Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The meaning of a Banana

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  • Evan Yates,

    So if a person of Chinese origin becomes a "banana", then what is the equivalent term for Maori / Pacific Islanders who have undergone the same cultural shift?...

    Potato? ("brown on the outside, white on the inside")

    What do you call people like myself? White on the outside, but partly brown on the inside. Please, try not to prefix your answer with the word "Rotten..."

    Hamiltron, Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Nov 2006 • 190 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    What do you call people like myself? White on the outside, but partly brown on the inside. Please, try not to prefix your answer with the word "Rotten..."

    Ummm ... one of Dick Hubbard's YCRs?

    Yoghurt-Coated Raisin, that is ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    what is the equivalent term for Maori / Pacific Islanders who have undergone the same cultural shift?...

    I've heard the term "Bounty Bar" used.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Fitzgerald,

    Evan
    Never let anyone name you - that's colonisation.
    Remeber PM Spud (Bolger)?
    I'm not sure I'ld be happy identifying with fruit & vege though.
    In a study room at Canty Uni there was a brilliantly drawn manga comic super hero on the wall saying. "Fuck all you white monkey".
    Sounds like someone was doing it a bit hard, but I've loved that saying ever since.

    Since May 2007 • 631 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    what is the equivalent term for Maori / Pacific Islanders who have undergone the same cultural shift?

    In my day they were called Mallowpuffs.

    White on the outside, but partly brown on the inside.

    Try-hards.

    (I mean that with aroha, of course).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • J Wilkinson,

    Are there terms for white people in the same boat?

    What do you call kids born in NZ to white south african parents? Dutch parents? etc...

    These kids also slip between two cultures but generally don't labelled.

    Their parents might, sure, but do their kids?

    Grafton • Since Feb 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I think the term "Banana" is a play on the term "Oreo" referring to the same situation about African-American people in the USA - and this has been around for a long, long time. No doubt everyone here is too young to remember the show Mod Squad but I'm pretty sure I remember Linc saying it to someone who wasn't a plain clothes cop, as the Mod Squad were. And certainly it predates that, probably from someone's standup routine. I know it's a really perjorative term to use in the USA and Michael Steel (the Governer of Maryland) was pelted with Oreos by disgruntled voters, as he's a really right-wing, racist politician for anyone, let alone an African-American. He supports the death penalty, for instance. The Oreo pelters were trying to offend, not amuse.

    As for Chinese families who choose not to educate their children in any Chinese heritage - language most obviously, as language is culture - the members of my family who made this decision did not do so lightly. Growing up in Canada - which is a racist country once you scratch the surface - my Aunt Valerie (Cantonese heritage, born in Canada) choose not to let either of my cousins study Cantonese, though it was offered locally and for free.

    My Uncle Hugh (Scottish heritage, born in Canada) really wanted Barbara and Carolyn to take the classes, but their Mum thought it would only make them targets for prejudice. She was whitening them up, just as my Metis (half French half Cree) Mum did with us, and as my husband Paul's Maori Mum did with her children. They thought they were sparing us racist treatment. I can remember my Mum saying how lucky I was I could pass for white - and my Dad saying "Don't put racist ideas in the child's head" and her replying "That's all very well from your lily-white perspective, Ian".

    My cousins and I have speculated whether we admire fair hair and blue eyes so much because we were indoctrinated with the idea by our white-fixated mothers or if it's an actual genetically driven preference. The writer Sherman Alexie has written brilliantly on this in his essay Why I Hate Tonto. Someone wondered why anyone would try to appear whiter than they were in another discussion, well, this is why.

    Before anyone objects to me calling Canada "racist" I would have to say whatever effort Canada has been making, you don't have to look very deep to find racism there. though I had forgotten that, having had to deal with some pretty repellent comments when I first arrived. Canada is much, much more circumspect when it comes to saying things out loud, so to speak. My cousin visited me here, and I was complaining New Zealand was racist (I think I may have said "white kook capital of the world") and she said it seemed to her that Canada and New Zealand were equally racist, it's just that it seemed kosher to be racist and out in New Zealand. On reflection, remembering my Mum's treatment for instance, I had to agree, though coming from a culture where any whiff of racism is much, much worse than any political correctness, it doesn't prepare a person for the the social norms in New Zealand where the reverse is true.

