Canadians: “Get that Asian-looking woman off our $100 bill, and replace with a non-ethnic Caucasian.”

by Michelle Lovegrove Thomson on August 17, 20124 comments

The Toronto Star has published a cringe-inducing article outlining the recall and redesign of newly minted Canadian $100 bills. The reason? Focus groups determined that the woman looking into a microscope on the bill appeared Asian. This a problem. Because people are racist blowholes.

When we got into focus groups…some thought the image appeared to represent a particular ethnic group, so modifications were made. ~Bank of Canada spokesman Jeremy Harrison

Here are the given reasons for why a woman sporting “Asian features” should not appear on national currency, according to Canadians:

1. “Some believe that it presents a stereotype of Asians excelling in technology and/or the sciences.”

2. “An Asian should not be the only ethnicity represented on the banknotes. Other ethnicities should also be shown.”

3. “Critical of the choice of an Asian for the largest denomination.”

The bank immediately ordered the image redrawn, imposing a “neutral” ethnicity for the woman scientist who, now stripped of her “Asian” features, appears on the circulating note. Her light features appear to be Caucasian.

The Strategic Counsel conducted the October 2009 focus groups on behalf of the Bank of Canada in Calgary, Toronto, Montreal and Fredericton, at a cost of $53,000. Let’s hear what someone from Fredericton thought about the bank note:

“The person on it appears to be of Asian descent which doesn’t represent Canada. It is fairly ugly.”

Boom. Harrison has not specified what changes were made to the woman’s image, other than to state she was redesigned with “neutral,” non-ethnic look… the images were “composites” rather than depicting any specific individual.”

I am mortified beyond belief. Truly shocked. Clearly, I have overestimated my fellow (presumably Caucasian)  citizens’ ability to recognize “whiteness” as an ethnic marker. I have overestimated their ability to engage with non-whiteness at any level.

Thanks Bank of Canada. Now, whenever I grasp a $100 bill in my tiny transparent hands (which is never), I will behold an institution that bowed to racist white privilege ideas on what constitutes “the Other” and what constitutes “factory settings”.


Nick Glossop on August 17, 2012 at 9:49 pm. #

If we put David Suzuki on the 100, no one will question his peering into a microscope, and the world might overlook our record on carbon emissions.

Andrew Loewen on August 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm. #

A friend of mine has an Indian rupee note on her fridge. Seeing Gandhi’s image on cash always reminds me, ironically, of one Antonio Negri’s better quips: “Money has one face: that of the boss.”

Here in Canada, it’s focus-tested white supremacist cash for a settler-colonial nation. One of the most disgusting instances of official colonial appropriation in racist Canada is that police cruisers in Vancouver (a city built on unceded Coast Salish territories where indigenous people swell the ranks of the homeless) feature traditional Haida art. As a man with a chapter in his autobiography called “My Childhood in Racist British Columbia” and critic of petro-capitalism I’d like to think Suzuki would want nothing to do with Canadian petro dollars. (I know you’re joking of course, Nick)

This is actually a fascinating slide show featuring Ken Burnsesque panning closeups of different world monies.

Nick Glossop on August 20, 2012 at 1:09 am. #

It is sobering for me to consider Suzuki’s experience as a Japanese Canadian and his profound sense of estrangement when, as a white immigrant TV-baby, I always regarded him as an essential and essentially Canadian personality. He was like Bruno Gerussi, but he talked about plants and bugs rather than towing logs around.

There was the Beachcombers (Bruno Gerussi), Pierre Burton, the Mahovlich Brothers (see: Habs dynasty), the Hinterland Who’s Who clips, and there was David Suzuki – and that was Canada as I saw it, through the TV Eye at age 7-9. And there was the Definition theme song.

nvtncs on August 20, 2012 at 7:02 am. #

I am a Canadian living abroad and usually I am quietly proud, not in a jingoistic way, of being a Canadian citizen. Not this time.

I guess, to be on a Canadian banknote, a member of a minority, would have to be a double Nobel prize winner like professor Linus Pauling, and even then.

The best and brightest might think of moving South if a Canadian Euro-centric attitude makes itself felt more stuffily.