Ethnicity is a way of defining, differentiating, and organizing around a shared awareness of the common ancestry of socially distinct groups of individuals, such as language, culture, religion, or nationality. It can shape community and identity, as well as can mobilize “like-minded” people into action for gaining social, political, and cultural interests (Fleras, 2012). I am Mainland Chinese. Since that is about a billion people, I have to add a lot more details. I would say that I am Han Chinese. However, that is still not enough because it does not specify my personal identity.
Shanghai is an important part of my identity because I was born in Shanghai. My parents and I can speak its local dialect. Simply put, my ethnicity is Han Chinese and Shanghainese. Also, I can speak Mandarin Chinese and I am a Buddhist. It is the first step that costs troublesome. As a Chinese student first coming to Montreal, Canada for pursuing my undergraduate studies at Concordia University, it was quite challenging to quickly adapt to my new life because of culture shock. To me, language barrier was a hard issue. As the language obstacle progressively became my hardship on a regular basis, I believed that in order to get over the language barrier, improving English while learning French at university should have been given top priority.
Apart from the language barrier, homesickness was my second issue. After arriving in Montreal, I lived in the homestay family, which was far from the downtown area. The hostess was a pastor and she was always busy. While she was going on business for one week, I was experiencing a sudden pang of profound loneliness. I was homesick when I felt alone. I did repeatedly miss my parents, teachers, classmates, friends, and relatives in China.
At that moment, the happiest time of day was to sit in front of my laptop, chatting with my parents and friends through the internet. Furthermore, the alien environment of Concordia campuses was another major obstacle to me. As a freshman, I often got lost on both campuses, having difficulty finding the way to classrooms and accessing to a variety of facilities. Fleras (2012) argued that ethnicity is like a personal identity, referring to his or her own “sense of belonging to or identification with a group or tradition over time, based on commonalities with similar others (p. 116).
” Concordia Chinese Students Association (CCSA) did make me feel a strong sense of belonging by providing far more services to help all freshmen from China rapidly get used to the new life. I was so happy that I got to know many senior students who enjoyed sharing with me their experiences on how to overcome the setbacks they had ever encountered, as well as on how to adjust to the new environment with the new students. From sharing their experiences, I learned how to well communicate with my peers and how to develop my interpersonal skills. I believed that these invaluable skills might help me greatly hinder dependence on my parents.
My first month at Concordia University went smoothly. With the help of those senior students, I gradually adapted to my new life by helping me improve English, overcome homesickness, and familiarize both campuses. Moreover, CCSA launched interesting activities in order to enrich each Chinese student’s off-campus life. My friends and I did participate in some meaningful activities such as photograph presentation, Chinese newspaper publishing, and singing competition. Without question, CCSA may be the home of every Concordia Chinese student.
Hence, as a member of CCSA, I still have a strong sense of belonging because students are often “active in that individuals are conscious of them and act accordingly to protect or promote them (Fleras, p. 116). ” Like CCSA, Montreal Chinatown can be another home for me. I always spend my spare time going there with friends. As soon as I get there, I do have a strong sense of community. Although Montreal Chinatown is small, its physical landscape is perfectly in response to urban development and the growing success of the Chinese community formation in Montreal.
These days, Montreal Chinatown, which is located at the center of many Chinese social and cultural organizations, does perform a number of significant functions. First, the biggest Chinese school and a Montreal Chinese hospital are there. They offer education and healthcare systems to all people in their daily life. Besides, the majority of Chinese and foreign population in Montreal enjoys going to Chinatown to purchase some delicious food and some delicate souvenirs, gifts, accessories, or even handmade articles. In addition, Montreal Chinatown annually hosts the celebration of Chinese festivals and also Canadian festivals.
I often go there for watching a lion dance during the Chinese New year, admiring lanterns and dragon dances during the Mid- Autumn Festival, or getting green fortune cookies for St. Patrick’s Day. As Fleras (2012) reminded us, Ethnicity refers to a principle of potential group/community formation. Persons with shared and felt identification may be classified into a category that mobilizes ancestrally related persons into actions groups to advance individual or collective claims (p. 115). Obviously, as an ethnic community, Montreal Chinatown does express community identity in a vibrant way through making everyone feel a strong sense of community (Fleras, 2012).
Fleras (2012) also claimed that “identity thesis” refers to the way of showing how ethnic group membership provides a buffer for coping with the demands of an urban context in order to help those individuals with societal stress (p. 113). As indicated earlier, Montreal Chinatown, which promotes urban development, regularly celebrates both Chinese and Canadian festivals. There are many pieces of performance for significant festivals, which entertain and relax around all people. In this sense, during the process of cultural connection and transmission in Chinatown, every individual tends to feel integrated in an urban context.
Montreal Chinatown always makes me feel ethnicity as community. An ethnic community, according to Fleras (2012), also emphasizes intergroup relations and intragroup dynamics through providing people with both emotional and material support (p. 115). This does remind me of Jun Lin’s death in this May. He was one of my Concordia friends and was killed by the suspect named Luka Rocco Magnotta, a Toronto-born porn star. As his friend, I still feel sorry and sad for his sudden death. His parents, relatives, and friends, including me, took part in an emotional public memorial at the Montreal Chinese Alliance Church in Hampstead in this July.
The memorial could be the best time for his family and friends to pray for peace. In addition to emotional support, material support was deemed necessary. Concordia University raised more than $70,000 to support his family. This sum of money would offer financial assistance to his family’s temporary needs and to benefit each Concordia Chinese student. Finally, I’d like to conclude my short essay by critically commenting on white privilege based on my friend’s death. For some reason, there were a number of people who supported that the suspect was innocent and that he should have been released.
This news really surprised and shocked me because it seemed that White people were not aware of their actions because of their race. In his lecture, Wise (2008) asserted that White people in capitalist societies are widely encouraged to take advantage of their advantages, protecting their privileges. Therefore, many of them do not feel guilty after committing crime; after all, white privilege has nothing to do with a sense of guilt. In my view, every individual, regardless of ethnicity, has to show respect to life. Magnotta murdered Lin, so he must be punished by law.
Avoiding punishment and releasing him can be a way of creating inequality and injustice. Such brutal killing was a huge tragedy for both Lin’s family and for all of Montreal and Canada. As a Chinese student, I highly appreciate this opportunity of studying at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada offered by my parents. Since I am in a White-dominated society, as a member of minority group, I have to internalize the values of the dominant society. However, showing respect to life not only is a common ideology for everyone, but also is a rationale for minimizing and eradicating inequality, privilege, oppression, and marginalization.
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Topic: Ethnic Identity: Way of Defining, Differentiating, and Organizing
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