    But then if it hadn't been shocking to a Canadian sensibility, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of watching my Dad's shock and horror at some of the the tv ads he saw here, and I have to say there are few things funnier in this world than a really shocked old white guy.

    This reminds me of a very memorable family thanksgiving dinner where my sister's extremely opinionated elderly New York Jewish mother in law was a guest, and at a table full of my Japanese, Chinese and Cree relatives - all named Campbell and related through the Scottish side of the family - she loudly opined to my sister "SHIRLEY YOU SHOULDN'T WEAR YELLOW... IT MAKES YOU LOOK SO 0RIENTIAL"

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Ah - resurgent nationalism. Creeps the hell outta me.

    It's a shame that this "with us or against us" attitude is alienating Chinese international students from the local Chinese, though to be fair, the prejudice goes the other way, too.

    And as I understand it, the term is traditionally "coconuts", while "bounty bar" is a more modern, urban variation of that.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Heather Gaye,

    the term is traditionally "coconuts"

    No, I'm pretty sure that's just a pejorative for islanders in general.

    Under the western motorwa… • Since Nov 2006 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I guess it's different for Brits. I doubt that any more of my friends are British than the national average (about 5% maybe) - I don't even realise someones from the UK sometimes (unless they talk Geordie or something).

    With the Skykiwi stuff (is the word "Sky" significant to Chinese?) I think one shouldn't assume that those who rant on websites are representative. I think that most migrants keep what they want out of their old and new nations - and what's wrong with that?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4424 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Yeah? I thought it was the whole brown on the outsided, white on the inside.

    Or maybe it's a contested term:

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=coconut

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 530 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    I agree with Heather, Keith. I've never heard "coconut" used in the way you suggest.

    In your urban dictionary link, meaning 2 is the New Zealand usage, all the others are clearly non-New Zealand, with their references to groups that are not salient minorities in NZ (like Mexicans and Filipinos).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I'm with Stephen & Heather, when I was growing up in Tokoroa you didn't call someone a coconut because they acted like a palangi.

    Actually you didn't call someone a coconut full-stop if you wanted to keep all your teeth.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Their parents might, sure, but do their kids?

    Yes, because kids are nasty little pack animals who will jump on anything 'funny" (like speaking heavily-accented English or a foreign language with their peers, or a weird name - especially one you can make a grubby pun of) to establish a pecking order. Don't think that's racism though - just petty nastiness most people grow out of, or at least learn to hide under the polite hypocrisy that makes life tolerable.

    And, like Keith, I really wish some folks would keep their 'resurgent nationalism' (and their bizarre standards of racial/ethnic authenticity) to themselves. And with all due disrespect, Dyan, if I ever stand for public office anyone who comes for me with Oreos or Bounty Bars will get a smack for wasting perfectly good food as well as their crapulent racism.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11877 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    No, I'm pretty sure [coconut's] just a pejorative for islanders in general.

    like stephen says, use that label at your peril.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2024 posts Report Reply

  • kowhai montgomery,

    I concur, I just wouldn't use it.

    My cousins seem to take the "I can use this word cause I am an islander" approach but from my high school experiences I would never use the term coconut. It always seemed slightly worse that FOB on the scale of insults.

    wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 485 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    That was Jeremy who said that. But I reckon we should avoid calling people names because it's rude and wrong, not because we fear a smack in the teeth...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2936 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    I would never use the term coconut. It always seemed slightly worse that FOB on the scale of insults.

    Yeah, FOB can be used affectionately. I'll never forget that when I went to a rapping competition in South Auckland in 1989 to scout talent for a dance party I was doing, there was an outfit called Run FOB. They weren't much good but the name was brilliant.

    But yeah, my recall of "coconut" is definitely as a derogatory term for all PIs.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Don't think that's racism though - just petty nastiness most people grow out of, or at least learn to hide under the polite hypocrisy that makes life tolerable.

    Work on that sentence a little and it has the germ of brilliance.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18725 posts Report Reply

  • J Wilkinson,

    Craig - you seem to misunderstand; I meant that kids born in NZ who are white with immigrant parents don't have labels applied to them.

    They have kiwi accents, they are free to practice their parent's cultural practices if they want and they don't get labelled.

    By either side...

