Am I offended by this Globe story on an Asian female scientist not being acceptable on the new $100 bill? Oh, yes. I’m not thrilled that civilized, educated people in this country still believe that you should be able to tell a person’s nationality by the colour of their skin and the shape of their eyes.
The details the story brings isn’t encouraging:
The Strategic Counsel conducted the October 2009 focus groups in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, at a cost of $53,000.
The Toronto groups were positive about the image of an Asian woman because “it is seen to represent diversity or multiculturalism.”
In Quebec, however, “the inclusion of an Asian without representing any other ethnicities was seen to be contentious.”
One person in Fredericton commented: “The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t rep(resent) Canada. It is fairly ugly.”
Now, there are those who might argue that the design of legal tender is no place for the expression of a political idea. Sad to say, any imagery on government currency has to be seen as an expression of a nation’s shared values, and selecting those images is the realm of politics.
I think what bothers me about this is the idea that I, a citizen of Canada born in B.C., am still being judged as “not representative of national values” purely by virtue of physical appearance. Surely that attitude should have disappeared from our national psyche by now, right?
And then I look at Pauline Marois, and realize that society still has a long way to go.