Friday, January 29, 2010

A Chinese joke? Should I laugh?

On Jan. 27 Manitoba's Lieutenant-Governor Philip Lee attended a Red River College convocation for the first time.

His Honour addressed the graduates briefly while an aide-de-camp, resplendent in a uniform, stood behind him.

The L-G mentioned that in August 2009 he became the first Chinese-Canadian person to be named the province's vice-regal representative.

Then he recounted a tale of a Grade 3 student who informed his parents that the Lieutenant-Governor has visited his classroom.

Parents: What was the Lieutenant-Governor like?

Child: He was tall and wore a military uniform. But a Chinese guy did all the talking.

Some of the grads and their families laughed. I did, too. But I felt uncomfortable about finding a joke about ethnicity funny, especially at a serious public event. And, as the announcer for the presentation of parchments, I was on stage.

The point of the story, I guess, is that the child (and perhaps, by extension, other Canadians) did not expect a Chinese-Canadian to represent the Queen.

If that is true, such Canadians have not been paying much attention to public affairs. Norman Kwong has been Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta since 2005.

Perhaps Manitoba's L-G could have eased any discomfort in his audience by making the point more explicitly that an accomplished Canadian of any ethnic background can become a Lieutenant-Governor.

Or am I being too sensitive?