The right way and wrong way - Denny Scott editorial
A little while back the CBC announced the cancellation of Kim’s Convenience, which sucks. Kim’s Convenience is a CBC show featuring the antics of a South Korean family in Toronto, whose patriarch and matriarch run a convenience store. It’s based on a play of the same name by Ins Choi that debuted at the 2011 Toronto Fringe Festival.
The show was cancelled, according to the official report, as its creators wanted to pursue other activities.
While I believe that shows should have shorter runs than have become typical (I mean The Simpsons is on its 32nd season, come on, end it) Kim’s Convenience is a show I enjoy and I will miss it. So will the cast, according to their Twitter feeds.
The show has got a little bit of that Canadian magic that made Corner Gas such a hit, but instead of leaning into the historic white-centric model of television, it focuses purely on a South Korean family, and besides that, boasts a very diverse cast.
Growing up in Huron County, I’ll admit that my exposure to families with completely different backgrounds was pretty limited. Even going to school in Brantford and Waterloo didn’t bring me face to face with many people who weren’t of European heritage. So when a television show, especially a comedy, gives me a glimpse into what a family with a drastically different experience than mine is, and I enjoy it, I count that as a win.
Not only do I get an admittedly-brief education in another culture, but I get to have fun doing it.
The show does more good than helping an extremely white guy get some culture, though, as Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays the titular Kim Sang-Il, points out. “I’m really proud to make a difference for viewers who never saw themselves or their families reflected on screens,” he said. “I’m just so grateful and humbled that I have this opportunity to do that.”
Despite my research showing it hasn’t always hit the right note with Korean-Canadian immigrants to Canada, especially due to the on-screen accents, Kim’s Convenience is doing a lot of good as far as I’m concerned. From my perspective, it’s brought something new into my life. Do I know everything about South Korea? No. Do I know as much about South Korea as my friends who spent a year or three teaching English there? Definitely not. Have I been exposed to a culture with which I’d had little contact? Yes. Did it give a chance for a Korean-Canadian actor to show that Korean-Canadian actors can be on television? Yes. Am I going to stop writing in a question-and-response fashion? Yes. Right after the next question.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s a good way to introduce people to another culture and show that we do support multiculturalism in Canada; making it approachable and enjoyable. It’s a much more appropriate act than, say, plastering symbology of different cultures all over police cruisers hoping that makes them a less daunting presence to cultures that, rightfully so, are concerned about systemic racism, often tied to authorities.
I feel like, to write this piece, I have to be honest: as a journalist, I haven’t always had pleasant experiences with police officers. There are officers I’m familiar with and they know that both myself and The Citizen don’t follow the “If it bleeds, it leads” mentality, so I’m not there to cause trouble or exploit anybody. However, there have been many situations with officers I don’t know where I have been treated, at best, as an inconvenience or, at worst, like I’m the enemy when I show up at a fire or a collision.
I don’t blame the individual officers. I understand why things are this way, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or, if I’m being honest, any less concerning.
While I’m not saying my experience due to my job is an analog for those facing systemic racism, I am saying I have an inkling of how difficult it can be to deal with an authority figure who may have undeserved preconceived notions about you.
That’s why a project like the Waterloo Region Police Service’s crusader redesign, which features symbology representing African, Caribbean, South Asian and Arabic cultures, is a miss in my books (and many other people’s).
Please keep in mind I’m not basing this on my own beliefs as much as I am those of representatives from groups who have spoken out against the move. Like I said, I’m a white male, so I’m probably the least qualified person to write about these kinds of experiences.
Representatives of several groups, including the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Waterloo and the African Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, have said the project just isn’t worthwhile.
Changing what’s on the outside of a police cruiser isn’t going to change the system that’s made those with a different background feel marginalized.
In the simplest of terms, the entire situation comes down to a “show, not tell” mentality. The Waterloo Region Police Service needs to prove it’s more inclusive, not claim it by plastering symbols on the side of a vehicle. Holding up these kinds of projects beside something that actually reaches people, like Kim’s Convenience, shows just how hollow the initiative is.