Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What's In a Name

CD in Play: Isis, Wavering Radiant

CBC has reported on a study from UBC showing how people with ethnic names are receiving less call backs in the job application process than people with more English sounding names. Shocking for people who have bought into the propaganda about Canada's cultural mosaic, but not for some one like me who's father had a highly ethnic sounding name.
Skallagrimsson is pseudonym, for those of who were not aware, my actual name is Germanic sounding. Well, it also gets confused for being Jewish and nothing makes you more aware of the thriving prejudice in this country than a Jewish sounding surname. However, my Dad changed his own surname in order to change people's perceptions about him. His father's name is Belarusian and in this country there was a definite prejudice against Slavs for decades. The stereotypes held that Slavs were incredibly stupid, lazy or conversely only good for hard, unskilled manual labour. That particular prejudice started dying off with my generation: "Polack" jokes didn't have that much meaning, for instance. But slavic prejudice was very real and my Dad felt so hampered with his name that he changed it.
His story isn't unique, and many Canadians throughout the history of this country have felt the sting of ethnic prejudice. Quite honestly, I am not so sure we will ever truly see its end - but one can hope.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Gavin said...

For me it's been stupid comments about having to hate anyone with the last name of Campbell (often coming from the mouths of people with Anglo-Saxon surnames) that has irritated me for years. So much so that I disavow a Scottish identity and call myself Canadian.
Real Scottish people, on the other hand, have never been offended by my last name.

As far as the job thing goes, I'm skeptical of the UBC study only b/c immigrants seem to do better in this country than those who were born here. And that's b/c they see opportunity while naturalized citizens have a sense of entitlement.
WRT the Slavic thing, you also have to factor in fear of communism, as well as the antics of the Doukhobours. Nowadays Slavic immigrants seem to eagre to integrate into Canadian society, instead of maintaining their culture the way they did in the past.

21 May, 2009 12:26  
Blogger Magnus said...

Yeah, I forgot to include that. My Dad didn't face accusations of being a communist, but there were the pinko jokes. As for the Doukhobours, I don't think most Slavs in this country who weren't Doukhobours were ever confused for them - but certainly they were all lumped into the same category in the 1920's.

21 May, 2009 20:44  

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