    Grafton • Since Feb 2007 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • dylan,

    We don't get labelled because if you strip away the accent/language the differences are incredibly subtle and impossible to detect through casual observation (except when the clogs give it away).

    netherlands • Since Nov 2006 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Clayton,

    I've been teaching Chinese international students at university for about six years, and have observed as much diversity of opinion about their own identity and culture, as well as that of others', as I've observed in any other group of students (which is to say, a lot). This, of course, is hardly surprising!

    In the early days of the international student boom (the early 2000s) when a class of international students could be 99 or even 100% mainland Chinese, my students who held strongly nationalist views were definitely the most forthcoming, but there was just as much reflective thinking and as many differences of opinion more generally, as there were students who proclaimed "my country, right or wrong".

    In general, the main point of difference these students identified between themselves and New Zealand-born Chinese (at least to me) was not of language but of culture: specifically, that children of families whose members left China prior to 1949 had a substantively different sense of "China" to the post-'49ers.

    Language was a second point of difference, in regard to non-Chinese speaking locals, but southern Chinese students who spoke little or no Mandarin have also expressed to me a sense of feeling disconnected from or marginalised by their peers (ditto non-Han Chinese students).

    I'd also note that "Chinese" as we use it in New Zealand is an umbrella term, referring to one or more of nationality, culture, language and ethnicity. A person can have all, some or none of these, and presumably their experiences will be different accordingly. Likewise, we can say "Chinese" and mean all, some, or maybe even none of these things (Chinese burn or Chinese whispers, anyone?) and create confusion thereby, if we think we're talking about the same thing when we're not.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 50 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Most people do exactly the same thing when abroad and outnumbered. They huddle together, and accuse anyone who's integrated of having 'gone bush' or sold out, or lost their identity. And they dress up home like it's more than it was.

    Pretty normal really. Kind of sad too - it's not really their business why or how someone would choose to integrate. I think it's mostly motivated by fear, that they feel scared of the society they find themselves in and get bitter on anyone who willingly makes their self-appointed membership group smaller.

    I mean why should I get berated for not keeping up with my Irish and Scots background? Learning Gaelic and how to play the bagpipes just aren't high priorities for me, even though it's only been 3 generations.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8326 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I'd also note that "Chinese" as we use it in New Zealand is an umbrella term, referring to one or more of nationality, culture, language and ethnicity

    Which has changed and is changing with more exposure to Chinese and Asian people and culture.

    As far as my mother-in law is concerned, anyone from Mongolia to Indonesia and across to Myanmar is "Chinee". She's old school.
    Kiwis of my generation are more likely to be able to distinguish Korean from Chinese, from Malaysian, from Thai, etc. If only by the food.

    My kids will be even more globalised, their school has more Korean kids than Maori, my youngest's best mates are boy from Pakistan, one from somewhere middle-eastern (I'm guessing northern middle-east, but I don't know - but we now know more about halal food than we used to - McD's ice-cream bad, but Wendy's is OK), a french kid and I think a kiwi lad as well.

    We inherit a lot of baggage from our parents' generation as kids, then as we grow up, we either settle into the same ruts, or we compare that knowledge with what we find in the world, and build ourselves a new set of baggage to pass onto our kids. Hopefully a lighter set of luggage.

    When I was at primary school 'Arab' was an abstract concept involving deserts & camels. 'Jew' was a derogatory term for someone who kept wanting a bit of your lunch. 'Chinese' was very exotic, and referred to sweet & sour wontons and chop suey.
    Over time I worked out that Arabia hasn't been a country for a long time, but the region has a much longer history of civilisation than anywhere my ancestors have called home. I had several friends who after a while turned out to be Jewish, and bore no resemblance at all to Shylock or whatsisname from Oliver Twist. I met plenty of Chinese students at high school and Uni, both fresh off the plane and first gen (spent a nice few days canoeing down the Wanganui River with one, which his parents didn't quite see the point of when he should have been studying, of course I couldn't see the point of all that studying when he was already dux).

    Long story short, kids are dumb, but they can learn.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Actually over here in London FOB seems to be used quite a bit amongst us temporary economic migrants, in reference to ourselves of course.

    Re SkyKiwi - Well, find me a large forums community with heaps of teenagers or twenty somethings that doesn't sometimes get filled with vaguely (and sometimes not even vaguely) repugnant racist crap and I will be impressed, then eat my hat.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 881 posts Report Reply

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