Yesterday I overheard a fascinating conversation on the streetcar. It was about a restaurant and the part where my ears perked up went something like this:
“It’s a cool restaurant. You can get white food and Asian food.”
White food? I didn’t see who was speaking, and since the streetcar was nearly empty, I wasn’t going to turn around to look. But I was extremely curious to know what “white food” was. Did he mean a bizarre menu of rice, mashed potatoes, mozzarella cheese, egg whites, milk and vanilla ice cream? I was fairly sure he didn’t, but it was a funny thought nevertheless.
It didn’t take long for me to get my answer, since he explained to his friend that the menu choices ranged from chicken wings and sausages & eggs to green curry.
So, did “white food” mean “Canadian food”. I’m not at all sure if sausages and eggs, or wings are typically Canadian food (plus, rice is white and doesn’t grow here). If I extrapolate, it could suggest that anyone that is white, is Canadian.
Which we know is not the case – but sadly the premise is alive and well in our subconscious. White Canadians are not asked where they are from as frequently as Canadians of colour.
This all reminds me of a comment made at a workshop I delivered recently at the Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources of Ontario conference (PAVR-O). I had engaged the participants in a conversation about the word “diversity”, and a woman had said how it bothers her when people used the word diversity only to mean people who are not white.
So then I guess the restaurant was serving white and diverse food. And the diverse food would have to be from countries where the people are not white.
We have come so far, and then again, maybe not so much….
copyright 2011 Annemarie Shrouder